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Putting the key to Singh's Masters win

Without clubs handed down by his father, Vijay Singh would never have learned to play golf in Fiji, a tiny South Pacific country with about 12 golf courses - and now, one Masters champion.

Without some putting advice from his wife, he might never have won a major.

Three years ago, while teaching his young son how to putt, Ardena Singh noticed a much smoother stroke from her husband when he used a crosshanded grip. He made the change, and a couple of months later won the PGA Championship at Sahalee in Redmond, Wash.

The key advice for the Masters had as much to do with his head as his stroke.

Singh required 124 putts over four days on the contoured, concrete-like greens of Augusta National, the highest number by a winner since officials began counting. He also had four three-putts, disrupting the trend of recent winners who had no more than one.

But he showed as much fear over his putts as when Tiger Woods, David Duval and Ernie Els all made their run at him during the weekend - none.

"I missed the cut here two years and I was really disappointed," Singh said. "I talked to people about it, especially my wife. She said, 'You cannot come over here thinking you will putt bad. You've got to come here very positive with what you're going to do.'

"If you win here, you have to putt well," he said. "If I have a bad attitude on the greens, I might as well not come."

He came. He putted. He won.

With wind so strong it nearly blew him over during atrocious weather in the pivotal third round Saturday, Singh avoided a three-putt. When he returned Sunday morning to finish off the round, he holed putts of 8 and 18 feet during the last four holes to protect his lead.

"That gave me a good boost," he said. "I was really confident with a three-stroke lead. As long as I played solid, as I did all week, they would have to catch me. That was my goal going into the afternoon - just hit good, solid shots. And don't three-putt."

The 17th in the morning was particularly crucial. Singh's approach spun into the bunker, and he blasted out 18 feet past the hole. Duval had 6 feet for birdie, a potential two-shot swing. Then came a familiar scene - Singh made, Duval missed.

"I obviously would have liked to have made that putt," Duval said. "But that's not the only one I missed. And that wasn't the only nice par putt he made. I don't think anyone should be surprised that Vijay Singh won this golf tournament."

It wasn't just his putting. Singh felt comfortable with a driver, hit beautiful chips at crucial moments and staved off the last threat to his lead with a dicey bunker shot on the par-3 12th that stopped 2 feet from the hole.

Woods got within three strokes but then played even-par for the final 10 holes. Duval lurked one back until a 5-iron into the 13th hole found Rae's Creek and doomed his chances of donning a green jacket for his new, sleek body.

"He obviously showed us his mettle," Els said. "He's done it before at the PGA, and now he's done it again. He's an awfully hard competitor, and this golf course has always been suited for his game.

"He's never really putted well here, but he really did the job."

Els was the last one with a chance, but missed medium-range putts on the final three holes that allowed Singh to walk up toward the 18th green in style, followed by an appropriate touch at then by making an 18-foot birdie.

"Walking up the 18th hole, knowing that a two-putt was going to win the golf tournament, was probably the greatest feeling I've had for a long, long time," Singh said. "And wearing this green jacket tops it all. I can't describe the feeling."

The last time Singh felt so rewarded was in August 1998 outside Seattle, when he carried a two-stroke lead up the tree-lined fairway of Sahalee.

He now has two major championships, as many as Woods. Singh is 37, one of the hardest workers in golf and figures to have several more years to add to that collection.

"If you win it once, many people may say you got lucky, you got good breaks," he said. "If you win twice ... you can really believe in yourself that you can do it again and again. I just hope one day I can finish the next two."

Augusta was the last place he imagined himself winning. In six previous Masters, he had never finished better than a tie for 17th, had never posted a 72-hole score under par.

"Two years ago, I'd have said I can't win this because of the way I was putting," Singh said. "Augusta's greens are so severe that if you're not a good putter, you're not going to win this. But my attitude change was a big boost, and that's why I'm sitting here."

Masters Coverage begins here

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