FedExCup champion gears up for return to Bay Hill
When Vijay Singh decided to undergo arthroscopic surgery in January on his right knee, one impetus for choosing to not wait was because he didn’t want to risk missing certain events in the first few months of the PGA Tour schedule. No one ever wants to miss a major, so the former Masters champion certainly wanted to be ready for Augusta. But other events were on his mind as well.
“Events like Bay Hill and Pebble Beach, where I’ve had some good success, are very important to me. Those you don’t want to miss,” said Singh, the reigning champion of the PGA Tour’s yearlong FedExCup competition, who underwent surgery January 14 near his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Few tournaments have been a better fit for the fitness-minded, hardworking Singh than the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. The three-time major champion has never missed the cut at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida, and, in fact, he showed great promise in the tournament from the beginning.
Singh’s first start as a member of the PGA Tour came at the 1993 edition at Bay Hill, when the tournament was known as the Nestle Invitational, and courtesy of a personal invitation from the legendary host whose name now adorns the tournament, Singh not only showed up, but made his presence felt, finishing second.
But until the 2007 tournament, Singh had piled up 30 PGA Tour victories while meeting with frustration in one of his favorite events. Singh racked up two more runner-up finished and 11 top-25s in his first 14 appearances until finally breaking through with a two-stroke victory over Rocco Mediate. Last year in his title defense he tied for third, three strokes behind Tiger Woods.
Little wonder then that Singh is eager for a return to Bay Hill’s Champion Course. Likewise, it’s no mystery that the talented Fijian will again be among the favorites when the 31st edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard is held March 23-29.
“I have a long and proud history with the Arnold Palmer Invitational and I consider it one of the most important events on my schedule each year," said Singh, 45, who has won 22 times since he reached age 40, a record. "It was a huge thrill for me when Mr. Palmer offered me an exemption to play 17 years ago, and I have looked forward to Bay Hill every year since. Obviously, finally winning the tournament two years ago, after coming close a number of times, will go down as one of the highlights of my career, and I would love to recapture that moment later this month.”
A former No. 1 player in the world, Singh has broken par at Bay Hill in 12 of his last 16 rounds, and he was one of just three players to shoot par or better in all four rounds a year ago on the 7,157-yard, par-70 layout that Palmer designed.
“I know the golf course; I know how to play it,” said Singh, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006. “I think I owe it to Arnie inviting me there the first time I played in America, so I've played there every single year.”
Palmer expects Singh, one of a number of former champions expected to participate, to again vie for the top spot at the elite, limited-field invitational tournament that offers a purse of $6 million, an increase of $200,000 from a year ago.
“Vijay is such a strong player and he works tremendously hard, so it’s no surprise to me the success he’s had,” Palmer said. “His full swing is very good, one of the best, and he’s very consistent. Bay Hill seems to suit him well.”
For tickets or for more information, log on to the tournament web site, www.arnoldpalmerinvitational.comor call the Bay Hill ticket office at 407-876- 7774 or toll free at 1-866-764-4843. Tournament proceeds benefit the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.