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An Interview With: Vijay Singh

JULIUS MASON: Your PGA Championship winner, ladies and gentlemen, Vijay Singh.

Vijay, congratulations. Some thoughts on your round today, we'll go through your card, and I think we have some questions.

VIJAY SINGH: Wow. A bit surprised that I won the way I scored today. Justin let me off there on the last hole and a few other holes before that.

I didn't think I played that badly. I just hit two bad shots, one on 4, one on 15. The shot I hit on 7 was quite a good shot.

I played nicely. The putter let me down today, which I didn't think I putted badly, I just didn't make any putts. I made my first birdie on the 19th hole, which is why I had a big smile. Somebody asked me why I smiled after I made that putt.

I'm not disappointed with the way I played, but the way I putted, a little disappointed. But, hey, I won.

JULIUS MASON: Let's go through the card real quick and talk about your bogeys and your double.

VIJAY SINGH: I hit a pretty decent drive on 4 and tried to cut a 3-iron and pulled it. It was in a bunker, couldn't get it out. I chipped up about eight feet and missed that.

7th hole, I hit a 5-iron just left, chipped it about eight feet and missed that one.

15, I hit a driver, tried to hit a 5-wood out of there, pulled it left. Knocked it on about 15 foot and missed that.

Q. I'd like you to laugh with me on this question. Is this the ugliest win you've been involved in?

VIJAY SINGH: It's the prettiest one, I think. I must say that I really tried my hardest out there. I mean, coming down the stretch, the conditions got really tough. I knew nobody was going to birdie in. It was just a tough day.

Even the 16th hole, the par 5, you couldn't get up comfortable. I don't think anyone made the green in two today in the afternoon. It was a tough day.

I just hung in there. I never gave up, and I just said, I'm going to make a putt sooner or later.

I hit a great shot on 17. Came up short. I thought it was right there.

Then I hit a good shot on 18. So, I hung in there. It looked ugly. When you look at the score, I shot 4-over, but it was a good 4-over for me. I thought I played nicely.

Q. What's it like when you're hanging on, hanging on, hanging on, and then you get the whole slate wiped clean? You looked like a different guy in the playoff, especially you just hammered that first drive down there. All of the slates were cleared and you got to start all over again.

VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, I don't know. When you play a playoff, you're in a playoff, you just know you're going to finish second. You can't do worse than second. You can go out there and just beat the crap out of the ball if you have to.

You know, I was a little, not disappointed, but angry with myself for doing what I did today. I made a few bad swings out there and overthought myself. But, end of the day, it was, like I say, a good 76. Justin let me off on the last hole. That gave me a big relief. I thought he was going to get up-and-down. Maybe he should have chipped first before me. I was surprised he asked me to go ahead and putt.

You know, a playoff is a playoff. You have nothing to lose. You've got to be aggressive when you play it. You know that you can't finish worse than second. You've got nothing to lose. Go all-out and play for it.

Q. Is it almost hard to believe that one birdie won you that trophy and won you this championship?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, I was really glad to see one go in (laughter).

That's pretty much why I took a driver on 10. The regulation play, I hit driver and I pulled it a little left. It was almost dead. But I knew if I had gone way right and long, I would have had a good chance of making a birdie there. It was a well deserved one I thought. I waited all day for it and it was a good time that it came.

I played really good from there in. I thought I played the best playoff I've ever played in my life (laughing). I saw the shots so well, and I hit the shots that I wanted to hit. Normally when you get up there, you have thoughts coming up through your head. I was very clear when I hit that shot on 17. I thought that was the best shot I hit all week. I was practicing that shot for that one pin and I managed to use it at the right time.

Q. What was your mindset going into the final sudden death hole, going up by one, almost up by two? Did you think, play it safe, I have it now, just don't do anything foolish? Or what was your mindset?

VIJAY SINGH: Playing the last hole, you mean? You know, I knew it was -- I don't know if anyone made a birdie there today or not. Did anyone make birdie on 18, the whole field? That was such a -- if you don't knock in a 30-, 40-footer, you're not going to make a birdie there. It was pretty hard.

Although those guys drove it way down there, I knew it was a hard job trying to get close to that pin. I just said play it right, don't be a hero and get it on the green some way. Try to make a 2-putt, and maybe a 3-putt would probably win it, too. At the end of the day, I didn't need it.

I was pretty confident what I was doing. I saw the shot, I had a perfect club to hit that second shot. You know, I hit it the way I wanted to.

Q. The club into the first playoff hole was, what?

VIJAY SINGH: On 1? Which --

Q. On the playoff hole, on 10.

VIJAY SINGH: It was a driver off the tee.

Q. And 17, what was the club?

VIJAY SINGH: It was 3-iron on 17 and 3-wood, 5-wood on the last hole.

Q. Could you please put into words your entire experience this week in terms of the fans, the atmosphere and the golf course?

VIJAY SINGH: The golf course, I think it changed every day. The wind changed directions every day. Today the wind was -- I don't think we played this wind all week. It got stronger as we teed off, and it was a hard golf course. I think this is what they set the golf course to be from the very get-go.

It played tough, it played difficult. All of the tough holes were into the wind. You've got 4, you've got 15, the longest par 4s on the golf course, and they are playing into the wind. Going in, if you don't catch a good drive, you're going in with a wood or a very long iron.

But the fans were incredible. I thought they were very fair. I had fans from the very first day. I played with John Daly and Tiger the first day, and they were loaded there, too. I was used to the fans going to the last day, but I thought they were very fair. Very enthusiastic crowd out there, and they were cheering for everybody. It's nice to have fans like that when you play golf tournaments. They really appreciate good golfing.

Q. Can you talk about your run that you've had now since the beginning of it 2003 and how important was it to add a major championship to that package?

VIJAY SINGH: Well, you know, I think this is the biggest accomplishment I've ever had in my whole career. Coming back from a belly putter and winning two in a row, I never thought at any stage that I was going to come back and putt so well so quickly and win golf tournaments.

This makes my year right here. I played well at the Masters and did not win. I played well the first two days at the U.S. Open, played well at the British. But this is it. I wanted to win one again, one major again, and it came at the right time.

I don't have that many years to contend, I don't think so, anyway, probably another five, six years. I'd like to win a few more before I finish.

This is a great start and I think there's many more out there, I hope.

Q. You talked a little bit about this yesterday. You weren't concerned and you are not concerned with the No. 1 ranking, but five wins this year, a major. Last year you lost out on the Player of the Year, and an argument could certainly be made that this has solidified Player of the Year. What does that mean to you?

VIJAY SINGH: Player of the Year, there's still a ways to go. Guys have to play a lot better, they have to at least have five or six wins. Phil, I guess he can still bump me off if he wins three or four more times.

With the way the ranking goes, it's hard to say. Tiger has not played badly this year. Every time he tees it up, he has not won that many times, but he's finished in the Top-10 every time he's teed it up. He's still playing well. It's just that he's not winning as much as he did last year or the previous years. And ranking goes through points, he's accumulated a lot of points in the past, and, you know, Ernie is up there, as well.

I think it's a very fair way of assessing the ranking. Then if you look at it that I've won so many times this year, why aren't I No. 1. But I play a lot of golf tournaments, and it goes through average, as well. I must play ten more tournaments than Tiger does every year, maybe more, so it's hard to have your average up there where Tiger is, if he plays well every week, almost every week anyway.

They must come up with something else or else I'm still going to be No. 2 for the rest of my life.

Q. It's very unusual in any sport, even golf, for somebody to peak at age 41. How old do you feel?

VIJAY SINGH: Right now? God, could I play another 18 and not worry about it.

You know, I've done a lot of workouts. Physically I feel very strong. I feel probably as strong as I've ever felt. I must thank Joey, my coach, for getting up every morning and doing the things that he's been doing all year for the last three years, or every day, for that matter.

I mean, it's hard work. I'm striving to be physically in good shape until I quit playing, and I don't know when that's going to be.

I'm injury-free right now, which is a big thing for me. All of these workouts and physical exercise that I've been doing is to prevent me from having any injuries, as well. There's parts of my body that needs to be built up because I swing the club so many times. And I feel great. I feel physically the best shape I've ever been, and I'm not stopping here. I'm going to have a rest day tomorrow and start again on Tuesday.

It's not a week-in, week-out. It's a yearly thing for me, and I'm not going to stop until I quit playing.

Q. You said yesterday that if you fell behind by a stroke or two early in the round, that would not concern you because you felt you could come back, but as the day wore on and you were not making any putts, what was the level of frustration? It looked like a couple of times on the back nine you holed out, you faced the lake. Were there conversations you having with yourself at that point in time?

VIJAY SINGH: Probably with my putter more than anybody else.

I kept telling myself, I'm going to make a putt sooner or later. I was in position a lot of times. I mean, I had 17 2-putts out there. It gets frustrating after a while. You know, you've got to stay patient, and nobody was making a move. Justin, I thought, was going to make a move. He made a great birdie on, gosh, what did he make birdie on, 15, wasn't it? 14? 13. When he made that putt on 13, and a great chance on 15, I thought he would probably pull away, but he missed both putts and missed a short one on 16, as well. So it kind of gave me a little life. I was only one back. I wanted a big win, and this came at the right time.

Q. When you started playing golf or even when you started playing in America, did you think that you were going to be the type of player that was going to win three majors, multiple majors in your career?

VIJAY SINGH: I'm going to start it off here, you mean. Gosh, I just wanted to make cuts, you know.

I don't know, it was -- this is a living for me. This is my livelihood. I go out there. When I first came out here, I just wanted to make a good living, and then I started playing really well. My motivation got stronger and stronger. I wanted to win golf tournaments and then I wanted to win majors. Now I just want to go out there and win. The harder I work, I feel I can win more and more.

When I came here, I wasn't expecting this, I wasn't expected to be, you know, Top-10 in the world for that instance. I just wanted to play golf and enjoy playing golf and make a good living at it.

Q. Strategically speaking, on the 18th hole in regulation, how surprised were you when Justin went right at the flag, and what impact did that have on your thought process when you came to the 18th hole in the playoff with the same one-shot lead?

VIJAY SINGH: I was surprised that Justin hit it short. I thought it was going to be right. The only time -- I mean, you could always get up-and-down from the right side. There was a lot of green to work with, and maybe he misclubbed it, or I don't know what happened. But, I was surprised to see him come up short.

It was playing longer than I thought. I had a 6-iron in regulation play, and I was 185 or 180 to carry that to the left side. If I had gone straight at the pin, I probably would have just made it, so that played longer than we thought it did, and I think that fooled everybody out there. The wind was actually hurting us when we got to the green, so we could not feel it from the fairway, but down below it was hurting us.

That's why I took a 5-wood in the playoff. I could have got there with a 3-iron, but I said, make sure you get up, and I had a one-shot lead, so I just said, all you need to do is hit the green in some way and put a little more pressure on the guys. That helped in one way, knowing that it played longer than it looked, longer than the yardage.

Q. Do you feel that this course here at Whistling Straits has basically put a very strong case for future U.S. Opens and perhaps another PGA Championship?

VIJAY SINGH: Oh, definitely. I think this is one of the toughest golf courses by not doing anything different to it. By not changing the setup, you can move the tees back and forth according to the wind.

I enjoyed playing here. I think everybody in the field enjoyed the golf course. It was hard today because the wind got up and the course dried out a little bit, but it still played long coming in. Gosh, it played two, three shots harder than it did the first day. It's a great venue for any event.

I just hope when the U.S. Open guys come over here, and I hope they are listening, that they don't tinker too much with the conditions. I think this is a great setup and you don't need roughs six, seven inches long; you don't need to dry out the week before, ahead of time. They just need to learn something from this setup today.

JULIUS MASON: Two-time PGA Champion, Vijay Singh, ladies and gentlemen.

VIJAY SINGH: Thank you.

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