Singh consistency leads to two-stroke lead

Defending champion Vijay Singh was pleased with his consistency after he opened up a two-stroke lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.

Defending champion Vijay Singh was pleased with his consistency after he opened up a two-stroke lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.

The 45-year-old, back to full health after a severe bout of apparent food poisoning, took advantage of benign morning conditions with a sizzling five-under-par 65 second round at Bay Hill.

“I hit the ball really good off the tee, gave myself a lot of birdie chances and also helped by chipping in twice as well,” said the Fijian. “I’m not doing anything special, not doing too much wrong either, just cruising along.”

It saw him post a nine-under-par 131 halfway total, with Swede Carl Pettersson (65) alone in second place, and Lee Westwood (68), Jim Furyk (67) and Ken Duke (67) three strokes behind in a tie for third.

Westwood drove the ball nicely to stay in the hunt for only his second American victory, his previous success coming 10 years ago in New Orleans.

He is back in the sort of form that made him one of the best in the world a decade ago, before a dire slump sent him plummeting all the way to 266th in the world rankings.

“I’ve just carried on the form I built up at the end of last year in Europe and Asia, and the start of the year in the Middle East,” he said. “There’s no reason I shouldn’t carry that form on just because the tournament is in the States.”

“I hit one bad drive but was never really in too much trouble all day. I just didn’t hit my iron shots close enough to the flags often enough.”

Tiger Woods, seeking to win his sixth consecutive official start, did not help his cause with a 70 that left him seven strokes adrift.

“I’ll have to play better and make a lot more putts,” he lamented. “I never got the speed of these things today, kept leaving them short.

“I wasn’t swinging the club very well (either) and when I did put myself in position to make a putt, I didn’t make them.”

Singh is somewhat fortunate even to be playing, after his sickness last week.

He thinks he contracted a “stomach virus” at the Johnnie Walker Classic in India, although it did not strike until he arrived back at his Florida home.

“I tried to eat clean and drink bottled water and it didn’t work,” he said. “I came back on Monday and never left the bathroom for four days. It’s not nice but I got over it.”

Singh was so dehydrated at one stage that he went to hospital, where he hooked up to an intravenous drip.

He said his weight plunged from about 216 to 196 pounds, although he appears to have quickly put some of that back on.

“I thought I was going to pull out of this tournament but on Friday I started to (feel a little better),” he continued. “Some guys say it’s good to take four days off from playing, but I just could not do anything.”

Singh is realistic enough to know his best golf is probably behind him, but he is highly motivated to have one more great season.

Singh’s closest challenger Pettersson has made a slow start to the year, but that is usual for a guy who, whether he likes it or not, rarely plays well in the winter.

“I usually get off to a slow start every year,” he said. “I was hoping this year would be different but it wasn’t. I’m probably going to play better as the year goes on.”

He made a dream start with birdies at his first three holes and added three more on his back nine, a solitary bogey the only blemish on his card.

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