Singh Looking for a Better Finish

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2006 Sony OpenVijay Singh makes it sound as though he's in a slump. The 42-year-old Fijian won four times last year on the PGA Tour. That might be considered an extraordinary season had Singh not won nine times in 2004. Or if he hadn't been overshadowed last year by chief rival Tiger Woods' six wins, including two of the four majors.
 
Oh, sure, he hasn't won since the Buick Open in August.
 
Davis Love III hasn't won since August of 2003. Go back another year to find the last time Chris DiMarco won.
 
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh puts in more practice time than anyone on the PGA Tour.
What bothers Singh is how he finished the year.
 
Singh had an outside chance to win the PGA Championship when he returned to Baltusrol on that Monday morning, but he made two bogeys. He never seriously contended the rest of the year, and missed back-to-back cuts at Disney and Innisbrook - the first time in four years he had the weekend off in consecutive weeks.
 
'I needed to play a little better than what I finished last year ... to get back to the way I was playing the beginning of the year and two years ago,' Singh said. 'I needed to work a lot harder. I think being 42, almost 43, you have to work twice as hard to keep up. There are guys half my age out on Tour.'
 
And there is one who is young enough to be his daughter.
 
Singh is the defending champion at the Sony Open, which gets under way Thursday at Waialae Country Club. And at No. 2, is the highest-ranked player in the first full-field event of the year.
 
But the attention again is on 16-year-old Michelle Wie, who turned pro three months ago while still a junior at nearby Punahou School. This is her third straight Sony Open, and her fourth appearance on the PGA Tour, as she tries to become the first female in 61 years to make the cut on the PGA Tour.
 
Wie is almost putting in as many hours as Singh.
 
She arrived about 6:15 a.m. Wednesday for her early pro-am time - she shot 74 and tied for 45th among 50 players in a meaningless round - and was still on the putting green nine hours later before heading home.
 
Singh was on the practice green about the time Wie was leaving, placing four tees in the ground to work on his stroke. The idea was to take the putter back between two pegs, and swing it through two others.
 
The ball kept finding the center of the cup about 6 feet away.
 
Now if he can just get that to happen during the tournament.
 
While Singh was disappointed in his finish last year, he is still trying to grasp what happened to his finish last week. It was a supreme round on the tough, windy Plantation course at Kapalua in the season-opening Mercedes Championships, a 7-under 66 that was five shots better than anyone else and nine shots better than the average score.
 
Starting the final round five shots behind, he wound up in a playoff.
 
But on the par-5 18th hole, his approach landed just short of the green, his putt from 100 feet stopped 9 feet from the cup and he missed the most important putt of the round.
 
'If you had given me a 66 before the start of the day, I would have been really happy,' he said. 'But the way it finished out, I was pretty disappointed. Nobody likes losing in a playoff. I was probably more disappointed last week than I would have been if I was one or two shots back and finished second.
 
'It kind of stayed with me all night, and then I forgot about it the next morning.'
 
He has fond memories of Waialae. He was four shots out of the lead going into the final round, surged past Shigeki Maruyama, saw that Ernie Els had posted a 62, then made birdie on the last hole to win by one shot.
 
'Hopefully, I can do what I did last year,' he said.
 
Wie is looking for better results, even though she is more wrapped up in the process. The Hawaii sensation shot 68 as a 14-year-old and missed the cut by one shot, raising hopes that she could be the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to make the cut on the PGA Tour.
 
But the wind blew her away last year, and she missed the cut by seven.
 
Hopes are renewed, however, and not just because she has a name on a bag and a burgeoning bank account from endorsement contracts and overseas appearance money.
 
Wie has come close to a Saturday tee time the last two events against the men, missing by two shots at the John Deere Classic in July and by one shot at the Casio World Open in Japan.
 
'I'm a year older. Hopefully, I'm more mature than last year,' she said. 'It's my third time playing here. Hopefully, I can use that experience.'
 
The Sony Open is the first chance for players to get off to a good start to the season, although Adam Scott is among those who really isn't starting just yet.
 
He's coming off a three-week break, flew from Australia for one tournament, and will take the next three weeks off. Twenty-two other players, Singh included, were at Kapalua last week. And of the rookies at Waialae, three have never played a PGA Tour event.
 
'It's one of the great ways to start the year,' Singh said. 'It's cold back home, cold everywhere in America, so this is paradise.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Sony Open in Hawaii