POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 15, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 2:32 a.m. HST, Jan 15, 2011
Vijay Singh will be 48 on George Washington's birthday, and he was feeling every one of those 47 previous years yesterday after the first three holes of the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Starting his 19th year on the PGA Tour bogey, bogey, bogey with playing partners Anthony Kim and Jason Day 1 under and 1 over, respectively, left the Big Fijian feeling, well, not so big.
That number jumped to 4 over with a bogey at the sixth, sending Singh to the seventh wondering where that first birdie would land. Fortunately for him, he sunk a 26-footer at the par-3 seventh that might have gone 10 feet past if not for slamming into the cup full speed.
It was his only birdie on the front nine en route to a 38, and after going par, par, par to start the back, Singh was in danger of going home early for sure. His prospects picked up from there with birdies at Nos. 13, 15, 16 and 18, with a bogey from the bunker at the 17th the lone blemish coming in to settle at even-par 70.
He trails first-round leader Stuart Appleby by a half-dozen strokes, but he was down 10 at one point.
"I never really lost anything. It was just the first competitive round in two months," Singh said after signing his scorecard.
"I was ready to play. I didn't want to start ahead," he said, then chuckled at his own joke. "I just had to ride the bad with the good. There seemed like there was no good after the first few holes. It just kept going worse. I've played this game long enough to know if you just hang in there, good things are going to happen."
Singh needs a lot of good things to happen this year if he wants to keep his major appearance streak alive. He has played in 66 consecutive majors, but if his game doesn't show a marked improvement over the next few months, he will end his Masters mark at 18 and the majors streak with it.
Not that he's losing any sleep over it. Singh knows all good things must end. He's not getting any younger, but the game is. Case in point, playing with Day and Kim let him know that the youngsters are coming hard and fast. There are 27 rookies in this event, many who were barely out of kindergarten when he joined the tour in 1993.
"It's fun playing with these young guys (Kim and Day)," Singh said. "It lets you know what you've got to do to be competitive."
Singh has been competitive for longer than even he can remember. Before Lee Westwood took over the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings last year, Singh was the last person to claim that title other than Tiger Woods. Singh joined the tour in the spring of 1993, winning the Buick Open in a playoff with Mark Wiebe just a few months later.
Singh's first three victories were by playoff, but the three-time major winner is better known for hoisting a tour trophy 22 times since turning 40, including the PGA Championship in 2004. He was durable thanks in part to a work ethic few could match on the practice range. This guy hit golf balls day and night, before Father Time finally tapped him on the shoulder and said, enough is enough.
Injuries have slowed him down the past couple of years. His last win on tour was in 2008. In 2009 and 2010, he had only five top-10 finishes.
So, how's he feeling coming into the first full-field event of 2011?
"I feel good, yes," Singh said. "I've been in Hawaii for the last month and a half. I love it here. I've been working on my game since I've been here; working on the physical side. I took a lot of time off. I just tried to fix the body, you know. I still wake up in the morning with a lot of stiffness. But I attribute that more to old age than anything else."
Today, he wants to land in the red, so he can play 36 holes tomorrow. What the future holds after that is anyone's guess, including his.
"I'm just going to take it one tournament at a time and try to get better each week," Singh said. "At this point in my career, it's all I can do."