Vijay Singh turns back the clock to get into contention at Players Championship

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Professional golfer Vijay Singh clearly does not need the money.

If he did, Singh would be cashing checks each week on the Champions Tour, where the 54-year-old’s game would be quite formidable.

Singh chooses to test himself on the PGA Tour, where his game had been failing to the tune of nine of 10 missed cuts entering The Players Championship this week.

Following a 68 on Friday, Singh might never join the over-50 circuit. Winless on Tour since 2008, he believes he is not finished adding to his Hall of Fame resume.

At 6-under par overall, Singh sits three shots off the lead held by Louis Oosthuizen and Kyle Stanley, who tied for the low round of the week with 6-under-par 66s. J.B. Holmes (-7) is the only other player ahead of Singh entering the weekend.

“I feel like I can still compete out here,” he said, “and as long as I think I can compete I want to play here.”

No one would question Singh’s wisdom after a second round featuring swirling winds and rock-hard greens led to the usual litany of train wrecks at TPC Sawgrass.

The day’s biggest calamity belonged to either Zac Blair, whose 9 on the par-3 17th hole was the low point of an 8-over 80, or Anirban Lahiri, who managed a 75 despite recording a 10 on the par-4 18th hole. Three-time PGA Tour winner Scott Piercy had the day’s high round with an 84, featuring an 8 on No. 17 and a 9 on the par-4 fifth.

Meanwhile, Singh turned in the textbook round that would be expected from one of the best ballstrikers of his generation. He hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation.

But Singh’s putter was the hottest club in his golf bag most of the day. His round took off with a 39-foot birdie putt on the par-5 11th hole followed by a 28-foot birdie from off the green on the par-4 12th.

Singh’s putter did run out of steam by the end of the round; he missed a birdie from eight feet on the 17th hole and three-putted No. 18 for his only bogey.

Those lost opportunities did not dim his enthusiasm.

“I’ve been rolling the ball really, really well,” he said. “My caddie just got excited every time I got it on the green. If I keep putting like that, I’m going to be right there on Sunday.”

Singh faces a long, difficult two days sure to challenge him both mentally and physically.

Rain forecast for Saturday could impact the third round and possibly force golfers to play more than 18 holes on Sunday.

Even in ideal conditions, designer Pete Dye’s layout offers little let-up and requires precision shot-making on every approach. TPC’s renovated putting surfaces have intensified the challenge to avoid the bunkers around the greens.

“As firm as it’s playing, it’s still not easy to hit it close to the pins,” reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia said. “Your shots have to be spot on.”

Singh was on the mark Friday to record his lowest score at TPC Sawgrass since 2009 and his best start since 2006 when he was the world’s second-ranked player behind Tiger Woods.

Nine players in the field were not born when Singh made his Players debut in March 1993. One of them, world No. 5 Jordan Spieth, trailed Singh by 10 shots after 36 holes to become the biggest name to miss the cut.

Entering Thursday, Singh was a long shot to make the weekend. Now he is chasing history and looks to become the oldest winner ever on the PGA Tour.

“I don’t try to remember what I did in the past,” the 34-time winner said. “I came here feeling good about my game and I just thought I was ready to play. I was ready to play well, too.

“I’m playing well and I’m excited about it.”

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