tampabay.com

Middle East trip took toll on Singh

By BOB HARIG
Published March 4, 2006


MIAMI - Even golf's ironman gets tired once in a while. Vijay Singh , who has taken just a single week off since the start of the 2006 season, admitted that his journey to the Middle East in January was a mistake.

After opening the season with two PGA Tour events in Hawaii, Singh went to the Middle East for two European tour events, the Abu Dhabi Championship and the Qatar Masters. He returned to the United States to play the FBR Open and the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Six weeks in a row is unheard of among top players, let alone including tournaments eight time zones away.

"That was a bad move," said Singh, who shot 73 on Friday at the Ford Championship at Doral to make the cut on the number at 140, 4 under par.

He plans to play all four events in Florida this month. "I threw everything away. When you arrive, the first week you're just getting used to the time difference and then you come back here and do the same thing.

"It was a good trip," he continued, "but it was tiring on my body and I think I wasted three weeks."

Singh no doubt collected big appearance fees for his two European tournaments, but since losing in a playoff to open the season at the Sony Open, he has not been a strong contender in any tournament.

PAYBACK: Scott Verplank figures this place owes him one. Two years ago, Verplank got into a playoff with Craig Parry and hit his approach on the first playoff hole from a tough spot onto the 18th green. Then he watched Parry hole his second shot for a dramatic eagle and the victory. Verplank has not won on tour since 2001.

"I just hope this time my ball goes in and I drive that car off that's standing in the water," said Verplank, who was tied for the lead with Tiger Woods , Phil Mickelson and Carmilo Villegas.

The winner of the Ford Championship gets a Ford GT.

AROUND DORAL: A television crew from Bogota, Colombia, came to Miami after Villegas opened with 65 and was rewarded as he shot 66. "I'm just having fun, it's awesome," he said. "The crowd out there has been a joke, I wasn't expecting that many people and so much support." ... Tampa's Ryuji Imada made the cut on the number after shooting 68. Valrico's Michael Bradley followed a first-round 66 with 76, missing the cut. Clearwater's John Huston and Dade City's Tim Petrovic also missed the cut. ... Ernie Els bounced back from 72 to shoot 65. He was tied for 25th, six strokes back of the leaders.