Vijay Singh has played a villain worthy of a special-edition Colonial comic book, and there’s a joke in there somewhere about how he hasn’t helped his reputation by keeping lawyers as company.
But that would be unfair, some attorneys would, no doubt, argue.
So it was no surprise that when approached after a 1-under par 69 on Saturday he glared at the inquiring mind and with a biting acrimony resembling dialogue with an ex-spouse he rather tartly said: “What do you want to know?”
And there is, in fact, still quite a bit to know about Singh, now a PGA Tour senior citizen who hasn’t won on tour since 2008 and has only one top 10 in three years.
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Here at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Singh’s 6-under 204 three-round total is in contention on the final day. The former No. 1 player in the world is five strokes back of leader Kevin Na with 18 to play Sunday.
A 35th tour victory would be historic. At 52, Singh would become the second-oldest player to win a PGA Tour event, almost sharing that distinction with Sam Snead, who won at 52 years, 10 months and eight days.
Singh shares his place on the leader board with a cast of six others, including Jordan Spieth and defending champion Adam Scott.
A bogey at 15, where he blasted out of one greenside trap into another, and another at 16 took the air out of a creep up the leader board. An Azle earthquake might have made a difference on a 12-footer for birdie on 18 that fell just short.
“I did everything fairly well, except for a few breaks bad,” said Singh, who chipped in a birdie from 7 yards on the long par-3 No. 4. “I let a few slip by.”
That reply was tantamount to a graduation commencement address for the reticent Singh, always a cautious interview and more so these days considering an ongoing legal battle with the PGA Tour.
Singh walked the politically incorrect plank in 2003 when he boycotted Colonial because of Annika Sorenstam’s history-making appearance in the field.
It was that same fighting spirit that compelled Singh to square off with the top levels of the PGA hierarchy.
In 2013, the Fijian admitted to using deer antler spray, a substance that has sparked controversy in sports because it is said to include an IGF-1, an insulin-like growth hormone. Singh was suspended by the PGA for 90 days, though that penalty was overturned on appeal after the World Anti-Doping Agency informed the tour that the spray was no longer prohibited because it contains so little IGF-1.
Singh asserted that had the PGA done its due diligence in research and analysis, it would have come to the same conclusion long before his admission and suspension.
That same year, Singh filed suit against the PGA, alleging he was treated unfairly and his reputation harmed. The litigation is ongoing.
Analysts are keeping an eye on the outcome because it could have consequences on the manner in which the tour deals with player discipline.
Singh can afford the retainer and attorneys’ fees. He has won nearly $69 million over his career on tour.
“You can still see why he was the No. 1 player in the world for quite a few years,” said Brandt Snedeker, one of Singh’s playing partners on Saturday. “He still hits it by me, which drives me crazy.
“He’s a Hall of Famer … and he’s still one of the best ball strikers we have out there.”
That’s probably why Singh is still out with the world’s best players rather than taking a regular spot on the Senior PGA Tour. He’s only played a handful of events since becoming eligible in 2013 and is skipping this weekend’s major on that tour, the Senior PGA Championship.
The reason why might have been revealed in his answer to the question of challenges he has faced in remaining competitive at this level as he gets older.
“I’m not old,” he said before turning and walking into the clubhouse.