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Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh drove the ball well on Thursday, which set up his short game. (Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Hot putting is just start of Day 1 success story for Singh

Feeling confident with the flat stick, Vijay Singh surged to a stellar 69 Thursday at Hazeltine. His putting doesn't deserve all the credit, though, as Singh also displayed deadly accuracy in his iron game.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

CHASKA, Minn. -- Vijay Singh says he could write a book about it.

Long putters. Short putters. Left hand low, overlap, claw grips. He's probably tried them all.

Singh has come to one conclusion, though. The key to putting well is confidence.

"It's all about making a few putts," Singh said. "If you start rolling a few putts, you get a great feeling about a putt.  And one or two good putts later on in the round it gave me confidence."

Singh had the putter working on Thursday as he made five birdies and fired a 69 during the first round of the 91st PGA Championship. He's in a six-way tie for third, as a result, and is three strokes off the pace set by Tiger Woods.

The two-time PGA champ also managed to hit all but three greens in regulation despite finding just 8 of 14 fairways. And the round of 69 marked the third straight major in which he's shot in the 60s at least once -- which is the first time since the 2005 season he'd accomplished that feat.

"I think the whole game (was working Thursday)," Singh said. "I drove it really well.  It's a long golf course so you need to drive the ball well. And once you drive the ball well, you know, you give yourself a lot of chances for birdie opportunities if you hit it nice, and I did. 

"And the putting was good.  I went to a short putter last week, and it was kind of a little not sure what I was going to do, but this week I came in with a positive attitude and practiced a lot with a short stick and it worked really well."

Singh said he's been putting in quite a few hours with the short putter bit back home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. In fact, he practices with it more than the long putter with which he became identified.

"Not confident enough to bring it out, but I did this week," Singh said.

The short putter may have won accolades on Thursday but it was a 9-iron at the 16th hole that settled inches from the pin that made the highlight reel.

"I hit a 5-wood off the tee and with the first cut I didn't know if I was going to get a jumper or not," Singh said. "But it came out perfect.  Told my caddie, wow, that's good and landed absolutely perfect and the crowd just went crazy.  I knew it was going to be close.  It was closer than I thought."

To see Singh, who won the 2004 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and the 1998 edition at Sahalee, playing well right now isn't surprising given the way he closed out last year. Singh won the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational the week prior to the PGA and the first two events of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup to earn the $10 million bonus.

Singh, who stands 63rd in the FedExCup this year, has three top-10 finishes, most recently a tie for seventh last month at the AT&T National. He's finding Hazeltine National to his liking, too.

"The fairways are a little generous," Singh said. "And the roughs are not punishing.  Still advancing towards the green.  And there's a lot of bunkers out here, but they're very playable, almost as good as missing it.  Sometimes it's an easier shot to get it up in the air, and ... you hit it in a bunker, if you have any kind of middle to short iron the sand is great.  It's kind of muddy sand, which is very easy, very compact, and you can get out of it."

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