August 21, 2002
TODD BUDNICK: We welcome Vijay Singh to the NEC Invitational press room.
Vijay, I think everybody is interested in speaking to you today, of your experience here in '98, winning the PGA Championship. You just played your practice round. Why don't you start by telling us how different the course is today from four years ago.
VIJAY SINGH: My ball off the tee on the last, it's gone back about a foot, so that tells you how much different the golf course is playing. It's so wet out there, it's a totally different golf course.
In '98, I hit, I think, a driver a round, which is on the 15th hole, and over here, you're probably going to hit four or five, six drivers.
The golf course is playing a lot longer, but it's in great shape.
Q. Do you think the fact that you're going to be using more drivers makes it a little more risky?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, the trees are still there. (Laughs) it hasn't gone away.
I don't know. It's still -- it gives us a lot of opportunities now to go ahead and hit drivers, hit short irons into the green, but also it brings out the bad shots in the drives. To hit a drive down the middle on some of the holes here, it's pretty tough.
Maybe they are going to give it some water and let it dry out a little bit, and towards the weekend, it's probably going to play fast again. Right now, I don't know what's going to happen. My game plan was pretty much to hit the same clubs, but it's totally different now. 18 is playing like a different golf hole. And the 15th hole, you cannot get over the hill anymore; you are on top of the hill. So it's a different golf course length-wise. But apart from that, it's pretty much the same.
Q. Do you think the course better suits your game now than when you won it in '98?
VIJAY SINGH: I couldn't do any better than '98. (Laughing).
Really, it depends on how you are playing. I'm playing pretty good right now. I feel really good about my golf game, and so I just have to wait and see.
Q. What do you remember most about that experience in '98? Are there certain things or people or moments?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't know. I was so intent on my own game. I just remember winning here. That's all. It was a lot drier than what it is right now. I remember it was not a necessity to hit any more drivers than one or two a round.
It was a great experience coming over here for the first time. The whole surrounding is a totally different atmosphere, the trees. It's so huge that it kind of overwhelms you when you play it.
Q. Did you go kiss that tree on 11 where you got that good bounce on the final day?
VIJAY SINGH: No. I got a bad bounce two days earlier, so it kind of evened out.
Q. You're scheduled to play in Vancouver for the first time next week. Can you talk about that experience and what went into the decision to play?
VIJAY SINGH: I just wanted to play -- I wasn't playing very well coming into the PGA. I just thought, I'm going to play and see what happens. I haven't been to Vancouver, and the tournament committee had been asking me to go play there for a long time, so I just decided to go and play there this year.
Q. You mentioned you didn't feel like you were playing that well. You won in Houston, but since then, how would you sum up the year?
VIJAY SINGH: Pretty average, really. I have not played -- I feel like I'm swinging the club better than I've ever done, but the scoring doesn't tell me anything.
I've been having a hard time on the greens a little bit. I'm hitting the ball pretty good. I feel really good about my golf game. I'm in great physical shape. So all I need to do is kind of go out there and perform. That's what I've not been doing.
I don't know, I just -- I'm pretty disappointed about my year so far, besides the win.
Q. You had one 3-putt in '98; is that right?
VIJAY SINGH: I cannot remember that.
Q. What is it? You putted really well. What is it about these greens that you like?
VIJAY SINGH: Very small, very undulating. They have a lot of little humps all around the greens, and if you miss it on the wrong side or miss it a little long, if the pins are back, you just have to deal with it. You can't really get up-and-down, unless you sink a long putt in.
You know, the greens are really, really tricky out here, and you just have to know where you place your second shots to attack the flags from.
To make birdies, you've got to leave it below the holes on the correct side of the greens. I think every hole is the same thing.
Q. Since you are kind of looked at as the course defending champion, winning the last big tournament here, how do you deal with the inherent pressure?
VIJAY SINGH: Nothing, really. I'm really excited coming back here. It's been four years, and it brings me great memories, coming over here, discussing with my caddie what I did -- he wasn't caddying for me, so the things that I talked about, what I did, and everybody I played with this week asked me what I did on a few holes, how I played. So just all of the memories.
Q. You kind of lead the Tour in just putting experiments, and you've won with different styles. Talk about the belly putter this year and how that might help amateurs, and also, how come no one tries side saddle?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, side saddle, it's kind of really awkward to play that way, to line up your eyes on the ball. Side saddle, I don't know how Sam did it.
I think belly putting is certainly one of the easiest ways to putt. It takes away the thought of releasing the putter as you strike it. I'm surprised not too many more guys on TOUR are trying it. Give it another few years and there's going to be a lot more guys trying that. I think it's one of the easiest ways to putt. It takes a lot of thought about how you are going to stroke the putt away from making the putt. Just stand there and just stroke it. You release the putter perfectly.
Q. You talked about going to Vancouver; they have been wanting to get you there for a few years. Do you see it as an added responsibility, being one of the top players, to get out to events like Vancouver and other so-called not big events every year?
VIJAY SINGH: Last year I played Pennsylvania; was one of the reasons. We talk to the TOUR and they tell you where they would like us to play a few events, where the field is not very strong.
I support the TOUR that way. This year, it was Vancouver. You know probably Callaway Gardens would be another one.
There's many tournaments out there where you don't get the top guys playing in it and we support it the best we can. Plus, also, scheduling is very important.
Q. You mentioned the belly. Have you tried the broomstick at all?
VIJAY SINGH: I putted with that for a while. I think going back, '97, probably, '96. I think I was putting with that for a while. I played decent, but I wasn't putting as good as I'm putting now.
Q. Did winning here change your life very much? And has your reception been good from the people here?
VIJAY SINGH: I think winning a major changes it a lot. I think it takes you another level up. There's only four of them a year and it's very hard to win.
So I think just winning a tournament of that magnitude kind of helps your whole career in a way, and that's what it did for me.
Q. Have been people been good to you?
VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, very much. They recognize you a little bit more. Like I said, they kind of look at you a different way than just winning a golf tournament. You're a major winner, and it's a big thing.
Q. What's the atmosphere like, or the difference between a major last week and then a World Golf Championships event this week?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't know. It's different. This is a big event. It's got a great field, as well. A lot of players from overseas are here. It almost feels like a major, but it's not. Straight after a big tournament like last week, it kind of feels like there's a little less excitement. The excitement is gone.
But once we get to a golf tournament like this, you totally forget about it. Once the gun goes off on Thursday, you just feel that you're in a new tournament and you want to play that tournament the best you can.
I don't know about Rich Beem, I think he'll be thinking differently. He'll be really enjoying it. But for us, I think we are here to play and win this tournament and I think that's what we are going to do.
TODD BUDNICK: Thank you for your time, Vijay.
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