A Long Time Coming for Vijay at Bay Hill

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2007 Arnold Palmer InvitationalORLANDO, Fla. -- Vijay Singh began a remarkable charge with four birdies in a five-hole stretch. He seized control with an aggressive play, hitting driver off the deck, followed by a dazzling recovery when he hit wedge through a tree and onto the green.
 
It was just what he needed to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
 
'It's great to have my name on this thing,' Singh said, staring at the bell-shaped trophy with an image of Palmer on top.
 
It also was a relief.
 
Singh didn't make his PGA TOUR debut at Bay Hill, but he always believed this is where he got his start in the country he now calls home. He was an unknown Fijian when Palmer gave him an exemption in 1993, but not for long. Singh finished second that year, won at Westchester a few months later and was voted PGA TOUR rookie of the year.
 
'I owe it to this tournament,' he said. 'That was my starting point on the U.S. tour, so I always thought this tournament meant a lot.'
 
The tournament didn't give him much in return.
 
Singh was poised to win in 1994 until a bogey-bogey finish to lose to Loren Roberts. Two years ago, he was in the middle of the 18th fairway when he hit 7-iron into the water and lost to Kenny Perry.
 
No way that was going to happen this year.
 
Singh built a commanding lead on the par-5 12th, when he tried to reach the green with a driver off the deck from 295 yards away, which he pulled beneath a tree. He thought he was in trouble until seeing a gap big enough to pop wedge between some large branches to about 20 feet, then holing a putt with 6 feet of break.
 
He essentially pulled away with a Palmeresque tee shot on the dogleg right 15th, taking driver over the corner of two houses and Magnolia trees, a 320-yard drive that left him only a sand wedge to the green. He played his shot behind the flag, letting the spin and slope feed it down to 2 feet for his seventh birdie of the round.
 
Then he bogeyed the next two holes.
 
'I thought, 'Here we go again. What am I doing to myself?'' Singh said.
 
But he showed what makes him one of the best in the game, steadying himself on a scary tee shot on the 18th with a controlled fade to the right side of the fairway and a smart play -- away from the water, plenty of club to find land. The shot landed beyond the green, the chip ran 8 feet by the hole and he made the par putt to finish at 8-under 272.
 
'It is rewarding,' Singh said. 'Each time before when I was in contention, I either needed a par to get in a playoff, and obviously I messed up every time. It was a great feeling. I still hate that hole, though. It's not one of my favorites.'
 
Singh became the first multiple winner on the PGA TOUR this year, and his 31st career victory tied him with Harry 'Lighthorse' Cooper of England with the most by a foreign-born player.
 
This was a surprise, too.
 
'What about Gary Player?' Singh said. 'I thought he won a hundred?'
 
Player won that much around the world, but only 24 on the PGA TOUR. Singh wasn't even sure who Cooper was, only that the tie surely would be broken before long.
 
'I'm not done yet,' Singh said. 'I just want to keep playing, keep winning and see if I can win as many as I can. I don't have that much to go. Hopefully, I can win a few more this year.'
 
The sweetest words came from Palmer, who was waiting for Singh when he walked off the 18th green.
 
'Arnold said, 'Well done. It was a long time coming,'' Singh said.
 
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