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Singh sees Augusta as his toughest test

Sunday, April 05, 2009

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To Vijay Singh, Augusta National Golf Club is a puzzle where it is "almost impossible to fit" the pieces together for an entire tournament.

Vijay Singh is making his 16th Masters appearance. The 2000 champion says the tournament has a different feel every time. (Chris Thelen/Staff)

The person who gets the most pieces in the correct spots wins.

Singh did it once, in 2000. Since then, he's been enjoying the challenge of trying to pull it off again. The problem is that Augusta National is never the same.

"There's always some kind of a new thing that goes on there," Singh said. "You get into situations in tournaments there and think, 'Why didn't I practice from here? How the hell did I even get to this place?' Augusta is always different all the time."

Indeed, the course has changed since Singh won in 2000 -- 450 yards have been added, along with numerous trees that have changed the sight lines of some holes.

Singh has managed to roll with the course changes through his 40s (He is now 46). He has finished in the top 15 every year since his victory, with the exception of 2001, when he tied for 18th.

"It's a test of golf now," Singh said. "You can't just hit it anywhere and get away with it. You need to be precise off the tees as well now. It's a tough golf course. I think it's the toughest golf course day in and day out in the world that we play. Every shot you need to pay attention to. It's not like you can mis-hit a shot and get away with it. It's bogey staring you right in the eyes."

Not to mention double bogeys. Singh had two to go along with nine bogeys while shooting 72-71-72-74 last year to finish in a tie for 14th. He did have 12 birdies.

Singh said he tries to keep the Masters "as simple as possible and try to feel like I'm playing another tournament" but admits that doesn't always work.

"Just being there is like a different atmosphere," he said. "It just feels different there. Every year it's a different feeling.

"No matter how comfortable you get with Augusta, when you arrive there, it's a different feeling."

It's a feeling that fires up the Fijian.

"I think it pumps me up more than any other event," he said. "You get so geared up and prepare differently before you get there."

Singh comes into the 73rd Masters less prepared than at any time in his illustrious career, which has produced 34 PGA Tour victories (including three last year and the FedEx Cup points title).

After the Tour Championship in late September, he skipped the season-ending Fall Series events to "repair" his body, he said. Singh had been fighting through injuries to his back, ankle and arm.

He didn't play again after the Tour Championship until the Father/Son Challenge in early December. Two weeks later, he won the unofficial Chevron World Challenge, but tore the meniscus in a knee in the event.

After finishing in a tie for 27th place in the 31-player season-opening Mercedes Championship, Singh had surgery and missed the next four tournaments.

Upon his return, Singh's best finish in five events has been a tie for 17th in the WGC-Accenture Match Play.

Reach David Westin at (706) 823-3224 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.


FEDEX CUP VICTORY

Vijay Singh won the second PGA Tour points competition thanks to consecutive victories.

Singh won The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship to open up a near-insurmountable lead. This year, changes have been made to the competition that will ensure the winner will be decided at the final event, The Tour Championship.

Camilo Villegas finished second in the FedEx Cup standings. Sergio Garcia, Anthony Kim and Jim Furyk rounded out the top five.

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