It was my birthday last week, but that wasn’t the only reason why it was one of the most memorable weeks of the whole year. Not only was I honoured with the Asia-Pacific Lifetime Achievement award, I also happened to be a part of the winning Asian team in the Royal Trophy.
Having been at the receiving end of the European team for four of the last five editions of the biennial Ryder Cup-like showdown between the two continents, it was important for our own prestige and the future of the tournament that we Asians did well this year.
But what transpired at the Empire Hotel and Country Club in Brunei last week was just sensational — perhaps not as magical as what the Europeans managed to do against the US in Madinah earlier this year, but just as remarkable.
Having gone down 3.5-0.5 points on the opening day after losing three of the four foursomes matches, nobody gave us a chance. But under Captain Joe Ozaki, we fought back in brilliant fashion in Saturday’s fourballs to make it 3.5-4.5 going into Sunday’s singles.
Saturday also happened to be my birthday, and it was an awesome feeling to hear thousands sing ‘Happy Birthday‘ to me on the 18th green as I made a crucial putt to half our match against Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
I was paired with Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who is a very impressive young player, on the opening two days and thought we did a pretty decent job. We were ahead against the extremely strong European pairing of Marcel Siem and Nicolas Colsaerts in the foursomes, before losing a couple of holes on the closing stretch.
Last year, I had lost my match against Pablo Martin from a winning position and that was a crucial result as Europe managed to come back from 2-6 down to win seven singles matches on Sunday and beat us 9-7. So, going in for a very important sixth match, I was determined to beat Jimenez and make amends.
But beating Jimenez is easier said than done. The experienced Spaniard is a very solid player and in great form as his recent Hong Kong Open win proves. I had to fight tooth and nail, and then produce two long birdie putts on the 16th and 17th holes to overpower him. That win helped us tie the tournament before KT Kim and YE Yang beat Francesco Molinari and Colsaerts in the play-off for a thrilling Asian win.
On the eve of the tournament, I received a lifetime achievement award along with all-time great Jack Nicklaus and eight-time European Tour Order of Merit champion Colin Montgomerie. It was indeed a great honour to be mentioned in the same breath as Jack and Colin, and even though I have a long way to go compared to them, the award was a fantastic motivation for me to re-focus and re-dedicate myself towards greater glory in 2013.
— Jeev Milkha Singh is a four-time champion on the European Tour.