Jeev Milkha Singh's much-awaited return to the Hero Honda Indian Golf Tour ended in disappointment when he was knocked out in the opening round of the Rs one million SRF Matchplay Golf Championship, which began at the par-72 Delhi Golf Club, on Tuesday.
The visibly-ill second seed lost to 63rd seed local boy Prem on the final hole to set the tone of the only matchplay event on the Tour.
Also shown the door was reigning Order of Merit leader Mukesh Kumar, who lost to 62nd seed Hem Chand in the first play-off hole. Among the other big names, 15th seed Shamim Khan was upset by the 50th ranked Manohar Dike of Mumbai, also on 18th hole.
Top seed Arjun Atwal registered an easy 6 and 5 victory over Romit Bose to advance to the second round from the I S Malik bracket, while fourth seed Digvijay Singh won by similar margin against KS Sibia in the R K Pitambar bracket. No 5 Vijay Kumar beat Akbar Ali 4 and 3, No 6 Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia was an easy 6 and 4 winner over Mohd Maqbool, while No 7 Amandeep Johl won by same margin over Tarun Sardesai. Last year's surprise packet, Suleiman Ali, could not repeat his giant-killing act and lost 4 and 3 to No 8 Arjun Singh. Ninth seed Gaurav Ghei won 4 and 3 against K P S Sekhon, while defending champion Shiv Prakash advanced to the second round by beating Dinesh Kumar 1-up.
Jeev, who was playing with an infected ear that was hampering his balance while swinging and running a 101 degree temperature, lost the opening two holes to birdies by Prem and never managed to catch his rival. Despite finishing with birdies on the 17th and 18th, Jeev lost on the final hole when Prem hit a magnificent third shot to less than two feet and answered with a birdie himself.
"I didn't play too well, while Prem was excellent. He made some great putts and produced some very good shots. I was a bit uncomfortable on the course, especially while making putts. But I can not take anything away from Prem," said the 31-year-old pro from Chandigarh, who recently became the first Indian to qualify for the Nationwide Tour on the US PGA.
Prem was understandably ecstatic about his feat.
"Playing against Jeev was a great experience. He is a very nice man and even gave me a few good tips during the round. There was hardly any pressure on me as everyone expected me to lose. I am now looking forward to my next match," said the former DGC caddie, who next meets S Madaiah of Bangalore.
Mukesh, winner of ten titles on the Hero Honda Golf Tour this season, lost to a birdie by Hem Chand on the first playoff hole. Mukesh, who was two-up after 12 holes, lost the 13th and 16th to get into the playoff.
"My putting has been completely off colour since the Indian Open. I didn't play well at all today," said the Mhow-based golfer.
Among the other interesting matches on Tuesday, veteran Basad Ali knocked out last year's runner-up Amit Dube 7 and 6 and twice Indian Open champion Ali Sher got the better of young Zai Kipgen 5 and 4.
Important results from Tuesday's matches:
1-Arjun Atwal bt 64-Romit Bose 6&5; 63-Prem bt 2-Jeev Milkha Singh 1-up; 62-Hem Chand bt 3-Mukesh Kumar on the 19th hole; 4-Digvijay Singh bt 61-KS Sibia 6&5; 5-Vijay Kumar bt 60-Akbar Ali 4&3; 6-SSP Chowrasia bt 59-Mohd Maqbool 6&4; 7-Amandeep Johl bt 58-Tarun Sardesai 6&4; 8-Arjun Singh bt 57-Suleiman Ali 4&3; 50-Manohar Dike bt 15-Shamim Khan 1-up; 16-Shiv Prakash bt 49-Dinesh Kumar 1-up; 38-Ali Sher bt 27-Zai Kipgen 5&4; 32-Basad Ali bt 33-Amit Dube 7&6.
Top matches on Wednesday: (Starts 8:30 am):
1-Arjun Atwal vs 32-Basad Ali; 4-Digvijay Singh vs 29-Vinod Kumar; 6-SSP Chowrasia vs 38-Ali Sher; 8-Arjun Singh vs 40-Jumman; 9-Gaurav Ghei vs 24-Jaiveer Virk; 10-Uttam Singh Mundy vs 23-Pappan; 14-Rafiq Ali vs 19-Vivek Bhandari; 16-Shiv Prakash vs 17-Amritinder Singh.