NORTON, Mass. – Vijay Singh left last year’s Deutsche Bank Championship as a virtual lock to win the PGA Tour’s playoff and the $10 million bonus that goes along with it.
This year he’ll need some luck to survive into the next round.
Singh is ranked No. 78 in the FedEx Cup point standings, a position that would leave him on the outside of the bubble if he fails to improve this weekend at the TPC Boston. The top 70 advance to the BMW Championship outside of Chicago, and Singh needs to finish in the top 61 to stay alive.
“I just have to go out there and just play and try to win the golf tournament and not worry about where I stand in the points,” Singh said Thursday. “If I play the way I know, I don’t think I should have any issue at all. It’s in the back of my mind, my caddie reminds me of it every now and then, but that’s about it.”
After running away with the points race last year, Singh has had a tough 2009.
In 20 events, he has missed the cut as many times (six) as he’s finished in the top 25. He has three top 10 finishes – he had that many victories in ’08 – and missed the cut when the tour’s playoffs began last week at The Barclays.
But there’s no better place for Singh to begin his revival than the par-71, 7,202-yard TPC Boston, where he won in 2004, finished second to Tiger Woods in ’06 and won again last year, running away from both the event and the FedEx Cup field by shooting a tournament-record 22 under par.
“This venue is probably going to bring me my confidence, some of my confidence back, and I’m looking forward to the week,” he said. “I’m ready to play, and I won’t be surprised if I’m leading after two (or) three days. The important thing is to just go out there and feel confident and believe in yourself and go and play the game I know.”
That was the game he played last year.
With Woods recuperating from knee surgery, Singh faced little competition in the points race, winning back-to-back at The Barclays and Boston to take an insurmountable lead over Sergio Garcia into the third event of the four-tournament playoff. Even with a tie for 44th in The Barclays, all he had to do to win the $10 million bonus was finish 72 holes at the Tour Championship without forgetting to sign his scorecard.
This year, Woods is the threat to pull away from the field.
Although he is without a major victory this year, the 2006 Deutsche Bank champion has five wins – twice as many as anyone else – and he still holds a 1,200-point lead in the points race heading into the second week of the playoffs. Regardless of what he does in Boston, Woods is almost certain to be in contention for the $10 million prize after a couple of months in which he’s had two victories and two runner-up finishes, including The Barclays last week.
“This last stretch, I think I’ve hit the ball pretty good,” Woods said. “I’ve putted well in stretches. Some people have alluded to other things, but that’s not too bad for my last four events. The overall year has been very consistent.”
Heath Slocum’s victory at Liberty National shot him from second-to-last, at No. 124, to third, right behind Woods and Steve Stricker. That sudden rise has players debating whether Slocum earned too many points for his victory; on the other hand, he did beat a field that included the top 124 players on the PGA Tour.
“We don’t know what the right answer is. I think you can debate that until you’re blue in the face if you want,” Stricker said. “I mean, he did win one of the playoff events, and it’s an event we’re putting a lot of emphasis on. … You’ve got to give the guy credit. He stepped up and it was the first playoff event and he won it, so he was rewarded for it.”
The top 100 qualified for the Deutsche Bank (Paul Casey withdrew on Thursday with a rib injury).
Singh may be near the bottom this year, but his confidence is just as strong.
“I just need one or two good rounds under my belt to get it going,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with my golf swing, it’s just going out there and not worrying about what’s happening in my head; just go and play the game.
“I have no issues. … I’ve been here many, many times before. I just need to just go out there and play.”