Singapore: Three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington considers his loss to Jeev Milkha Singh four years ago in Barclays Singapore Open as one of the most bitter losses but he still can`t stop praising the Indian, whom he describes as one of the `nicest guys` in golf.
Winner of the British Open twice, Harrington won the European Order of Merit two years back in 2006 at the Volvo Masters in Valderrama, but that event, too, was won by Jeev.
On the eve of the 2012 Barclays Singapore Open, which tees off tomorrow, Harrington still remembers the defeat four years ago.
"It (the 2008 loss in Singapore) was probably my most bitter loss on a golf course. I was 2 shots ahead with 3 holes to play, (and I) played the last 3 holes magnificently, (but still) managed to play them in 2 over par. I hit a beautiful shot into 16 that went in the water, and I hit a beautiful a shot at 18 that got stuck on the bank behind. I got two of the worst breaks I`ve seen coming down the stretch," he said.
Harrington added, "Jeev is a really good player. As much I was bitter to lose in 2008, I was happy to see him win it. You couldn`t ask for a nicer guy to win a tournament. If you are going to lose a tournament, losing to Jeev is not a bad thing. He really can deliver. When he`s in form, Jeev really can play at the very highest level."
The other Indians in the field this week are Gaganjeet Bhullar, Jyoti Randhawa, SSP Chowrasia, Anirban Lahiri, Shiv Kapur, Himmat Rai, Digvijay Singh, Chiragh Kumar, Shamim Khan and Rashid Khan.
Jeev, who has played seven of the last eight weeks, is himself gung-ho about coming to the tournament, where he enjoyed one his finest moments.
"Wherever you win a golf tournament and you come back, it gives you a great. It is amazing," he said.
"The course is in fantastic condition. I have always liked playing tough courses, because it is a challenge. It brings out the best in me."
Speaking about how the week could be, Jeev said: "To play well here you have to be on top of the game. The key here is going to be patience. The greens are very demanding. There are lot of slopes. You are going to have a lot of breaks that you are not going to be happy with. You have to take it in your stride. If you can stay patient and shoot par or under each day, you could win."
Weather disruptions almost a norm here in Singapore, where on-course electric fans are used to dry the greens.
Jeev said: "If you have an afternoon tee-off, you could stop after three holes or may have to wake up at 4.30 am in morning and come back (to complete a round). So you have to be patient when it rains or there is a stoppage for lightning. Also in this hot weather, you also have to stay hydrated."
Jeev has been battling an injury on his right hand, where his index finger is still bruised.
"This week I have Dr. Tom McQueeny, my doctor from United Sates and he is looking at it closely," he added with a smile.
On coping with injury, Jeev said, "My (finger) injury has taken a toll. But I keep telling myself that I have to follow the saying, `Beware the injured golfer`.
"I have a bruised bone on the finger and I can`t hit the shots I want to. I hit low punch shots, that`s what need to change. I have to hit full shots and I have to control them.
"I would like to take time off, but the tournaments right now are so big. So it is a catch-22 situation and I am playing well. So I might as well go ahead. I just love playing and I am happy with the way I am playing. I am driving and putting well and I need to make the best of it (with the injury) and hit full shots if I have to."
Long considered the standard-bearer of Indian golf, Jeev is proud of the way golf has grown in India and produced new and young champions. "There is a lot of depth in Indian golf. And it is going to grow more," he said.