Jeev’s withdraws, but advises Bhullar to be patient

By V. Krishnaswamy, IANS
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

TURNBERRY - The nagging muscle injury which Tuesday forced Jeev Milkha Singh to pull out leaves young Gaganjeet Bhullar as Indias lone challenger at the British Open at the Turnberry Golf Course.

Earlier in the day, Jeev, reigning Asian Tour No.1, withdrew due to a muscle injury in the rib-cage area.

Before he left Turnberry, Jeev had some advise for Bhullar.

I told him to play some low shots, try to stay calm and be patient. When I was playing my first major, I was really nervous and Im sure hes going to be too. But thats all part of learning and being a better professional, Jeev said.

The 38-year-old Indian, who has played 10 Majors in his career and made the cut in six of them, including a top-10 at PGA Championships last year, came to Turnberry hoping he had recovered from the intercostal muscle injury which has dogged him since the European Open almost two months ago.

But after hitting balls Monday and Tuesday, Jeev found that he was still way off full fitness.

“When I went out yesterday to play 18 holes, it was hurting. When I was taking deep breaths, it was also hurting and when that happens, you know it’s back,” said Jeev.

“I now expect to be back for the WGC and then the PGA Championships next year. I’m only 60 percent fit and I don’t want to play a Major in that condition. My game is good but I just don’t want to take any chances this week.”

Bhullar, just 20, will be leading the challenge on his Major debut. Bhullar came to Turnberry two weeks ago and has since played seven practice rounds at the Ailsa Course.

This is the best golf course you can ever think of. The fairways, greens and tees are all in perfect condition and I know Im going to enjoy this week, said Bhullar.

Im now the lone Indian in the field this week and definitely more expectations will be on me. Its a big shoe to fill but mentally Im ready, he added.

Last month Jeev despite a brave effort at Bethpage found the injury a big hindrance as he missed the cut at Bethpage at US Open. He took a short break and returned to Open de France at Paris, but missed the cut again and followed that up with the Scottish Open last week and again failed to make weekend action.

It is always a tough call, but one that had to be taken. Last month when I struggled at the US Open in Bethpage, I had decided that henceforth, I would not tee up in a less than 100 per cent fit state in a Major. I am sticking to it. There is no point in aggravating the injury, he said.

I came here hoping I would be fit by the time I tee up. But it was not to be. Maybe I should have sat out one more week and not returned to France. My caddie, Janet, told me I did not look right and hence we decided it was better to pull out, added Jeev.

Jeev had been paired with South African Rory Sabbatini and Anthony Wall for the first two days.

Defending champion Padraig Harrington, who won at Carnoustie in 2007 and then Birkdale in 2008, will attempt to become the first player in more than 50 years - the last was Peter Thomson in 1956 - to win the British Open three times in succession. Only five players have achieved the feat since the Open started in 1860.

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