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Decade after win, Singh ready for another jacket

Friday, April 02, 2010


It's been 10 years since Vijay Singh held off David Duval to win the 2000 Masters Tournament, and the Fijian says it's high time to slip on another green jacket.

Vijay Singh hits out of the sand during the World Golf Championships at Doral. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff)

"It's about time, isn't it? I'm beginning to feel the flow again," he said. "I'm going to go there to win. I'm feeling a lot different about my golf swing and about my health. I'm gearing up for it. I'm preparing for the Masters pretty well."

His preparation looked pretty good when he contended and tied for fourth in the Honda Classic at PGA National in March -- his highest finish since August 2008, when he won back-to-back events in the PGA Tour playoffs to claim the FedEx Cup. Singh posted another quality showing a week later in the WGC event at Doral.

Should he be considered back among the favorites at Augusta National Golf Club?

"I think this year I will," he said.

Singh made that statement before a back injury forced him to withdraw from two consecutive tournaments in late March.

For 32 weeks in 2004-05, Singh was ranked No. 1 in the world. He is the only golfer not named Tiger Woods to be ranked No. 1 since David Duval in 1999, though it's been a tough stretch recently.

In January, Vijay Singh slipped out of the top 20 in the world rankings for the first time since 1997. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff)

In January, Singh fell out of the top 20 for the first time since 1997 and slipped as far as 37th in the world in February after a difficult 2009 season that was bookended by two surgeries on his right knee.

"I don't know where I'm at now," Singh said of his world rank. "But I know I'm not supposed to be there."

Even at age 47, Singh remains one of the world's best players. He's won more times on the PGA Tour in his 40s (22) than all but 25 other players have in their whole careers. The last thing you want to do is call Singh over-the-hill, especially after Kenny Perry (48) and Tom Watson (59) each came within one final-hole par of winning majors in 2009.

"I'm not looking forward to 50. It's a long ways from now," Singh said when asked about creeping up on senior tour eligibility. "I'm 47 and I feel healthy. I feel fit. My game is better than it's been for a long, long time. I'm really not looking forward to even talking about the Champions Tour now."

Singh wasn't so upbeat a year ago.

After undergoing surgery in January 2009, he returned to playing after six weeks and wasn't himself all year. He went winless for the first time since 2001 and finished 68th on the money list after never straying out of the top five the previous 11 years.

"Last year was -- how can I say -- it was a big downer for me," he said. "I had a lot of injuries that I had to deal with, and not playing well kind of made it even worse."

In December, Singh underwent another surgery to his knee and has come back stronger.

"My knee never was right all year," he said. "I had another operation towards the end of last year, and that got me fixed. Finally I can go down and line up a putt again. I haven't been doing that all last year. So it's nice to be fit and ready to go. There's no pain in my knee when I finish a round of golf, and I don't have to ice my leg. That's a big factor."

At 47 -- a year older than Jack Nicklaus was when he set the age record in winning the 1986 Masters -- Singh says he's put last year in his rearview mirror and is starting fresh. He said he believes he's not finished adding to his 34 PGA Tour wins and three major titles.

"On the whole I'm happy," he said. "I'm putting well, which is a big part of my game. If I putt well, obviously I'm going to play well.

"I'm looking forward to having a few more wins."

With his game coming around on the Florida swing, he's not ruling out a 10th anniversary Masters run as one of them.

"I'm hitting the ball as long as before," he said. "That's the key. To get the ball out there with the young kids and not be intimidated."

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.

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