Sport | Golf

Sterne shows South African spirit

Ability to win Joburg Open just after Dubai disappointment was impressive

  • By Jeev Milkha Singh Special To Gulf News
  • Published: 13:32 February 11, 2013
  • Gulf News

I have great regard for South African golfers, and Richard Sterne’s brilliant win at the Joburg Open is only going to add to it.

Believe me, it’s not easy to go as low as Sterne did for two consecutive weeks. The week before Joburg, he shot 19-under par to finish second to Stephen Gallacher at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. He then took the long flight and teed off at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington and produced a mind-boggling four-day tally of 27-under par to win by seven shots.

It’s not just the physical aspect of it. What’s more important is that he shot 19-under, and yet finished runner-up. And considering how eager he was to end a five-year-long title drought brought about by a recurring back problem, it must have been extremely frustrating to see such a fantastic opportunity disappear. But to get over that heartbreak and come out all guns blazing the very next week, that’s amazing indeed!

I have always said this about the South African and Australian golfers — they are very adept at handling adversity, they are very hard workers, and they travel very well.

Just last year, I thought Louis Oosthuizen was exemplary the way he travelled all the way across the globe from Augusta to Kuala Lumpur a day after coming so close to winning the Masters. At the Malaysian Open, he neither showed any signs of jet-lag nor the disappointment of losing the Green Jacket to Bubba Watson in the play-off as he blitzed through the field to win.

Getting over a bad shot, a badly-played hole or a disappointing tournament is something we golfers have to deal every now and then. Mental bouncebackability really is the key to doing well at our level. You’ve got to realise that what has happened in the past cannot be changed, but you’ve also got to be smart to learn from it.

I remember once reading about Tiger Woods how he draws a mental line 10 yards ahead of him after hitting a bad shot. He does get angry, but the moment he crosses the imaginary line, he makes a conscious effort to forget his last shot and starts focusing 100 per cent on his next shot.

I have had a wonderful week off in my hometown Chandigarh and am now getting ready to play one of the most unique events that we have on our domestic PGTI circuit — the Louis Philippe Cup, which is an inter-city franchise-based tournament. My next event on the European Tour will be the Tshwane Open in South Africa, followed by the Avantha Masters in Delhi next month.

After a good week in Dubai, I am looking forward to returning to the golf course. My game is in good shape and I would like to make a big push to somehow squeeze into the top-50 of the world rankings before the first Major of the year, the Masters, in April. That really would be the ideal situation.

— Jeev Milkha Singh is a four-time champion on the European Tour

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