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March 12, 2009

Jeev Milkha Singh


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Jeev Milkha Singh, thanks for joining us, first round 65. Right now you and Retief Goosen share the lead. Maybe some opening comments about a very good day for you.
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: Yes, I hit the ball well today and I think it all comes down to putting at the end of the day. I rolled it well, so I'm pretty pleased with a 65 today.

Q. You were mentioning out there that you like playing international tournaments. Would you ever consider or ever want to be just a pure PGA TOUR player?
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: Yeah, if I got my card here, I would play my minimum. That's what you're required to do. I would do that, but I would still play internationally also.

Q. And why?
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: Reason for that is I think, you know, playing in different conditions, I think it makes you a better player. That's what I believe in. That's why I would like to do that, because in Europe, the weather can be, you know how it is; it can be tough.
Out here, if you learn to play hard and fast greens, there's a lot of rough out here, so it's a different ballgame out here, too. And the competition is tougher. So I think it brings the best out of you and I think it makes you a better player.

Q. Could you talk a little -- I know your family, your parents are both athletes. Could you talk a little about how you got into golf?
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: I was introduced to golf through my father. In fact, he started playing golf, and I went with him at the age of, I think eight. Lived very close to a golf course. Just went with him as a little kid running around to the golf course.
But when I went there and I saw other kids playing, there were about five of us I think at that same age playing golf, and I said, I would like to play this game, too, and it was a good fourball. I just loved it after that basically. We used to play for a coke or something on the golf course, and putt on the putting green, too, and that's the way I was introduced to the game of golf.
I used to cycle down from school to the golf course; I lived very close to the golf course.

Q. When did you become aware of your father's athletic fame, and how did he affect you?
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: I think I didn't realize until I was about 17, 18, because he's very well known in the country, and everybody looks up to him in the sporting world.
I basically was introduced to the game by my father, but also, as I was introduced, he always believed in discipline and hard work, and he always emphasized on that. And he told me, "Jeev, if you want to be one of the good players in the world, you need to work hard and be disciplined." That's the way it works, because that's what I've done.
He always said, "No pain, no gain." He still says that. You know, you need to work hard. He was telling me this week. He says, "What happened in the Match Play? You need to work harder." But that's Dad.

Q. Is he still a coach in some sense?
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: Not a coach as a coach, but I would say I've always looked up to him for giving me the right advice, and he always advises me and always tells me the right things. Like you know, whenever I'm slacking, he would say, you know, I think you need to work, and that's the only way the game is going to come back.

Q. Is your dad retired now or what did he do for a living?
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: He's retired. He just plays golf every day. He can't walk 18, but nine in the cart and nine he likes to walk.
But he presides over functions all over the country because he's really well known. He will go all over the country for different functions. They invite him, and basically for the opening ceremonies and stuff like that, he does that.

Q. What did he do for a living?
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: He worked for the government. He was a director of sports for a state in the country, and the state was called Punjab.

Q. What do you sense your recognition factor is out here on this TOUR? I know a couple of people that I spoke to on the phone while you were playing, they would ask who is leading; is there still a fair amount of confusion?
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: I still need to prove myself out here, and I think that's what you get the recognition. I hopefully one day can win a tournament on the US PGA TOUR, and then I think the recognition will come.

Q. I wanted to ask you about playing in college. You played at Abilene Christian. How did you ends up at Abilene Christian, and talk us all the way through the NCAAs.
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: That I credit to Mr. Doug Sanders and his wife. I played the junior program in Asia and finished second in the world juniors. I asked Doug if I could get a scholarship in the U.S. They were very nice. In fact, Scotty and Doug Sanders.
Doug was playing a tournament at Fairway Oaks and he called me up, it was late at night in India and he said, do you want to play college golf, and I said, yeah, I would love to. I was given a full scholarship there, and that's how I was in Abilene Christian, and after that played college golf for two years. I played '91 and '92; basically until '93, June, May. Won the NCAAs Division II in '93. I was first-team All-American both years and after that I asked the coach, I said, do I need to go pro and he said, yeah, go ahead.
Vince Jarrett still is a coach at the University of Houston. I see him every time when I go down to play the Houston Open.

Q. What's his name again?

Q. You said you putted very well today. How were the other parts of your game?
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: Very good, too. I hit 12 fairways out of 14 today. I played a very solid round of golf and pretty pleased with everything.

Q. Had you been putting well coming into this tournament?
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: Not really. I've been hitting the ball really well in the Middle East swing in Europe, and then after that, even in the L.A. Open when I played. I think I worked quite hard last week on my putting, and I think it's showing and hopefully it keeps showing.

Q. When you were younger and playing golf, did your friends think you were a little weird for playing golf, or was it an unusual thing to do?
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: It was a normal thing to do, but turning pro was something very different, because we didn't have too many professionals at that time. We had a few, but kids like us going pro, it was like in India, the emphasis is a lot on education. Basically you become a doctor and you join the civil service or become an engineer.
Every time, when I was a pro, also, for the first two years, people, family, friends, used to come and say, yeah, I know you're a pro, but what else do you do? (Laughter) that concept was -- I said, why don't they understand? But now it's changed. That's the beauty about it, for the last ten years, I've been a pro for 15, but the last ten years, it's changed a lot in India. It's the fastest-growing sport in India. Obviously cricket is a religion in our country but golf is the fastest-growing.
When I like most is the mind-set of the parents has changed. When I turned pro, there were a lot of other kids who wanted to turn pro but the parents always said, no, you have to join the business or get a professional degree and get a job. But now I see a lot of parents coming up to me and saying, our kid wants to be a pro and we are going to let him do that, and that's fantastic to see.

Q. I've heard other Indian folks talk about that, and say, that's great, but I still need something to fall back on?
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: I was very fortunate because I came from a sporting background, so my parents were very encouraging for me to go pro. The only thing my dad told me was, "Son, there's no looking back, because you don't have anything professional to fall back on. You have to give it 100%." So far, so good.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Let's go through your scorecard real quick and we'll take one or two final questions. I believe you started on the back side with a birdie on No. 10, the par 5.
JEEV MILKHA SINGH: I birdied 10, 3-wood, 5-wood in the bunker to six feet and holed that for birdie.
11 hit it on the green and 3-putted for a bogey. That was the only bogey of the day.
15, hit an 8-iron to about 20 feet, holed that.
16, hit it to about six feet. Hit a driver, lob-wedge to six feet and holed that.
17, driver, 7-iron, that was about 20 feet, 25 feet. Holed that.
No. 1, driver, 5-iron in the green-side bunker and got it out to about eight feet and holed that.
No. 2 driver, lob-wedge to about four feet and holed that.
No. 3, driver, 7-iron to about seven feet, holed that.
After that, I birdied No. 5. I hit a driver, sand wedge to about five feet, holed that.
Parred in after that.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thank you very much. Good luck the rest of the week.

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