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A Song to Singh

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Somewhere between Tiger Woods' yes-or-no Grand Slam and David Duvals ailing wrist lies Vijay Singhs opportunity to repeat as champion of the Masters Tournament.
 
While Tiger outshines everyone in terms of media spotlight, the defending champion finds himself being overshadowed by a guy who hasnt played competitively in five weeks. By players seeking their first major. By players making their first appearance. By many in the elite, yet limited field.
 
Not that Singh minds.
 
He enjoys the label of Defending Masters champion. It gives him confidence. But he doesnt flaunt the fact that he won the one major no one thought he could win.
 
Singh talks about winning the 2000 Masters
 

Since donning the green jacket for the first time on April 9, 2000, Singh has only worn golfs premiere prize once ' for an official Masters photo shoot. Come Sunday, hed like to wear it again.
 
I want to put the jacket on myself, said Singh. Im the defending champion, and I want to go out of here as the champion again.
 
Many things have changed in Singhs life since he defeated Ernie Els by three shots a year ago at Augusta National. Appearance fees have increased. Public awareness has increased. Appreciation has increased.
 
Yet Singh is the same. He still practices religiously. He still traverses the world. He still contends week-in and week-out.
 
Vijay and others comment on his chances to repeat
 
It has been said the road less traveled is filled with stones; and Singhs path has been bumpy.
 
His journey from then to now began in Fiji, where he dropped out of high school to pursue a career in golf, a sport seldom played on the South Pacific Island.
 
Singh was banned from two tours. In 1985 he was kicked off the Asian Tour for allegedly doctoring a scorecard. In a recent interview with Golf Digest, Singh said the son of a prominent Indonesian was keeping his card and for me to say the kid made a mistake, that he was wrong, well, you just didnt do that.
 
I still havent seen that scorecard. If I changed a number, show me.
 
It would have been easy for Singh to walk away from the game. But Singhs never been one to walk the road of comfort.
 
He worked as an instructor in Borneo, and a bouncer in Scotland. Anything to keep alive his dream.
 
Then he won in Africa, established himself in Europe, and proved himself in America.
 
His first PGA Tour victory came in the 1993 Buick Classic. He won four times over the next four years. Then, in 1998, he shed the label as one of the best in the world never to have won a major by capturing the PGA Championship.
 
Its not a matter of liking it, Singh said of his road to becoming a major champion. To get where you want to be, you have to do that. You learn a lot about life that way.
 
Now Singh returns to Augusta National, where hell try to become just the third player in tournament history to successfully defend his title.
 
Were it not for Tiger, Singh would be the betting mans favorite - if not the general publics.
 
Hes finished fourth or better in his last six tournaments, two of which were wins in Malaysia. Hes moved to 5th on the Official World Golf Ranking. And his game now is in better shape than it was 365 days ago.
 
I really think the way that Im putting right now is the best that I have ever putted, Singh said. Each week, I get better and better.
 
Singh wont be using the same putter he put in play a year ago. Gone is the traditional flatstick. He traded that in for a mid-length putter, which locks into the bellybutton.
 
But it wasnt the putter that won Singh his second career major championship; it was his all-around play, particularly with his irons. Vijay set a tournament record by a winner by hitting 58 of 72 greens in regulation (80.6%).
 

Singh took control of the tournament on Saturday with a 2-under-par 70. Blas in number only, the round was the lone shining moment on one of the events nastiest days. A Southern storm dropped temperatures below 50 degrees and sent tree limbs and debris crashing into the picturesque azaleas.
 
On Sunday, Singh secured the title when, after Duval hit his approach shot on the par-5 13th into Raes Creek, he roped a 4-iron into the par-5 15th to within 20 feet of the hole for a two-putt birdie.
 
A couple of weeks ago, Singh made his first trek back down Magnolia Lane to play the course with friends. It marked the first time he saw the Champions Locker Room.
 
It was nice to see the memorabilia and trophies, Singh said. But it doesnt excite me that much. Its only a locker room.
 
The trip also marked the first time Singh had walked the course since that brilliantly defining Sunday afternoon. The first time he had a chance to truly reflect on the shots he hit, and the feat he accomplished.
 
I went back to the same spot (on 14) and I was just in awe, Singh said. How the hell did I ever pull that shot off? I guess when youre in the thick of things, you dont always see the negatives. You only see the positives.
 
That pretty much says everything you need to know about Vijay Singh.
 
Will Vijay defend hs title? Who is your choice to win this year?
Share your thoughts!
 
Full Coverage of the 2001 Masters Tournament