KOLKATA: Jeev Milkha Singh has been the face of Indian golf for over two decades now. Since turning pro in 1993, he has made 14 Major appearances and won 20 international titles. The last, however, came four years ago at the Scottish Open. A rotator cuff injury in his right shoulder sustained in course of his victorious campaign laid him low. The last 3-4 years has been quite a struggle. His world ranking has slipped from a career-high of 28 in 2009 to 655 this year. Jeev, though, is anything but bitter. He has set himself new targets as he looks to turn things around in the New Year. Jeev, who is in the city to play the season-ending PGTI meet at the RCGC, took time off to share his thoughts with TOI. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
Has your career plateaued out?
My current ranking and results in the past few years may suggest that, but my love for golf has not diminished. For the past 23 years I have made a living out of playing the game I love. I remain passionate about my game. I still get a tad nervous at the opening hole. I can feel the adrenaline rush every time the birdie putts sink into the cup.
The question is whether you still have the hunger to succeed?
I am very sure in my mind that I can still compete at the highest level. The day I start stop enjoying my golf, I will call it quits.
It has been four years since you won the Scottish Open in 2012…
It has been a tough period for me as I have struggled with a spate of injuries. The good thing is I am on the mend and it’s time for me to get fit and get cracking. I plan to do just that. It’s a question having four good days on the golf course. I feel my game is coming around. I simply need to get fitter and remain healthy for things to start falling in place.
What’s your plan for 2017?
After this tournament, I will be taking two weeks off and spend time with my family. After that it will be some serious gym work and hard practice. I kick start my year at the Singapore Open (from Jan 19), followed by tournaments in Myanmar, Dubai, Malaysia and Perth. I will take two weeks off before returning to the course at the Indian Open in Delhi. My performance in the first quarter of the year should give a fair indication of things to come.
You missed out on an Olympic berth in Rio…
That is a huge regret, but I have not given up on my Olympic dream. I would also like to win a Major before I put away my clubs.
If anyone can, he can. It was amazing to see him play the way he did in Bahamas earlier this month after a 15month injury layoff and two major surgeries. He has been the most influential player of our generation.
Has the gulf between the PGA and European Tours narrowed?
I feel, these tours are now almost on a par. The competition is fierce. The world rankings are in constant state of flux. The conditions in Europe being more challenging, it is tougher to win there. However, the gulf between the European and Asian Tours has narrowed considerably with so many young players from Asia doing well. Hideki Matsuyama has been a revelation.