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Sunday October 13, 2013 MYT 9:42:01 AM
Sunday October 13, 2013 MYT 9:42:03 AM
(Reuters) - Heavily distracted earlier this year by off-course problems that led to him suing the PGA Tour in May, former world number one Vijay Singh says he is now re-energised with his focus firmly back on golf.
The Fijian made his debut on the over-50 Champions Tour in Hawaii last month, impressively tying for sixth, and has surged into contention for this week's Frys.com Open, the opening event of the PGA Tour's 2013-14 season.
"It's pretty good," Singh told Golf Channel about his form at the Frys.com Open in San Martin, California where he charged up the leaderboard with a six-under-par 65 in Saturday's third round at CordeValle Golf Club.
"I have been practising a lot and my putting has been the big factor. I have been rolling the ball really well, for me, and that has worked through my game.
"I'm striking the ball good, I'm driving the ball beautifully and I've been hitting a lot of fairways. My iron game is coming back and I've changed a little bit with my golf swing. Right now it's all feeling good."
Singh, who won the most recent of his 34 PGA Tour titles at the 2008 Deutsche Bank Championship, made a storming finish to the third round, going birdie-par-birdie-eagle-par over his last five holes.
He very nearly recorded a rare albatross at the driveable par-four 17th where his 291-yard tee shot ended up just one foot from the cup, setting up a tap-in for eagle.
"My putting has been very big for me," the 50-year-old Singh said when asked what had been the main source of his renewed confidence over the past month.
"If I putt well, I'm going to score well. I've missed a lot of putts this week but I've made some too."
Singh will go into Sunday's final round three shots behind tournament leader Brooks Koepka, an American who is competing this week for the first time a regular PGA Tour event.
While Singh will be bidding to end a victory drought of more than five years on the U.S. circuit, he is also delighted to have put behind him, for the most part, a mentally bruising 2013 season.
DOPING CASE DROPPED
Five months ago the big Fijian sued the PGA Tour, a week after golf's premier tour had dropped a doping a case against the three-times major winner.
Singh was initially found by the PGA Tour to have breached the sport's doping rules after using a spray, which contains a banned substance, to treat an injury but was later cleared of any wrongdoing after winning an appeal.
He filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York and issued a statement saying the PGA Tour had damaged his reputation.
Asked on Saturday how much his off-course problems had been a distraction for him, both personally and professionally, Singh replied: "Personally yes and professionally an even bigger yes.
"It kind of messed up my whole season. But I have re-energised myself, I've put my head in the right spot and it's a new season for me.
"I'm trying to forget about what happened last season, even though it's still not over yet, but I'm focused on my game right now."
Although Singh has never failed a drugs test, he was deemed to have breached golf's rules on doping when he told Sports Illustrated earlier this year he had used deer antler spray.
The spray was found to have contained small extracts of IGF-1, a growth hormone on the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) list of prohibited substances.
The PGA Tour imposed a sanction on Singh following his admission but the Fijian appealed, saying he was unaware the spray contained any banned substances.
He was later cleared when WADA informed the PGA Tour the use of deer antler spray was not prohibited unless a positive test resulted.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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