Infringing on a local rule may have cost Jeev Milkha Singh two shots but the Indian golfer was happy with the way he fought back with two birdies and an eagle in last four holes on the fog-hit opening day of the Euro 2.3 million Avantha Masters here on Thrusday.
The Chandigarh golfer was even par after 14 holes but he fought his way back to finally finish with a four-under 68 at the DLF Golf and Country Club here.
"That finish brought in a lot of cheer and my son, Harjai, was there to see it," said Jeev, cuddling his son soon
after the round.
With a good number of golfers yet to finish, the clubhouse leader was Robert Jan-Derksen of Denmark, who came in with a six-under 66. Argentine Julio Zapata and Mark Foster
of England were second with a 67 each.
Among those at 68 were Jeev and India's new young pro Rashid Khan.
Although Jeev has achieved much success globally, it is still a home win that has eluded him. Despite nursing a back injury, the 39-year-old opened his campaign impressively with a four-under-par 68.
"My iron-play was great today and I was feeling good on the putts. The course is in excellent shape but the conditions were a little tricky due to the wind," said Jeev, who marked his card with six birdies, one eagle and two double-bogeys.
"I started off well with a 30 feet birdie putt on the 11th. I then ran into some trouble on the 13th where my drive hit the floodlight tower. I should've replayed that stroke as
per the local rules but I obviously did not pay attention and overlooked that particular clause in the local rules.
"I went on to play my second shot from the spot where the ball had landed after rebounding off the pole. That error cost me a two-stroke penalty," he explained.
Jeev was penalised for knowing that he had hit the floodlight unit and yet playing the next shot from the spot where the ball landed. The referee then told him to go back and play the tee shot again, as the local rules demand, but he still incurred a two-shot penalty.
"The two-stroke penalty acted as a trigger for me to raise my game. At that point I decided to focus really hard and make the most of my opportunities. I hit it really well
from there on. I closed the round on a high as I converted a monstrous 45 feet eagle putt on the ninth," Jeev said.
Jeev, who is bidding to win his first title on home soil this week, will take some time off to recuperate after the Avantha Masters.
"I've played the last four weeks in the Middle East swing and this is my fifth week in a row. There is pain and I'm not 100 per cent fit yet. However, I think I'm moving in the right direction and I'm doing a lot of yoga and physiotherapy to recover," said Jeev.
"I'm taking three weeks off after this and I think I should be ready in another month's time," said the six-time Asian Tour winner.
Jeev, who was Asia's number one in 2006 and 2008, said this week's Avantha Masters reflects well on the growth of the game in the country and paid tribute to Avantha Group's Chairman and CEO, Gautam Thapar, who is also a Board member on the Asian Tour.
"I think it's a very proud moment for golf in India. You just have to look at the amount of prize money that we are playing for this week to see how much the game has grown," he said.