Singh's reconnaissance mission pays off
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- As strong winds whipped the white caps into a frenzied dance, the fortunes of those unfortunates in the Friday afternoon draw of the 94 th PGA Championship at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course appeared about as precarious as a dingy in rough seas.
Photo by: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
"If they suspend play because it's too windy I'll kill somebody,'' said Rich Beem to no one in particular, only half jokingly.
The 2002 PGA champ had just survived the blustery conditions in 76 strokes to straddle the projected cut line of four-over-par. He had also witnessed playing partner Vijay Singh carve out a 69 to finish at four under through 36 holes. It was certainly an impressive showing for a Hall of Famer who has been stranded on the lost island of Atlantis recently, having fallen out of the top-100 world ranking last year for the first time since 1989.
"It was one of my better rounds,'' said the understated Singh, the PGA champion in 1998 and 2004. "I didn't strike the ball as good, but I scored really, really well. And that was the key.''
An old nemesis, poor putting, has been the main culprit sending Singh into a tailspin the past few years. That and some nagging injuries. He underwent right knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in 2009 and that contributed to his finishing outside the top five on the money list for the first time in 12 seasons.
On Thursday, though, putting kept him in the game.
"I made some pretty nice saves even on the front nine,'' Singh said. "Six or seven footers, five footers. That's very important when in windy conditions, especially the way I've been putting or not been putting. I've putted really well the last two days and that's what's saved me.''
Singh had 26 putts Thursday when the wind impacted line and distance. Not bad for a player ranked 180th in strokes gained putting coming into the championship.
Singh's resurgence actually started at the British Open, where he finished T-9 and continued in Canada, where he finished T-7. Last week while the top-ranked players were competing in the Bridgestone Invitational, Singh took a trip down South, and it wasn't because of a sudden craving for cheese grits and fried green tomatoes. His was a reconnaissance mission that lasted seven days. It included a round with Roger Warren, president of the Golf Resort at Kiawah Island and past-president of the PGA of America.
The pre-tournament work has served him well so far.
"I came here last Wednesday and played a couple of days in pretty strong wind conditions,'' Singh said. "Not as strong as these but it kind of helped today. I've played this golf course twice in conditions like this, not that I was familiar with it but I kind of knew what to expect.''
Singh also credited the turnaround to an attitude adjustment.
"I just started believing that I can do it,'' he said. "I was so negative for a long, long time. I finally started to believe that I could do what I'm doing on the driving range. A little tweak to my golf swing during the British Open kind of helped, as well.''
He refused to divulge what the nature of the tweak.
"That's a secret,'' he said through a sly smile not seen on the 49-year-old's face in quite some time.