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 November 14, 2002 | 1700 IST

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The Rediff Interview / Vijay Singh

'My patience with hard work is second to none'

Indian golf received a shot in the arm last week when Indo-Fijian Vijay Singh made a two-day visit to Delhi. During his trip, the world's seventh-ranked golfer played golf with some of India's top professionals, including Jyoti Randhawa and Harmeet Kahlon, as well as legendary cricketer Kapil Dev and tennis ace Leander Paes, and also interacted with junior players.

Vijay Singh The 39-year-old, who is of Indian ancestry, was born in Lautoka in Fiji and is based in Florida. He is married to Ardena Seth and the two have a 12-year-old son, Qass.

The son of an aircraft technician, Vijay turned professional in 1982 and joined the Professional Golf Association Tour the next year. Hard work and consistency has seen him rise up the PGA rankings rapidly. He began the current season in eighth position but with two title wins, moved up a place. Onkar Singh spoke to the ace golfer. Excerpts:

How does it feel to be in India?

I love to be here in India. Though I am a Fijian because I live there, I am an Indian in the sense that this is the country where we have our roots. In this sense I am coming home. But I live in Fiji and don't know how to merge the two. I feel sorry that I could not come here in April due to a foot injury.

Some of the top golfers lead a luxurious life, moving about in helicopters, relaxing in yachts and so on... What has been your lifestyle ever since you won your first tournament in 1984?

I started off as Vijay Singh and I am going to continue as Vijay Singh. I don't think I am going to change that. I have my own family, my friends. Whatever I have won is good for my family and my bank account. My main aim is to play golf. No, I do not have the kind of lifestyle that you have mentioned. I do have a good home for myself and I need that in my situation. I am not designing golf courses like other top players do. I am focussed on playing golf. Maybe, someday, when I am not able to play golf, then I would start flying and designing golf courses.

What is the key to your success?

I think whatever I am today is because of my father. He was a strict disciplinarian and he is the one who taught me golf. Despite being a technician in the air force, he was a good golf player himself. There is no short cut to success. Whether you are a beginner or a professional golfer you have to work hard. It is easy to reach the top but you got to work twice as hard to stay on top for three years in a row, because there are many up-and-coming, good golfers who will give you a run for your money.

My message to young golfers is that they should concentrate on golf once they have opted for it. Parents and teachers have to encourage the young lads and girls. When you look at me, I would say that my patience with hard work is second to none in the world and that is why I am here.

What do you have to say about Tiger Woods?

What can you say about a great player like Tiger Woods? He is a tremendous player. He has contributed a great deal in making modern golf what it is today. I have changed my work-out programme after seeing him in action.

What is it like playing against Tiger Woods?

Playing against him is always a pleasure, but when I enter a tournament, for me, Tiger Woods is not the only player around. There are 144 other players who are in the fray as well. You got to perform on the top level to stay in the reckoning for the top slot and try to win the championships or tournament. Playing against Tiger Woods is indeed a great experience.

Vijay Singh lines up a putt Has success changed your life?

Yes, it definitely has. First I used to live in a two-room flat; now I have my own place. You cannot live like what you used to live ten years ago, particularly if you are doing well in life. I have my own family; a 12-year-old son who has taken to golf. I have to attend to him. I have to attend to my half a dozen dogs.

There was some trouble, an ethnic conflict, in Fiji a few years back... were you also affected by it?

I had left Fiji a long time ago, but my family -- my father, mother and others were there. We saw things turning around. Fiji may have had its share of troubles but that is not all. Fiji is a wonderful place for tourists with its great beaches. It has friendly people.

How do you rate Indian golfers?

You have some of the best golfers in Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Harmeet Kahlon and Joyti Randhawa. Joyti is a tremendous player. My advice is that doing things too fast is going to hurt the Indian golfer. So the best thing is to have a firm foundation first and then build your career on it.

Have you ever experienced racism on the golf courses?

None. I am focussed on playing golf when I am on the golf course. When I am playing in America I find that the media concentrates more on the American golfers, but that is expected. But if you are playing well you get your due share of the media attention.

How do you spend your time when you are not playing golf?

When I am not playing golf I like to see lot of television. I like to watch movies, spend time with my family and catch up with developments during the time when I was not there. For the first two days one feels like lying around, lazing. On the third day back you get some energy to move around. Three weeks later you realize that you got to get back to the golf course and participate in the tournaments.

How does it feel to play alongside Kapil Dev?

I was looking forward to meeting Kapil Dev. I am huge fan of cricket and cannot get to watch it on television in the US. I hope to catch up on the game while I am here. He is a great cricketer. I had met him in Australia long time ago. It is nice to be back here in Delhi and share some time with him.

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