What Masters Winner Honed His Golfing Skills Hitting Balls While Standing Under a Mango Tree?

By M.L. Rose
Vijay Singh plays a shot at the 2000 Masters, which he won by three strokes.
Vijay Singh plays a shot at the 2000 Masters, which he won by three strokes.

The well-traveled Vijay Singh has won professional golf tournaments across the world in a career spanning 30 years as of 2012. Singh rose from humble beginnings to become a dominant player on the European Tour and the PGA Tour, but it all started on a modest public golf course on the South Pacific island of Fiji.

Practicing Under the Mango Tree

A Fiji native of Indian descent, Vijay Singh learned golf from his father, Mohan, and from watching a video of Tom Weiskopf, who has a build similar to that of Singh. A 1999 “Denver Post” article described how young Singh climbed the fence of the local airport and ran across the runways to the Nadi Airport Golf Club to practice “in the shade of a mango tree” near the course’s 14th hole. According to the article, Singh practiced in that spot for hours -- “until his hands bled” -- while plucking the occasional mango from the tree.

World Traveler

After winning Fiji’s amateur championship at age 17, Singh played on professional tours on five continents. He had little success in Australia, then moved on to Asia, where he won the Malaysian PGA Championship in 1984. He was suspended from the Asian Tour in 1985 after being accused of cheating (which he denied), and later wound up on the African Tour. He won twice in Africa, including the 1988 Nigerian Open, then moved to the European Tour, where he won the 1989 Volvo Open. After several more victories in Africa, Europe and Asia, Singh joined the PGA Tour in 1993 and became the rookie of the year. As of 2012, Singh was still a PGA Tour player at age 49.

Major Championships

Singh won his first major in 1998, capturing the PGA Championship by shooting four consistent rounds -- 70, 66, 67 and 68 -- to win by two strokes. He also won the PGA title in 2004 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. He led by one stroke after three rounds, then shot a 76 to finish in a three-way tie for first after 72 holes. Singh then won a three-hole playoff against Chris DiMarco and Justin Leonard, courtesy of a first-hole birdie.

Singh won the 2000 Masters, finishing strong despite missing a 4-foot par putt on the 16th hole of the final round. Leading Ernie Els and David Duval by two strokes, Singh birdied the final hole to win by three shots.

Other Career Highlights

Going into 2012, Singh owned 34 PGA Tour victories and 58 professional wins worldwide. He was the player of the year on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour in 2004, was the world’s top-ranked player for 32 weeks in 2004 and 2005, was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2005 and won the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup championship in 2008.

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