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May 26, 2004

Vijay Singh


GORDON SIMPSON: Well, Vijay, very nice to see you back here at Wentworth for the 50th Volvo PGA, the 1,000th tournament on the European PGA Tour, and the way you've been setting records, presumably that's one you wouldn't mind knocking off on Sunday, as well.

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, it would be a good one. It's a good break from America, coming over here. I think it breaks the monotonous week in, week out of the same golf course, same guys you deal with.

Taking nothing away from here, this is one of the best tournaments out here. I love playing Wentworth. I love playing in Europe for that matter, but this is probably the most golf I've played on a golf course anywhere else in the world. I've played the world match play here every year for the last so many years, and I know the golf course really well. So this is one golf course that I'm familiar with.

GORDON SIMPSON: You talk about monotony, but it's not monotonous winning all the time, is it?

VIJAY SINGH: It can never be. If it is, it's good.

Winning, you know, you cannot take away winning golf tournaments. It's something that is very hard to achieve every time. In the last few years, I've been doing my share of winning, and I'm loving every minute of it. This would be one good week to have another one.

Q. Ernie said something publically at the dinner last night which was a very nice tribute to you. He said that he thought you were the best player in the world at the moment. Would you agree with that?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, if that's what he says, I guess I have to agree with him. (Laughter). But, no, I've been playing pretty decent golf for the last year and a half, two years. You know, there's a lot of talk about who is in the ranking system, but it's one system that we cannot break. It's there for a reason, and I guess as much as I'd like to be world No. 1, I think that the ranking speaks for itself. It's there and that's what we've got to follow.

Q. Does it give you a thrill to hear words like that, "best player in the world?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, obviously, it's a great self achievement, that you can feel for yourself that guys it's not only Ernie, but every week you go, people are talking about it and the press is talking about it, as well.

I won't be fulfilled with all that talk unless I'm No. 1 in the World Ranking, and that's my goal, is to get up there in the World Ranking that's official. That's what I follow by, and I'm not although it's great, I guess it's a great boost to my confidence when people talk about it, I should be the world No. 1. But still, you've got to draw the line somewhere and say that's the rule, that's the World Ranking, you've got to follow it.

Q. Has there been a moment when you said, right now I'm going after Tiger, start of the season, end of last year?

VIJAY SINGH: It's not really Tiger that I'm concerned about. You know, although he's the best player in the world for a while, I just want to be the top player in the world, as well. I've played good enough golf to be there, but obviously, that's not what the ranking is saying. I've made a goal that I want to finish my career at least once to be ranked No. 1 in the world. I don't have that many years to go, maybe five, maybe six. If I keep physically fit, who knows, maybe seven.

But I plan to do that, and I'm playing good enough, and I feel maybe this is the year that I could make that. At the same time, I have to focus on what I am doing.

Q. Do you know exactly what you've got to do?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, I've got to win a few majors and win another six or seven events, maybe I'll get No. 1 then. (Laughter).

Q. Does it make it harder for you when you're clearly driven to become the official best player in the world, does it make it harder for you to come to Europe when most often there are more ranking points available on the U.S. Tour than there are here; maybe this speaks a bit different?

GORDON SIMPSON: This is a good week.

Q. This is a good week, but by and large, would you like to play more in this part of the world?

VIJAY SINGH: I make my base in America now, so it's difficult to come over here and playoff weeks. I've been invited to play Bernard's tournament in Germany, and I'm still thinking about that. But I planned this quite a while ago and I wanted to come back and play this. I knew it was Ken's last tournament as the PGA Commissioner over here.

I won New Orleans and I won Houston and the points were so small, it was almost as small as winning over here in Europe for that matter. I got some 44 points for winning New Orleans, and it was a tough week. It's not easy winning anywhere, for that matter. To win those tournaments, you've got to win five or six of them to make one any difference in the World Ranking.

I feel like I need to focus more on the majors that are coming up, take my chances in the majors and see if I can build up points that way. Still, it's not easy winning majors.

Q. You've played both Shinnecock and Troon before, haven't you? Are those events that you think are going to suit you this summer?

VIJAY SINGH: I think so. I think this golf course is going to help me with Shinnecock.

Q. This one?

VIJAY SINGH: Yes, because the ground is firm and hard. It's bouncy. Shinnecock is about the same way. There's no trees, there's not much trees in Shinnecock, but I think this resembles a lot of Shinnecock's terrain out there.

Q. And you made your opening debut at Troon, '89, something like that?


Q. Is that a place you like?

VIJAY SINGH: British Opens have not been the best for me. I've had my chances. Last year was a good chance that I could have done something, but I'm never comfortable with it. I like to be comfortable the only golf course I'm comfortable with is St. Andrews, because for some reason, I feel like I can play good golf there.

But, I don't know, I just have to change that mindset when I start off when I come over here for Troon, the Open.

Q. What do you do the week before?

VIJAY SINGH: This year I'm going to have to play John Deere which is in Moline (laughter). I'm defending that. It was only right for me to go and play it. I just hope it doesn't go to Monday.

Q. Well, you might win it on Monday.

VIJAY SINGH: But then I would have to miss practicing over here. So that's the only drawback.

Q. Why do you think you haven't done so well in British Open courses?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know. I just

Q. Style of golf?

VIJAY SINGH: I have no idea. I love links golf courses. I practice well on them. I don't know, maybe it's the pressure. (Laughs).

Q. You were saying that you think you've got five, six, maybe seven years left of top golf. It wasn't so long ago we were thinking that golf was going to become a young man's game. What do you think has changed things that you can continue way beyond 40, to continue winning?

VIJAY SINGH: There's a lot to consider, first, physically, you have to be fit enough to play. I have raised my physical ability in the last two years, three years. I'm working out really hard and I feel like I'm stronger now than I've been when I was 25. That says a lot. I'm 41 years old. So that is one.

The equipment, the ball I'm using now, is going further. It's done tremendous good to long hitters, for that matter. The Titleist ball I'm using now is incredible, the drivers I'm using, the clubs I'm using, they are favoring to longevity in my game, for that matter.

I think you take all of that into consideration, and the physical fitness, you can play longer. Look at Jay Haas, for instance, he's 50 years old. And Peter Jacobsen won; Craig Stadler. Obviously they have great ability, but also, the equipment has helped them, as well.

Q. It wasn't that long ago that Fred Couples was looking to the Senior Tour is that sort of negated now?

VIJAY SINGH: I think so. The distance we hit the balls nowadays, it doesn't matter how long the young kids hit it. The golf course is still there for the taking. They are hitting wedges and we are hitting 9 irons. It's not like we are hitting 3 irons and 4 irons. That's a big factor in the golf nowadays.

Q. Can you put your finger on why you're playing so well right now?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, there's a lot to think about, but first of all, my golf game is so good, my swing has improved through the years. And I think finally clicked two years, three years ago, where I wanted my golf game to be.

My swing, I feel very comfortable with my golf swing. I don't spend hours on the range trying to figure out how to hit it straight now. I'm there and I know exactly what to work on.

Q. You still spend hours on the range?

VIJAY SINGH: I do, but not as much, because I'm pretty much quite sure where my golf swing is going. If I am hitting a bad shot, I know pretty much how to fix it, and I can fix my golf shots on the golf course when I'm playing tournaments.

Like New Orleans, I started off the last day, not that I shot a good number on the last round, but I was struggling on the first nine holes and I was able to fix my driver coming down the stretch. That's one reason.

And physically, I'm strong. I don't get tired any more when I finish playing and I'm in the gym after I finish practicing. You put all that together, here I am.

Q. Do you think your success maybe will be an inspiration for people like Colin, coming off his recent problems, he had slipped from No. 1 in the world down to 50; do you think you're an example, perhaps an inspiration to other players that they can continue great golf after 41?

VIJAY SINGH: I think so. I hope so, too. It's a shame, there are a lot of players out there that are still capable of playing great golf. Nick Price for one, he's still playing good golf now. People ask a lot of questions about what I do in the gym and how I work out and there's a lot of talk about all that. There are questions being asked, well, how many hours I spend in the gym, what kind of workout I do, and a lot of guys are hiring trainers now and getting into the gym.

As you get older, you get slower and you need to build that part of your ability back. You lose the quickness. I've worked a lot on speeding up my agility work and it's working out.

Q. Has Colin consulted you on that regime?

VIJAY SINGH: No, he hasn't. I can't say anything about Colin, but, all I can say is, for example, Darren Clarke. He's lost weight the right way. He's done workouts, he's hired a trainer and did a lot of good things. If you lose weight doing exercise and training, you'll get stronger. But if you lose weight by doing dieting, you'll get weaker. That could be the problem Colin has been going through. He's up and down like a yo yo; his weight is up and his weight is down.

I think what he should do, if he wants to lose weight, he should get stronger in the meantime as well.

Q. Are you roughly the same weight as you were ten years ago?

VIJAY SINGH: I probably have lost a little bit now. I'm 205 pounds, I don't know what that is in kilos, but I was a little heavier than that.

Q. You talk about not doing well in Opens because of pressure, but in most years, you appeared laid back rather than stressed out on the course.

VIJAY SINGH: Pressure, when I say pressure, I was kind of kidding about that. (Laughter) I don't really get that nervous anymore. But, I don't know, the Open is a big event. We expect too much from ourselves. I think it's a very difficult tournament to win because it's a different kind of golf.

Although, we think it's a different kind of golf, I think that's maybe where we go wrong. It's the same kind of golf, different conditions.

If I can I'm going to go back and think it over. We're playing three links golf courses in the next three majors, and hopefully I can strike lucky in one of them.

Q. The fact that you went so close last year, I'm sure there was a lot of disappointment at the time, but do you now take heart from that and think, well, yes, I can win an Open championship?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, one thing I could say about not winning over here or winning the British Open, was the driving of the ball. I think you've got to drive the ball good.

I have been struggling driving the ball consistently good. But this year and last year, I've been starting to do really good with my driver. I think that's the strongest part of my golf game, and that's probably why I started to play well in the recent years. Driving the golf ball straighter I think is one of the keys to golf. If I can arrive in Troon with a good driver and a lot of confidence, I think I can give it a good run.

Q. Are you so driven that you won't be satisfied until you crack the things you haven't cracked so far, or are you almost free wheeling in your career because you have reached the level you have?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I'm trying every week. I'm going out there, I'm trying to win every tournament I play, but I'm not disappointed if I don't. In one way, yes, but in another way, hey, I cannot win every week and I'm just doing my best.

I'm pretty driven to play well every time I tee it up. I don't want to give away the No. 1 spot on the money list. I'm driven to keep that, and to get on top of the World Ranking. That's still the things that I'm concerned about.

And also, winning golf tournaments. I want to get my 20th win on the U.S. tour. That's my immediate goal as well. There's a lot of benefits from that. Not that I'll need it, you know hopefully I won't need it, but it gives you the lifetime exemptions, as well. Winning 20 tournaments on the U.S. Tour is big. If you look back, there's a lot of guys that stopped at 19, Tom Kite was one of them, I think Lanny Wadkins was one of them, if you look back. So there's a lot of little bits and pieces that I would like to fulfill.

Right now, I'm focused really to play well and see if I can get to the first on the No. 1 spot.

Q. Did not getting Player of the Year last year, did that rankle a bit?

VIJAY SINGH: It was a disappointing loss, you can say. I thought I did enough to win that, and then you talk to all the players, everybody thought that I should have won. At the same time, they are the ones who voted (laughter). So, you don't know how to feel about it. Really. (Laughter).

Q. Open ballot.

VIJAY SINGH: Yes, exactly. It was a little disappointing that I didn't win that, but at the same time, if you look at the points, the way they the PGA of America does their point system, Tiger was ahead of me in that. So you can't really take back from him. He did play some good golf last year.

Q. So did you?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, I guess.

Q. How much do you study the World Rankings, do you know if you can get to No. 1 this week for instance?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't study that. And I get informed every Monday by my manager how I'm doing and I've lost so many points and I've gained so many. I get all the information. And my boy, who is 14, he's starting to look into that, as well. (Laughter).

Q. In all of the time that you've spent playing in Europe, can you think of one thing above all others that stands you in good stead now, that you learned in that time when you were playing in Europe? How do you think it molded you?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, you learn different conditions over here. I think the younger kids that are growing up now, like they talk about it in America, what the young kids should do. I always told them they should go and play Asia because there's a good learning process over there.

Over here was great because I played different golf courses every week, the conditions were difficult, the competition was really hard. And I played with the best of the guys, like Seve and Faldo when they were at their best.

Although, I wasn't at their standard at that time, but I learned a lot from that. I played a lot of practice golf with Seve. That was a great help, Jose Maria as well. Those guys, they taught me a lot. They taught me how tough you have to be to go out there and play. Those are the things that I really look back and say, hey, that's lessons that you cannot get nowadays. Those were the things that I remember.

Q. Were you aware that Ernie Els wants the belly putter banned?

VIJAY SINGH: I was wondering when that was going to come up. (Laughter).

Well, I put one in his locker. If he thinks it's that easy, maybe he should try it. (Laughter).

You know, everybody is entitled to their own opinion. If it wasn't for opinion, I don't know what it would be like. I got in trouble for voicing my opinion once. (Laughter).

Q. What was that?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, what was that (laughter). Human rights, I guess.

He's entitled to his opinion, and maybe he has a point. But it's still not easy putting with a belly putter as people think it is. You've got to get used to it. I just feel it out there and if it's an advantage, everybody should use it. If you want the guys that are using the long putter, the Senior Tour, the guys are making a living making their second living, for instance, getting a chance where they can use the long putters now. It will be a difficult thing if they even thought about banning it. It's not going to be as easy as that. There will be a lot of lawsuits out.

Q. Has it come back in one piece, the one you put in the locker?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I suggested to him he should try it before he breaks it. (Laughter). As I said, he's entitled to his opinion. I have nothing against Ernie. He's a great guy.

Q. Would you take a lawsuit?

VIJAY SINGH: I will wait till it happens.

Q. That's a maybe then.

VIJAY SINGH: Let's just leave it at that. (Laughter).

Q. How about your relationship with Dave, your caddie, you had a spell away from one another and now you've come back together again and seems to be pretty successful; what part does he play in your success at the moment?

VIJAY SINGH: Dave, Dave, it's a sore subject right now (laughter). No, he's good. He's a very level headed guy. He doesn't get ruffled very easily. He's just an experienced caddie. He knows what to say and when to say it and just I've just known him for so long that I'm used to that. But things happen differently. I can't go anymore. Let's just leave it at that, okay (laughter).

GORDON SIMPSON: We all know David as well.

VIJAY SINGH: Dave is a good guy. I'm happy to have him on my bag, put it this way.

Q. Is it possible to put any kind of percentage on how much better the Vijay of now is against the Vijay when we all knew you in Europe?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, it's a big difference. I mean, I've learned, and my experience that I've gained is second to none. I mean, it makes me so level headed when I go out there and play now, when I don't get excited, I don't get too disappointed if I hit a bad shot.

My thought of looking at a golf course, looking at the hole is different now. I plan my shots, and I'm just so comfortable playing golf with my golf swing right now. I'm not searching for anything anymore. I know what to expect when I'm on the tee.

It used to be I would stand on the tee and look where it shouldn't go, I mean, which part of the fairway. Now, I'm looking at where I should go, what part of the fairway I should hit to attack the pin, so it's a different set up to what I used to do. It's just from experience from playing better and testing your golf swing.

I think my golf swing has improved tremendously since five years ago, I would say. And just all the work that I put in finally molded together and came to a golf swing where I'm very comfortable.

Q. Was there a eureka moment, a moment when you said you finally got comfortable with your swing two years ago?

VIJAY SINGH: I would say, two, three, years ago when it started to come around.

Q. Was it something in particular that clicked?

VIJAY SINGH: I was just winning golf tournaments and starting to play consistently good, week in, week out.

Q. So it's confidence?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, finishing Top 10. It just kind of builds up. It's like a snowball effect and sooner or later it gets bigger and bigger and your confidence rises and all of a sudden you think nothing can go wrong. When you get to that stage, then you're not worried about your golf swing anymore. One bad shot doesn't mean you're swinging the club badly.

And my mind is more freer, too. I don't have much worries about too many things. I just go out there and play golf and do what I know best, and that's helped a lot.

Q. Tiger having reached No. 1 is full of complexities around his life. If you reached No. 1, do you think life would still be simple for you?

VIJAY SINGH: Some people say I've already reached it, you know. I don't know, he reached No. 1 when he was 24 years old, 25 years old. He's still very young in that sense. I've been around for so long, I don't think it can bother me like it bothered him a little bit.

I don't know, I can't really say it will make any difference to me. I probably would be driven to keep it as long as possible, to stay up there. And like I said, my time is limited. I'm not going to stay up there for that long, so I'd better make good use of it if I do get up there to hang on to it. I will probably try harder than ever to keep that spot.

Q. When did you first think that you could be the best golfer in the world, are we going right back to childhood and somebody said you had that potential?

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, it's difficult to really, right now, to think back what I thought then. I can't really I was just happy to make a buck playing golf when I was coming up.

You always have different goals every year. Your goals, your expectation rises up to different levels as you get better.

My first goal was to play in Europe, my first goal was to play the British Open and then play the European Tour and then play the U.S. Tour and win golf tournaments. It kind of changes as you go on. There's no one real set where I thought that.

Q. Was there anybody very early on who said you could reach the very top?

VIJAY SINGH: I can't remember that. I remember playing in Australia once and saw Greg Norman at his best and he was standing on the 6th or 7th tee box on one of the holes and hit a ball off a par three and came out like a cannon and I turned around to my friend and says, "That's what I want to be able to do one day, hit the ball that way." That's the most I remember about really feeling that, what I need to be or what I need to do in the future.

But to be where I am now, I had never thought I was going to get here.

Q. Was Greg No. 1 at the time?

VIJAY SINGH: He was, yes.

Q. So when would that have been roughly?

VIJAY SINGH: Oh, gosh, I would say probably '86, '87, something like that.

Q. When you first came to Britain I think you tried to qualify for an Open at Muirfield and you didn't do it?

VIJAY SINGH: No. I remember practicing at that golf course for a whole month and missed.

Q. If someone had told you then what you were to go on and achieve now, would you have believed them?

VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, it's really hard to really say. From where I was then to where I am now, gosh, you can't even imagine. But, hey, I'm just happy to be here. I don't even want to go back there. (Laughing).

Q. How much of your success do you think is down to hard work on the practice range?

VIJAY SINGH: I think that was the whole learning process. That's where I learned how to develop a golf swing. Bob still talks about me hitting balls, it was dark and all that, making jokes about it. I said, yeah, that's how I learned how to work a golf swing. There is a good old saying: "You ain't going to find it in the dirt," and that's what I did. I went out there and worked and worked and got the foundation going. If you have a stable foundation, I think you can work your golf swing then and that's a big part of where I am now.

GORDON SIMPSON: All right, Vijay, good luck, and you've got another 64 points to earn on Sunday.

End of FastScripts.

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