PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — On Sunday, 56-year-old Vijay Singh will have a chance to become the oldest winner in PGA Tour history, eclipsing the mark set by a 52-year-old Sam Snead in 1965.
Doing so would align well given a career in which Singh already holds the record for most victories (22) by a player over age 40.
Of course whatever happens in the final round of the Honda Classic, he has already been victorious.
Six years ago, Singh was given a three-month suspension by the PGA Tour after admitting in a magazine article that he’d used a deer antler spray supplement that contained IGF-1, a growth factor that at the time was listed on both the World Anti Doping Agency and the tour’s prohibited substances lists. But WADA rescinded its ban on the spray, which led to the tour dropping its suspension of the big Fijian.
Singh’s response was a lawsuit filed on the eve of the 2013 Players Championship in which he alleged the the tour was negligent in its handling of the anti-doping violation and breached its implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, thus causing harm to his reputation.
After much legal back-and-forth, the matter appeared to finally be headed for trial (and the tour having to make some related matters public) when the tour and Singh suddenly came to a settlement late last year — a somewhat miraculous result for a lawsuit that had dragged on for so long. Though a confidentiality agreement prevented Singh from disclosing the terms of the settlement, he told GolfChannel.com in January that “both sides are happy, although I might be just a little bit happier.”
Indeed. Should Singh cash the $1.224 million check that goes to the winner of the Honda, it will be, by far, the second-biggest payout of his last four months, according to sources.
Perhaps just as importantly, it allowed Singh, whose last victory on tour came 11 years ago, to move on and focus on his career again.
“Our agreement with the PGA Tour prevents us from discussing the settlement agreement,” Singh’s lead counsel in the case, Peter Ginsberg, said. “But regarding the dispute, Vijay is a man of principle and a competitor and this is another chapter in a lifetime book of achievement.”
Speaking of achievements, Singh’s third round at PGA National wasn’t too shabby, either.
Slimmed down from his work with trainer Jeff Fronk, whom Singh reconnected with this year after Fronk had worked with him earlier in his career, armed with a new putter, and seemingly re-energized, the former world No. 1 made a half-dozen birdies and just one bogey en route to a 65.
It was the best score of the day, second-best round of the week and leaves him just a stroke off the lead of Wyndham Clark and in the final pairing with Clark on Sunday.
“I just let it go, and the swing was a lot more free,” Singh said. “If I did what I did today -- this is how I used to play. I don't know what I found, but I'm going to see if it's still there [Sunday].
“But it feels good. There is no tension in my body. Putting has been great this week. Standing over the putts, there's no fidgeting feelings or anything like that. I guarantee if I had a short putter I would feel a little tense and anxious, but this long putter, I felt pretty much nothing.”
It doesn’t hurt, either, to have the burden of the lawsuit behind him.
Though Singh earlier this year said publicly that it hadn’t been weighing on him, it would be easy to understand that might not have been the case privately. After all, a lot was at stake and the tour has deep pockets with a seemingly endless array of resources at its disposal. Yet Singh kept at it.
“No doubt it was a distraction,” said one person in Singh’s orbit. “It weighed on him. I’m sure it affected him.”
For Singh’s part, he says he has moved past it. He’s just looking forward to the opportunity of trying to add his name to the record book again. How delicious it would be to do on a tour that he was once locked in a bitter legal battle with we might never know. But no doubt he’ll apply the same dogged tenacity on Sunday.
“I've worked pretty hard,” he said. “I'm physically quite capable of doing it. Mentally I'm going to go out there and see how my mind works. If I just don't let anything interfere, I think I can do it.”