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March 18, 2007

Vijay Singh


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We'd like to introduce the winner of the 2007 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, champion Vijay Singh. Congratulations, first career victory at Bay Hill on the PGA TOUR, and you move into first place on the FedExCup points list. It's early in the season but you're playing well, second win this year. Some opening comments about a great week and especially a great Sunday.
VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, so I don't know what to say. When I started off today, I didn't know what to expect. But when I got to the first two or three greens, the condition of the golf course totally changed. So I knew it was going to be a long and hard day.
Fortunately my putter showed up and did the job for me. I putted great all day, and hit the ball really well. You know, if you hit the ball well and putt well, definitely you're going to do well.

Q. If you could talk about the drive on 15, the commentators on TV described it as "crazy-aggressive." Just curious how you played that hole this week, because it was obviously a key birdie.
VIJAY SINGH: You know, I've done it every day. The first two days, the wind was kind of in a different direction, so you had to take it a little left of those magnolias. But yesterday and today, I did the same thing, just hit it -- it's a simple shot. Nowadays, we carry the ball over 280 and that's all you need to do is carry 280, with slightly downwind and downhill. That wasn't a very wide area to hit it. It was aggressive, yeah, but I felt good about it and just went on and just made the shot.

Q. Did you hit driver every day?
VIJAY SINGH: Yes, I did. Yeah.

Q. You have to hit it over like two houses, don't you? That's sort of a tricky blind shot at that angle.
VIJAY SINGH: That's how much you know about the golf course. (Laughter).

Q. No?
VIJAY SINGH: No, just the corner, yeah. Just over the trees.

Q. Just after so many near misses on this thing and especially the 18th hole, it must have been comforting to know you could have practically played that thing with your putter today and still gotten off the course with a win.
VIJAY SINGH: I wanted to win this one, but after so many misses, like even last year I was very close to winning it, but you kind of tend to forget about all that when you come and start here. Once you start a tournament, it's a new tournament and just go ahead and play.
I wasn't in contention the first two days. Yesterday I just got in there, snuck in there and today was the day to go out there. I knew how difficult Bay Hill plays on Sundays. My target figure was to get to 10-under, which I did, but then I threw away two shots coming in.
It was a good feeling to be standing on 18 knowing that you don't have to make a par to win the tournament; could have made a bogey. The safe shot was to play left, away. Took a lot of effort to do that because the pin was right in front of me and I had to hit some 20 yards left of where I was supposed to go. To win a golf tournament, that's what you need to do.

Q. Can you take us through the third shot on 12 and what were you trying to do, and did you execute exactly what you were trying to do at that point?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, I was only -- you know, to the hole from there was 60 yards. I need to hit it some 45 yards. The trajectory, whatever I did, was a perfect gap through the trees. Even you could have done it. (Laughter).

Q. Then you really don't know much about his game.
VIJAY SINGH: (Laughing).

Q. I'm wondering if you can talk about your loyalty to this particular tournament, and perhaps reflect on what this tournament did to help jump-start your career here in the United States in '93.
VIJAY SINGH: Well, this was the first event that I came and played. I was very comfortable playing in Europe but obviously this was the first invite I got to play over here. I didn't know what to expect. But I played really well and I played well in two or three other events and got my TOUR card.
I finished second over here that year, and that was pretty much good enough to get a TOUR card in the States. I owe it to this tournament. I think that was my starting point on the U.S. Tour, so I always thought that this tournament meant a lot to me in the States, and I always played here. I love this golf course now. You know, it's Arnold's tournament; I love Arnold. It's just a nice place to come and play.

Q. Almost two-thirds of your career wins have come in your 40s, why do you think -- what do you attribute your longevity and still playing at a top level?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, a lot of hard work obviously. Understanding the golf swing a lot better, that's a big part. I think the more you play, the more experience you get about playing golf tournaments. And working out hard, just -- I just want to win. I just want to do it. I don't want to go out there and just be part of the pack. I want to show up and be in contention. I want to contend to win golf tournaments.
Last year, I felt a little bit that way. I wasn't enjoying my tournaments because I wasn't contending.
I came this year and I felt like I've got my swing back. I feel like I've got my game back, and I started off great, kind of cooled off a little bit, but I think it's back.

Q. Congratulations. What I wanted to know was about the putter, how long have you been with the belly again, and have you gone on and off for a long time like that, and how long will you stay with it?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't know. The way I putted today, I think for a while.
No, I started off just before the Father and Son last year. I was fiddling around with it at home, and I just felt good with it. I found a putter that I never used before, but it was the perfect length and looked really good when I set it down. But it was a belly putter, so I went out on the golf course and started putting with it and started making putts with it. Played in the Father and Son with it. Went to Hawaii early to practice and I didn't take any other putter but the belly, so I had no choice but to go out and play with that.
So I practiced and played with that putter and just stuck to it.

Q. What's the difference having two wins before Augusta and the major season starts versus last year when you had to wait basically until June to get a win? A player as accomplished as you, does this give you more confidence than you might not have had, having two wins going into the major championship part of the year?
VIJAY SINGH: Obviously it gives me a lot of confidence. It gives me belief that I can still win out here with the best of them, and not only once; I can keep winning. I think that's a belief you want.
You know, I always believe in my golf swing and my ability to go out and play and play well. This just really reinforces that. Although, there's a few big events coming up. Next week is a big event this year and a lively golf course as well, and a week off and play Augusta. So I'm all excited, yeah.

Q. Two of the tee shots, on No. 2 and No. 3, what were you really trying to do on No. 2, even though it worked out -- the par 3, you chipped in.
VIJAY SINGH: 2, I thought I hit a really good shot. I had enough club there to get to the green and, you know, that's when the gust was up-and-down. And when I hit it, I couldn't believe it came up short, and you know, after I picked the tee up, that's when the gust hit me. So as the ball was in the air, I think that's when it was gusting up, the wind. I hit a 4-iron and came up short, and Tom hit a 3-iron and came up short as well.
On 3, I tried to take it on the edge of the water and tried to cut it back and overcooked it.

Q. And then you were practicing hitting driver through the rough?
VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, that gives me enough -- I'm working on getting very aggressive through the ball, and that's my weak point. When I get a little bit too lazy, I'm not aggressive through the ball. That's why I've been doing that, yes.

Q. Did you see last year as just a lull in your career or did you actually think that at age 43 or 44 that you may have taken a step back and it would be hard to get it back, and where is your game now compared to two or three years ago when you were playing so well week-in and week-out?
VIJAY SINGH: It's pretty good. Last year wasn't bad. I had quite a lot of Top 10's. I had chances to win, as well. I wasn't, what did I finish on the Money List last year, three, four? That's not a bad year. A lot of guys did not even finish in the Top-50. So finishing top three, four, on the Money List means that you had a pretty reasonable season. Although, I didn't win much. That was the drawback. I thought I had a lot of chances to win last year which I didn't capitalize on.
But I refocused, have gone back to doing what I was practicing. I started practicing things that I used to practice and I think that not doing those little points, firing on my hips, using my left hand to pull down, little things like that, that are very simple, but if you don't practice them, you're going to lose feel of the club head, and that's what I've been doing.

Q. In 2003, your big goal was to win your first money title, I believe. What is your next big goal? I know after Tiger, you Phil and Ernie each have three majors. Would you like to add to that, or what goal fires you up right now?
VIJAY SINGH: Obviously I want to win the U.S. Open. I haven't won that, and the British. Those are the things I would like to win but obviously they are the hardest ones to win. And you have to play well; no matter how good you're playing, you have to play well those weeks. So those two weeks are the key points.
I want to win majors, I want to go out there and win tournaments. That is my goal. There is no one specific tournament I would like to win. But if I win the two Opens, the U.S. and the British, that will be the icing on the cake for me.
But at the moment, I just want to go out there, play and win as many as I can.

Q. I assume you weren't any more surprised that Tiger came out and threw two birdies up early like he did; what was your reaction to how he fell apart on the back nine, assuming you're aware of it?
VIJAY SINGH: I wasn't watching really. I knew after -- where was the big leaderboard, I think on the 8th hole, I got to the 8th hole, there was a leaderboard there and you could see how the scores were going. Before that, I did not see what he was doing. There was a lot of cheering on ahead, I knew something was going on. On the 8th hole, I knew what was the position of the rest of the guys. No, I wasn't too concerned really.

Q. Congratulations on your 31st PGA TOUR win, I believe that puts you level as the most prolific non-American winner on the PGA TOUR. What is your reaction to that?
VIJAY SINGH: Who is the other one?

Q. Harry "Lighthorse" Cooper, I believe, 24 wins -- you passed him a long time ago.
VIJAY SINGH: Oh, my goodness, I thought he won a hundred. I don't know, it feels great I guess now. I always thought that Gary Player was way out there. Shows how much I know.
It means -- I'm not done yet. I just want to go out there ask keep playing, keep winning and see if I can win as many as I can. I don't know, I don't have that much long to go. Hopefully I can win a few more this year and, you know, next year. I just want to play and win. I have no real goals to how much I want to win. Just if I can keep winning, that is a good goal to have.

Q. As you said, you're not done yet, but I just wonder how often you might reflect, if at all, on just how much you've accomplished given where you came from. There's not going to be very many players who have your background and have this kind of success. I just wonder, maybe when you entered the Hall of Fame or did you ever sit back and think about that, how far you've come.
VIJAY SINGH: Well, when I went back to Fiji and went back to my golf course and looked at where I played and where I practiced, it's an eye-opener to go back and say, wow, this is where I started the game and this is where I grew up. Those are the times when you really think and everything hits you a little bit.
But when you're playing out here, you don't really think of those things, but going back to my roots and going back home, those are the times when you really feel the accomplishment and the success that I have had. You have to go back to Fiji to really realize that. It's really unbelievable.

Q. I know rooting for yourself to win, but were you rooting for Rocco to play well this week? A couple of guys in their 40s on a real tough course in real tough conditions did pretty well this week. Does Rocco have some steam left also?
VIJAY SINGH: I feel for Rocco. Yesterday's round -- I thought he was playing really well the first few holes. I don't know what happened, I looked up on the driving range and he had dropped so many shots.
I feel for Rocco. I know he's had really bad back problems. I wasn't too happy when he started making all the birdies out there. (Laughing) He's a good friend and I'm happy that he finished second. He did finish second?

Q. Yes. First of all, do you remember roughly what Arnold said to you afterward, assuming it's printable. And secondly, when you look back at the pictures of yourself from those early days when you came over here with the big hair and the glasses and all that stuff, how were you received back then when you were such a novelty almost from this small island that most people had never even heard of.
VIJAY SINGH: Well, first of all, Arnold said, "Well done. It was a long time coming."
And I he said, "I knew 20 years ago you were going to win this tournament."
Yeah, trying to forget those photos of mine, those big glasses. People keep reminding me of it. I keep seeing it. (Laughter).
You see a young kid come over here from overseas, that's how they receive you. At the point it was exciting and way as a long hitter, so I was flashy with my driver, so it was an exciting time. But I've moved on. (Laughing).

Q. Can you just walk us through -- if you didn't, I came in a little late, the process of the par 5 where you hit driver, driver and then you had to get through that tree and made that birdie?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, I hit a good drive. I was really quite upset about 3-putting on 11, especially the way I was feeling with my putter. I hit a decent drive, and I had been practicing with a drive off the deck, and I didn't think it was too big of a deal. It was a difficult pin to get to from the fairway anyway. It was back right, and if you don't hit a perfect shot, you're going to leave yourself with a 15-, 20-footer for birdie anyway. So I thought I would just go ahead and give it a rip with the driver and see, if I catch it right, I was going to make the green.
Obviously I didn't. I pulled it. When I was walking up, I said, "Oh, man, now what." It was right behind the tree. But when I got up there, there was a big gap right in front of me so it was just perfect. I guess it was just meant to be. It was no big of a deal of a shot. It was a 60-yard shot to the pin. I had to fly it 45 yards and just a regular shot. It looked crazy from a distance but it really wasn't. The gap was, like I said -- one of guys could have done it. Any one of you guys could have done it.

Q. The driver you have now, could you have done that with last year's driver?
VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, pretty much. I'm a pretty -- I like hitting drivers off the deck. I practice that a lot and it makes me -- makes one really aggressive when you do that and I needed to hit an aggressive shot there.

Q. You've had some very close calls here, some second place finishes, how rewarding to break through here years after your debut?
VIJAY SINGH: After I bogeyed 16 and 17, I thought, "Here we go again. What am I doing to myself?" But I hit a very good drive on the last hole and I stood there, the wind was gusting, but it kind of calmed down a little bit. I said, "Just play left. Even if you hit it long left, you can get up-and-down, maybe a five from there."
But it is rewarding. Each time before when I was in contention, I either needed a par to get in the playoff or bogey, and obviously I messed up every time. It was a great feeling. I still hate that hole, though. (Laughter) it's not one of my favorite holes to play.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: If we could touch on your birdies at 5, 6, 8 and 9.
VIJAY SINGH: I birdied the second, as well. I hit a 4-iron short of the green and chipped in from some, I don't know, 30, 40 feet.
I bogeyed the third hole. I hit a driver into the trap. It was a pretty difficult shot and then plugged it in the next trap near the green-side bunker with a 7-iron. Hit it about 15 foot and missed that.
Fifth hole, I hit a 3-iron, sand wedge to about, I think it was 20 feet.
Fourth hole, I hit a driver, 4-iron over the green, bunker shot to about three feet.
8, I hit a driver, wedge to, again, three feet.
9, a driver, wedge to about 20 feet -- 15, 20 feet, yeah.
11, I hit a drive -- no, I hit a 3-wood, 7-iron.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We talked a little about 12. 15?
VIJAY SINGH: 15, I hit a driver, sand wedge to about a foot.
16, I hit a driver, 7-iron long, chipped up and 2-putted from eight feet.
17, 4-iron, 50 feet, 3-putt.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Then 18, long and left a little bit was the plan?
VIJAY SINGH: 7-iron, stayed left, carry the water, stay left and you know, I can make 5 from there.

Q. The putt on 12?
VIJAY SINGH: The putt on 12, yeah, I knew it was a very difficult putt. It was -- I was surprised it went in, really. It was a six-foot break, eight-foot break maybe breaking putt. I got up there, it was moving pretty quick, got the right edge of the hole and went in. I was as surprised as anybody else.

Q. Just a quick two-parter, about this tournament, would you consider this one of the most prestigious non-majors to win, and how do you feel about winning the first one that's named after Arnold Palmer?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, the setup of the golf course is pretty tough. It feels like a major, today especially, with the greens hard and long roughs, with the wind gusting up there. It just felt really, really hard. But -- what was the second question?

Q. How does it feel to win the first one that was named after Arnold?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, to win at Bay Hill was always my -- one of my goals. And to do it, I didn't know -- I still was looking for the sword. But they are going to send me one. (Laughter).
But it's great to have my name on this thing, the first Arnold Palmer win, it's a great feeling. Thank you.

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