MARANA, Arizona - Something of a forgotten man over the last three years, Vijay Singh returns to PGA Tour action at this week’s Honda Classic in Florida itching to get back to the winner’s circle.
The former world number one has not triumphed on the U.S. circuit since the 2008 Deutsche Bank Championship, having battled assorted health problems which impacted his trademark loose-limbed swing.
At a time when most of his contemporaries are preparing for the over-50s Champions Tour, the 49-year-old Fijian says he has plenty of unfinished business to complete on the regular tour.
“I want to win again,” Singh told Reuters while preparing for the March 1-4 Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens. “I think I have a few more wins in me and I want to contend again like I used to.
“I feel stronger now than I did five or six years ago and I am hitting the ball as long as I have ever done. I just need to start playing properly again.
“I want to win, and I want to win really bad.”
Singh’s career resume is already the envy of many of his peers. Renowned for his workaholic approach to practice, the former world number one has piled up 34 victories on the PGA Tour, including three majors.
However, the past few years have been very frustrating for him. He had surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus in January of 2009 and was then plagued by lingering back problems for much of his 2010 campaign.
By the time his 2010 PGA Tour season ended, he had posted just two top-10 finishes, the lowest total of his career dating back to 1993.
“If it was only a torn meniscus, it would have been okay,” Singh said with a wry smile. “It was a four-week to six-week kind of recovery time but this one took a year-and-a-half.
“And I had to go back for them to remove some of the loose particles that were still moving around there a year after the first surgery.
“That set me back and then through all of that my back went as well and that was the biggest fault I’ve had in the last two years.”
Singh’s back problems soon led to problems with his once fluid swing.
“It’s just sorting out those few kinks and letting the swing go now,” he said. “I’ve been holding on to it (the swing) for two-and-a-half years now because of injuries, and you can’t really let your body release.
“Now I am able to do that but the golf swing doesn’t want to go. I can do it on the range but come the golf course I am kind of still holding back. Once I get over that, I think I’ll be good.”
This season, Singh has been relatively encouraged after making three cuts in his four PGA Tour starts and believes he is close to regaining his best form.
“In Phoenix I got very sick so I didn’t make the cut there but the rest of the tournaments I have played all four days,” he said. “Now it’s all about finding my way back to where I feel my game should be.
“If you watched me on the driving range, I should go out there and win every tournament I play. I just need to take that form over to the golf course.
“I am feeling really good now,” said Singh, whose first name means ‘victory’ in Hindi. “I am healthy and I am strong. I just need to get it together. I really do believe you will see a different side of me at the Honda Classic.”
THIS WEEK IN GOLF
PGA TOUR: HONDA CLASSIC
COURSE: PGA National Resort and Spa, The Champion (7,110 yards, par 70).
TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Thursday, 3-6 p.m., 8:30-11:30 p.m.; Friday, 12:30-3:30 a.m., 3-6 p.m., 8:30-11:30 p.m.; Saturday, 12:30-3:30 a.m., 1-6 p.m., 8:30-11:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1-6 p.m., 8:30-11:30 p.m.) and NBC (Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m.).
OH CANADA: Graham DeLaet, David Hearn, Stephen Ames and Mike Weir, who will be making his third start of the season, are all in the field this week. ...Derek Gillespie and Matt Hill failed to get into the field through Monday qualifying.
NOTES: Tiger Woods is making his first appearance in the event since missing the cut as a 17-year-old amateur in 1993. In Woods' two stroke-play tournaments this season, he tied for third in Abu Dhabi and tied for 15th at Pebble Beach. ... Second-ranked Rory McIlroy is again in position to take the top spot in the world from Luke Donald with a victory. Donald, the 2006 winner, is skipping the tournament. ... Last year, South Africa's Rory Sabbatini won his sixth PGA Tour title, holding off South Korea's Y.E. Yang by a stroke.
NATIONWIDE TOUR: PANAMA CHAMPIONSHIP
COURSE: Panama Golf Club (7,163 yards, par 70).
OH CANADA: Stuart Anderson, Chris Baryla, Bryan DeCorso, Brad Fritsch, Adam Hadwin and Ryan Yip are all in the field while Jon Mills is listed as an alternate.
NOTES: Mathew Goggin won last year, beating Australian countryman Alistair Presnell and American Darron Stiles by two strokes. ...Skip Kendall comes into the event having won the season-opening Colombia Championship two weeks ago, holing a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a one-stroke victory. At 47 years, 5 months, 10 days, he became the fourth-oldest winner in Nationwide history.
NGA TOUR: Killearn Country Club Classic,
COURSE: Killearn Country Club, Tallahassee, Fla.
OH CANADA: Philippe-Andre Bannon, Yohann Benson, Marc-Etienne Bussieres, Louis-Alexandre Pitre and Riley Wheeldon are all in the field.
GRASSHOPPER TOUR: Lone Tree Golf Club
COURSE: Lone Tree Golf Club, Phoenix, Az.
OH CANADA: Alena Sharp, who captured the inaugural event of this new women's mini-tour two weeks ago, is in the field