Jeev Milkha Singh has predicted a bright future for golf in India as its capital New Delhi prepares to host the third edition of the Avantha Masters.
Singh was arguably the pioneer of Indian golf, becoming the first player from that country to qualify for The European Tour and subsequently winning three titles as well as two Asian Tour Order of Merits, in 2006 and 2008.
Last year’s Avantha Masters produced a home champion in SSP Chowrasia, and Singh believes it is hugely positive for the game that the tournament is returning to DLF Golf and Country Club for a third consecutive year.
“It's fantastic for Indian golf,” said the 40 year old. “To have a European Tour event on a good golf course like the DLF for three years in a row is great.
“Golf is the fastest growing sport in our country and I think in the future we're going to have a lot more tournaments and the prize fund is going to increase too. Young kids who want to see the top players have an opportunity to come and watch professionals, and when they see their standard of play, they know what they need to work on.
“Everybody is hurting in the world, economically wise, but India is still hanging around there. India is actually in a very positive spell right now, so I'm hoping that things will improve in the future.”
Singh also has four Asian Tour titles to his name, but has never won on either Tour in his home country – something he is looking to put right this week.
“It’s always a treat to play in front of the home crowds and I get a lot of support from the people here,” he said. “I'm looking forward to it.
“There's a lot of pressure but that's what we play golf for. There are lots of young guys who are hungry and want to prove themselves. That's the way it should be. If I was in their shoes, I would be the same. They are saying ‘This is what Jeev's done, I’m going to try to do even better’.”
Singh, whose father is the former Olympic sprinter Milkha Singh, finished tied 37th in last week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic and he is relishing attempting to build on that performance in New Delhi.
“It's an excellent golf course,” he said. “It's an Arnold Palmer design. It’s tree-lined and the trees have grown as the years have gone by. Course management is very important and the wind picks up at this time of year, so it won’t be easy by any means.
“The greens are quite grainy, so you've got to make sure you hit it on the right level. The field is very strong so it will be a tough week but I can’t wait to get going.”