India's Jeev Milkha Singh wants to let the good times roll at this week's Commercialbank Qatar Masters, saying his success on the international trail will accelerate the growth of the game in his homeland.
Singh will tee up at the challenging Doha Golf Club on Thursday knowing he must produce his best golf to triumph for the first time in the Gulf nation at the US$2.2 million event which is jointly sanctioned by The European Tour and the Asian Tour.
Title holder Henrik Stenson of Sweden leads a star-studded casts which includes six other members of Europe's victorious Ryder Cup team, four Major winners in Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Michael Campbell and Paul Lawrie and US PGA Tour stars Chris DiMarco and Stuart Appleby.
"I'm looking forward to it. It's an excellent week. I love playing in the Middle East and I love starting out here after a break. The field is excellent. There are many of the world's top 20 players here and the course is a very strong one," said Singh, winner of both the Volvo China Open and the Volvo Masters last year, in addition to two titles in Japan. His magical year was capped with a rise to 37th in the World Ranking.
He suffered a blip in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship last week, missing the cut by one in his first outing of the year but Singh is confident of regaining his form in Doha. "I think it was too long of a break!" said Singh of his year-end holidays. "I took four weeks off and didn't practice much at all. I had a great welcome home and was honoured every other night.
"I think that's what we guys work hard for, to get honoured. It was great. On Sunday I was awarded by the CNN-IBN TV station the Sportsman of the Year Award in India. That was pretty good as there were a few cricketeers in the running. I was pretty excited about that."
Singh believes that the growth of the game in India will keep booming if he, along with India's other stars including Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal and Shiv Kapur, keep featuring prominently on the leaderboards on some of the best events in the world. This year, Singh will make his debut in the Masters and The Open and will also play in a collection of big-money events in the US.
"I think Indian golf is going places. It's the fastest growing sport in the country today. If it keeps going the way that it's going, I think it'll catch up with cricket. There are a lot of talent in the country," said Singh.
"Golf is not a mass sport. To get it to the masses, we need to have more driving ranges. There is not much land in the cities to build public courses – we only have one in New Delhi – but we must have more driving ranges. The other thing is that when parents see us guys do well and make a good living, they will let their kids try out the sport.
"When I turned pro, parents were very shy in allowing their kids follow their dreams and turn professional. But now, the thinking of the parents is changing. They are now pushing their kids. They say if Jeev, Jyoti, Arjun and Shiv are doing well, one of our kids can also do well. I think that's good for the game.
"If I can make a difference by taking the game to the masses by playing well, hopefully in five to ten years, there will be more kids coming out and making golf their profession," he added.