Veteran Vijay in the hunt
PONTE VEDRA BEACH: The last time Vijay Singh started this well in The Players Championship was in 2006, when he was No. 2 in the world and still adding to his record of most PGA Tour victories in his 40s.
It felt like old times Friday when he got within one shot of the lead until a bogey on the 18th hole for a 4-under 68 to finish three shots out of the lead.
Chalk that up to practice, nothing new for the 54-year-old Vijay. In this case, it was practice on the Players Stadium Course.
“I had quite a few rounds here before I left for Wilmington, so I was quite familiar with the conditions,” Vijay said. “It was a lot firmer, but we knew that it was going to be really firm because of new greens. I’ve never played that many rounds before the tournament, so I was kind of familiar with the winds.”
It also helps that Vijay finally won on the 50-and-older PGA Tour Champions, when he teamed with Carlos Franco to win the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.
“I came here feeling good about my game,” he said. “I was ready to play. I was ready to play well, too. I’m playing well and I’m excited about it.”
Vijay won 34 times on the PGA Tour — 22 times when he was in his 40s — including two majors at the Masters and PGA Championship. But he rarely had a chance at The Players Championship in the city he calls home. His best chance was in 2001, when he was runner-up to Tiger Woods. He had only three other top 10s in 23 appearances.
One of the more celebrated figures in golf, there was one awkward aspect to his strong play. It was four years ago this week that Vijay sued the PGA Tour, claiming it exposed him to “public humiliation and ridicule” during a 12-week investigation into his use of deer antler spray. The case remains in a New York court.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Vijay said when asked about the lawsuit.
He was plenty happy to talk about his game, especially his putting. He rolled in putts of 25, 40 and 30 feet in his round.
“I’ve been rolling the ball really, really well,” Vijay said. “And my caddie just got excited every time I got it on the green. It was sad I three-putted the last hole, but that’s a strong part of my game right now. If I keep putting like that, I’m going to be right there.” AP