Vet­eran Vi­jay in the hunt

New Straits Times - - Sport -

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

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