By Larry Dorman, PGATOUR.COM
ORLANDO, Fla. – After a second-round 68 put Vijay Singh into reasonable position for a weekend run at the Arnold Palmer Invitational sponsored by MasterCard, the 49-year-old veteran wasn’t exactly giddy.
But, after years of battling a variety of injuries and aches and pains, slipping to 79th in the Official World Golf Ranking and enduring four seasons without a victory, Singh did burst out laughing when he thought about how good it is to finally be relatively pain-free.
“Well, I'm not hurting,” he said, smiling broadly as he stood on the range at the Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge. “Yeah, I can swing the club a lot more freely and without much pain, so it's nice. I can go out there and start being aggressive again, you know.”
Singh really hasn’t been able to do that since 2008. After wining three times in a little over one month to end with a flourish, he has dealt with knee and back injuries that make 2008 seem like a distant memory.
That’s when he won a World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Championship in mid-August and added victories at two consecutive FedExCup Playoff events – The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship – in late August and early September to win the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus.
At the 2009 season opener for winners only at the Kapalua Resort on Maui, Singh was limping on what turned out to be a torn cartilage in his right knee. He had arthroscopic knee surgery three days after the tournament.
In his return just three weeks later, he shot 75-72-75 to miss the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, missed the next week at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club and was eliminated in the second round of World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
He did not finish in the top three in 32 over his next two seasons, but began trending up last year with a runner-up finish to Aaron Baddeley at the Northern Trust Open and ties for third at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and The Barclays. Without a top-10 finish in seven starts this season, Singh is back on friendly turf for his 20th Arnold Palmer Invitational. He won here in 2007, has four seconds and just one missed cut.
“I always come back here,” Singh said. “I know the golf course has changed through the years, but I love this place.”
Singh still has some reservations. He’s hitting 67 percent of the fairways but hasn’t yet found the confidence to cut loose with his driver during the round, averaging just over 286 yards through two rounds.
“I'm still a little hesitant about my driver,” he said. “I should start letting it go. I can let it go on the range, I have to trust it on the golf course. Besides that, I'm playing well, putting well and hitting my irons good. So everything’s coming along.”