Leader Jeev tames course as Kapur, Chowrasia struggle

PORTRUSH (Northern Ireland), June 29:
Jeev Milkha Singh had a blistering start as he finished as co-leader at seven-under 65 with Gregory Bourdy of France, even as his fellow Indians struggled on a tough wet and windy opening day at the Irish Open.
Jeev, who had seven birdies in first ten holes at the event that made a return to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1953, will begin his second round later today and will be among the late finishers.
Meanwhile, Shiv Kapur (74) and SSP Chowrasia (78) struggled in the tough conditions, even as Jeev had finished his round before bad weather hit the venue.
Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, the three Major Champions whose success has helped the game grow in Northern Ireland had the biggest galleries but were unable to break 70.
On a day when the tournament was hit by a 95-minute break on account of a storm, the toast was Jeev.
“The atmosphere and the feel to the golf course is fantastic. When you have so many people cheering and watching you, I think you feel great,” said the 40-year-old.
Before the tournament, Clarke had presented Jeev with a bottle of 21-year-old Bushmills single malt whisky, but he is keeping that until he can share it with his father Milkha Singh, who lost out on an Olympic 400m medal in a photo-finish in 1960.
Jeev’s own dream is to represent India on the sport’s return to the Games in 2016, is a real lover of links golf.
His first experience as a 16-year-old in Links golf was rounds of 87 and 84 in Wales in an Amateur championship.
“I thought ‘My God, this is tough’. I wasn’t used to wearing raingear,” recalled Jeev with a laugh.
“I love links golf, you have to hit a lot of low shots and you have to have a lot of imagination,” said Jeev, who has won three times on the European Tour. “I think a lot of feel and imagination is required, and that’s what I love about links golf.”
It is the first time organisers put the “sold out” signs up for a regular European Tour event, with 27,000 tickets purchased for each day’s play.
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy Martin McGuinness were also in attendance to witness the scenes.
McDowell, the first of the three local heroes in action on the first day bit a pitch into bushes for a double bogey seven on the 581 yard 17th — his eighth — and he ended with one under 71.
Clarke, yet to make his first halfway cut of the year and out for the past month with a groin strain, contented himself with 71 after a hat-trick of bogeys had left him two over after eight.
World No. 2 McIlroy, meanwhile, reached four under, but three-putted the 16th and 18th in what he called “a sloppy finish” and signed for a 70. (PTI)

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