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Singh continues surge at Barclays

8/25/2012 - Golf Vijay Singh

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- At the 2008 Barclays, Vijay Singh beat Sergio Garcia in a playoff at Ridgewood Country Club. That victory propelled Singh to a win the following week at the Deutsche Bank Championship and to the $10 million bonus as the FedEx Cup champion.

By the end of 2008, Singh had won a record 22 times since turning 40. Not since Sam Snead had a player been so good into his 40s, and not since Ben Hogan had a player toiled longer on the practice range.

Vijay Singh was the consummate pro.

Now, after a 4-under-par 67 on Friday in the second round of The Barclays on the Bethpage Black Course, the 49-year-old Fijian still believes he's as good as he was in '08 when he had eight top-10s, including three wins.

"I've been hitting the ball pretty solid lately, so it kind of gives me a good feeling when I go out there, especially on a golf course like this," Singh said.

Earlier this month at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, Singh showed signs that he still had some of the magic that led him to two victories in that tournament and a green jacket from a Masters win. He had a piece of the lead after 36 holes in this year's final major, but he limped home with rounds of 74 and 77 to finish in a tie for 36th.

"I think I'm playing as good as I did [at] any part of my career," Singh said on Friday. "I'm hitting the ball as long. I'm hitting the ball straighter.

"It's just I need to get some kind of momentum going to keep me going. I thought I had it at the PGA, but I kind of let it slip there on Sunday."

Despite his self-assurance, Singh hasn't won a PGA Tour event since the 2008 Deutsche Bank. From that point on, he's had only 13 top-10s. Compare those numbers to 2004, when he had 18 top-10s, including nine wins, and it's clear that he's a different player.

Over the last few years, Singh has had two knee surgeries and recurring back problems that have hampered his progress, but now he says he's finally pain-free.

"I do feel it in the mornings when I get up," Singh said. "I have to be very careful how I jump out of bed. But so far it's been good."

Singh's tie for ninth at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes was his first top-10 in a major since '06, when he had a T-8 and T-6, respectively, in the Masters and U.S. Open. Last year he didn't even qualify for the U.S. Open and Open Championship.

At 72nd in the world rankings, he is a far cry from when he was No. 1 in the world for 32 weeks in 2004 and 2005.

Yet it probably would not come as a surprise to most of the players if he were to stay in contention through the weekend at The Barclays. Though he doesn't pound as many balls on the range as he once did in his prime, he's still considered one of the hardest-working players on tour.

"I don't hit as many balls anymore because I'm pretty sound with my golf swing," Singh said. "I think I spend a lot more time on the putting green than I've ever done. I should have done this a long time ago."

Now, instead of standing on the range for hours with some stick or homemade device to help him work on the path of the club during the downswing, he is more likely to be on a green with the latest putting aid as a helper or his caddie lying on the ground and watching the ball roll.

There are not many players in better shape than Singh, who long ago lost some of the softness around the waistline that he had when he was a bespectacled journeyman who began playing the PGA Tour full-time in 1993.

In February, Singh will turn 50 and be eligible to join the Champions Tour. But right now a life on the senior circuit is not in his sights.

"I'm playing as good as anybody out here, so if I can keep doing this and if the desire is still there and fire is still there, I'm going to keep playing here," he said.

Singh won The Barclays once at Ridgewood and three times when it was held at Westchester Country Club. He clearly loves competing in the New York City area.

On Friday, he said the Black Course played more difficult than it did in the first round.

"I don't know what the mindset was after yesterday when I got to the clubhouse and saw all the low scoring," Singh said. "It kind of threw everybody off. It's playing harder. The wind is swirling around. I'm happy to have finished what I did."

Singh was seventh in the FedEx Cup standings when he won The Barclays in '08. This year he comes in 57th and is a long shot to win his second FedEx Cup title. But another couple of good rounds could take care of any lingering doubts that he's still one of the top players in the world.