EDMOND, Okla. – Vijay Singh was
striping balls on the driving range Wednesday morning, preparing for the 35th
U.S. Senior Open, and a large crowd congregated behind him, eager to watch the
lithe Fijian go through his warmups.
He still hits the ball long and
high. His ball flight is similar to that produced by the young guns on the PGA
Tour, which is probably why Singh, at 51, still competes against players up to
30 years younger than him.
“I still feel like I have the
game to compete. I still have the length to handle the long courses,” said
Singh, who last fall finished runner-up at the Fry’s.com Open on the regular
tour. “Plus, I still like the challenge of that competition.”
And it’s the challenge and the
competition that drew Singh to this week’s U.S. Senior Open, his first major
championship start and second overall on the Champions Tour.
Not surprisingly, he’s competing
Though he stumbled on his inward
nine Friday morning at Oak Tree National, Singh is still very much in the mix
after an even-par 71 gave him a 36-hole total of 2-under 140. The three-time
major champion had gotten as low as 5 under through eight holes, one shot
within the overnight leader Colin Montgomerie, but it all came undone with
bogeys at 11, 14 and 16.
Related: Oak Tree Greens Prepared For Heat
“Yeah, I played well today, but I
lost my focus a little bit there, and I shouldn’t have. It cost me a few
shots,” Singh admitted.
Singh’s U.S. Open record includes
a tie for third in the 1999 championship won by Payne Stewart. He also holds a
share of the 18-hole scoring record of 63, which he produced in the second
round of the 2003 championship at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club.
He was not disappointed by the
setup he has encountered the first two days at Oak Tree.
“I just wanted to come see what
it’s like,” he said of his decision to enter the championship. “The U.S. Open
always has a good golf course and good setup. This is a great golf course; it’s
one of the best, I think. It’s challenging. It would be pretty tough on the
regular tour as well. So I just wanted to come out here and see what it’s like
and, hopefully, take home the trophy on Sunday.”
Notebook: Sluman Returns to Site of PGA Championship Win
Well, no one would be surprised
if Singh, a Hall of Famer and winner of 34 PGA Tour titles, including the 2000
Masters and two PGA Championships, did take home the trophy, but he’s smart
enough to know that’s far from a given. He might be the fittest player on the
Champions Tour, but they don’t award the top prize based on cardio efficiency
or muscle mass.
“I still need to go out there and
play and execute the shot that I want to do,” he said. “It’s no different than
playing the regular tour. It’s a lot shorter out here, obviously, so a lot more
chances to make birdies.”
Of course, birdies get harder to
come by in a U.S. Open. That’s why he wasn’t overly concerned about the shots
he surrendered down the stretch.
“I don’t think anybody is going
to go anywhere today, so it’s fine,” Singh said, taking off his visor and
wiping sweat from his brow. “I just have to play a little smarter and hopefully
not make the same mistakes I made today. You know, I’m right there. I have a
good chance yet.”
Which is just what everyone
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance
writer whose work previously has appeared on USGA websites.