Vijay Singh still has burning desire to win
Plans to play more on PGA TOUR Champions in 2019
November 06, 2018
By Randy Youngman, Special to PGATOUR.COM
- November 06, 2018
- Singh has two wins on PGA TOUR Champions in 2018.
Though he is a World Golf Hall of Famer with a glittering resume that features 34 PGA TOUR victories, three major championships and a FedEx Cup Championship, Vijay Singh now wonders if he has the right temperament to be as successful on PGA TOUR Champions.
Don’t misunderstand. Singh is one of the top players on the 50-and-over tour, he is pleased he won twice this season to end a long title drought, and he is one of the favorites to win the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship this weekend at Phoenix Country Club.
Even so, he concedes he might be “too intense” for PGA TOUR Champions.
Singh candidly admits it’s been a lot more difficult to win than he thought it would be when he joined the tour in 2013, adding he has such high expectations that he still expects to have a chance to win every Champions event he enters.
“I should be in contention every week; that’s just the way I feel,” he said during an interview at Sherwood Country Club during the Invesco QQQ Championship, the second Schwab Cup Playoffs event. “My game is good enough to win, but the competition is really tough. The guys out here are relentless.”
Singh smiled and then laughed.
“On paper, it looks like a no-brainer (that he should win more often), but these guys, they get it around every week,” he said. “Every week somebody seems to shoot 63, 64 . . . in the low 60s. . . . Most of them have been around for a long, long time and are playing good golf. And they know the golf courses a little better (than he does), and they know the breaks (on the greens) a little better.”
Singh, 55, says he has always put a lot of pressure on himself to win, but that proved to be counterproductive when he began playing sporadically on PGA TOUR Champions five years ago. Because he had set a PGA TOUR record by winning 22 titles after age 40, breaking Sam Snead’s all-time mark, Singh thought he would win early and often on the senior tour. He was wrong.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself when I first came out here,” he said in March after winning the Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach Country Club for his first Champions title. “Every time I teed up . . . I thought I had to win. The more I did that, the more I didn’t win, the harder it got. . . . ”
When he finally broke through in Newport Beach, it ended a 9 ½-year title drought dating to the second of back-to-back FedEx Cup playoff victories on Sept. 1, 2008. That was the year Singh won the FedEx Cup Trophy and $10 million bonus on the way to PGA TOUR Player of the Year honors. He says now that his Toshiba win was “a big deal for me, because I hadn’t won for a long time in an individual event.” (In 2017, Singh and Carlos Franco had won the Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri, but that was a Champions team event.)
With the pressure off, Singh followed up his breakthrough Champions win with his first Champions major in July, winning the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship at Exmoor Country Club in Illinois. He beat Jeff Maggert there with a birdie on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.
Those victories lessened, but did not eliminate, Singh’s self-imposed pressure to keep winning. That is just the way he is wired competitively.
And Singh has observed that some of his fellow PGA TOUR Champions colleagues seem to play better now than they did during their years on the regular tour.
“On this tour, distance doesn’t seem to matter anymore,” said Singh, who ranks seventh in driving distance (292.4 yards) and fifth in greens-in-regulation (75.4 percent), right behind points leader Bernhard Langer. “Golf courses out here are not long. And it doesn’t matter how long the par-5s are.
“The guys know how to play from 160 (yards) in, and they are really accurate, they chip really well, they practice really hard, and they putt incredibly well. I think (some) guys putt way better over here than they did on the regular tour. Some of the guys I played with, they make everything (on the greens) over here, and they couldn’t make anything on the regular tour.”
Singh has a theory on that, too. There are no cuts on PGA TOUR Champions, except in major championships, so there is less pressure now.
“There’s a lot of pressure trying to make the cut (on the PGA TOUR),” Singh said. “Over here, you just free-wheel it, and if you don’t putt well this week, you’ve got another chance the next week.”
PGA TOUR Champions players seem a lot more relaxed too, Singh says.
“I think (the lack of) pressure has a lot to do with it,” he said. “You come around on a Monday and Tuesday, you see the atmosphere out here. It’s really laid-back. Guys are having a great time. It’s like a reunion (for them). . .”
Singh laughed again.
“For me, it’s a little different,” he said. “When I come out here, I’m really competitive. I haven’t given in. I play hard. It’s probably why I’m not playing very well (consistently) over here. My patience (sometimes) has been really bad. I’m too . . .”
His voice trailed off.
“Yeah, too intense,” Singh said. “But I don’t know any other way of doing it.”
As Singh closes out his best PGA TOUR Champions season this week, he will not have a chance to win the season-long points race and $1 million bonus. Each of the top six on the points list has a mathematical chance to hoist the Schwab Cup trophy on Sunday, led by Langer and Scott Parel, both of whom control their own destiny and can win the season title with a win in the 72-hole finale at Phoenix Country Club.
On the strength of top-10 finishes in the first two Schwab Cup Playoffs events, Singh ranks ninth in the Schwab Cup standings, but a tournament win (and the 880,000 points for first place) could move him into the top five for the second straight year. A year ago, Singh finished one shot behind Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland, thanks to a 64 in the first round and a 63 in the final round, and wound up fifth in the points chase. He says he likes the way Phoenix Country Club sets up for him.
“I played it for the first time last year, and I was driving the ball well there and I putted pretty decent,” he said. “It’s a shot-maker’s golf course. You have to move the ball around -- left to right and right to left -- and it has smallish greens. I think driving is key there. You have to give yourself a lot of chances for birdies out there; if you do, you’ll make your share.’
Regardless of how his season ends, Singh said he has been thinking about transitioning to a full PGA TOUR Champions schedule in 2019. The past few years, he has been going back and forth from PGA TOUR to Champions events. In 2017, for example, he played in 12 Champions events and 18 PGA TOUR events; in 2018, he played in 19 Champions events and 10 on the regular tour.
“I want to play more out here,” Singh said. “I’ll be 56 next year, and you can’t compete against the young kids anymore. This is the time for me to pick and play (more) over here; otherwise, I’m going to be too old (to remain competitive) over here, too.”
Vijay Singh’s schedule might change in 2019, but his intensity and desire to win will not. That’s why he’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame.