India's most successful golfer, Jeev Milkha Singh has signed up for his maiden appearance at the Panasonic Open India next week with the aim of finally winning his first Asian Tour title on home soil.
Singh, a two-time Asian Tour number one, confirmed his participation in the third edition of the US$300,000 tournament at the Delhi Golf Club, a media release stated on Thursday.
Long regarded as the flag bearer for Indian golf, Singh has won six times on the Asian Tour and multiple times on the Japan and European Tours, including last year's Scottish Open. His two Order of Merit triumphs came in 2006 and 2008 on the Asian Tour, which is celebrating its milestone 10th season in 2013.
"Panasonic has done a lot for golf in India and Japan. I've played in the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open in Japan previously and I've done well there, so I'm looking forward to my first time at the Panasonic Open India," said Singh.
"I'm going to play at the Delhi Golf Club after such a long time. I think I last played there some five years ago (at the Hero Indian Open where he finished fourth in 2008). I'm looking forward to that. In April, the course will be firm and hard and I'm looking forward to the challenge.
"I've finished second a few times at the Delhi Golf Club so it won't be bad to win. It would be nice. It's very different golf course. I don't carry my driver on this course just a three wood and three iron. It's an amazing course, a demanding course. You have to hit it well and mentally you have to be strong to win on that course."
Singh included the Panasonic Open India onto his early 2013 schedule to ensure he achieves the minimum number of tournaments required to keep his Asian Tour card for 2014.
"I've got to get my numbers up on the Asian Tour this year. I couldn't do it last year due to injuries. This is my last year of exemption on the Asian Tour (through his Order of Merit triumph). Although I have my career earnings ranking to count on, I want to get my numbers up and keep my full exemption going," said Singh, who was conferred an Asian Tour Honorary Membership in 2009.
Singh believes the staging of world-class tournaments such as the Panasonic Open India, which is one of four to be played on the Asian Tour annually, is the perfect platform for India's emerging talents to enhance their burgeoning reputations.
"Indian golf is the fastest growing sport in our country. The young boys are doing really well and people recognize that. Sponsors recognize that too. A lot of new guys are taking up the game, big corporate wigs play the game and they love it. And they put in the money to help the game grow in this country," said Singh.
"There is a lot of talent coming out from the country. Anirban Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Himmat Rai, they are world class. They can play anywhere in the world and they can do really well," said Singh.
The top-three players at the Panasonic Open India will be extended invitations to the Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open, sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation, which will be held in Osaka, Japan in September.
The Panasonic Open India will be beamed live throughout four days on the Asian Tour Media's global television platform which reaches over 200 countries and 650 million homes.