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Singh having a mixed year with the media

Vijay Singh has never had a better year on the golf course.

Or a tougher time off it.

No one should be surprised that the 40-year-old Fijian has four victories, more than $6.8 million and is on the verge of dethroning Tiger Woods atop the PGA Tour money list.

He has a history of performing his best under the most adverse conditions.

Golf has always been his refuge.

Being banished from the Asian Tour for a doctored scorecard in 1985 only made Singh work harder in the muggy rain forests of Borneo. He earned minimum wage plus $10 a lesson, and spent every free minute toiling on the range without knowing it eventually would lead him to two major championships.

"I was thinking about the next day, not really thinking about what's going to happen in two, three, 10 years from then," Singh said. "I was starting to think ... 'How many lessons are you going to have the next day?"'

More turmoil caught up to him in May, when he criticized Annika Sorenstam for playing in the Bank of America Colonial. That brought him more attention than he ever got for winning the PGA Championship or the Masters.

"I hope she misses the cut," he told The Associated Press. "Why? Because she doesn't belong out here."

Two days later, he was surrounded by reporters at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship.

Singh said he was misquoted. He said he wanted her to miss the cut in case he missed the cut, "because I don't want to have a woman beat me."

The AP reviewed its notes and stands by its story.

Fuzzy Zoeller was never the same after he was buried for his racial joke about Woods winning the 1997 Masters, when he advised him not to serve fried chicken and collard greens at the Champions Dinner.

As for Singh?

All he did was shoot four rounds in the 60s to win the EDS Byron Nelson Championship.

"When I get to a Tournament, I totally close out everything that I can," he said that day. "I guess that's why I have been able to play so well all my career. A lot of things went on in my life. I just focus on what I have to do."

Nothing brought him more consternation than the Annika issue.

At the U.S. Open, after hitting an 8-iron into 4 feet, a fan called out, "If it would have been Annika, it would have gone in the hole."

As security escorted the fan off the course, Singh raised his putter at him, then made the birdie putt on his way to a 7-under 63, tying the record for lowest score in a major championship.

Since then, he has refused to come to the press center at PGA Tour events unless he's leading, and even in the Funai Classiche stayed away until his name was on the trophy.

When the AP reporter asked him an innocuous question about his rib injury in February, Singh glared at him, looked away and said, "I'll pass on that question."

Singh then proceeded to say he gets along with just about every walk of life except The Fourth Estate.

"There's a couple of things that happened this year, unfortunately, for you guys and for him," Ernie Els said earlier this month. "He's a good guy that works hard, and I think he's a little bit misunderstood sometimes. You've got to take him for what he's done on the golf course."

Stewart Cink described Singh as "goofy in a funny way."

"He likes to dish it out and he can take it," Cink said. "And he's just very cocky in a good way for golf."

Singh said he was comfortable with his image, and that he'd like to have a better relationship with the media.

"But I haven't been given a chance to get comfortable with you," he said. "I don't think the media is comfortable with me, and you're not giving me a chance to get comfortable with you."

There's some truth to that.

Singh is a fascinating subject, starting with the fact he was raised in Fiji and used to sprint across an airport runway between takeoffs and landings to get to the golf course. He was a bouncer in Scotland to earn extra money when he was trying to qualify for the European Tour.

No one can deny his success -- 15 victories on the PGA Tour, two majors.

Then again, Singh has never given most people cause to embrace him. He can be surly and aloof, and generally wary whenever anyone he doesn't know approaches.

Singh is more at home on the range, where the trenches he makes from digging so many balls out of the dirt are legendary. It is there that all his worries seem to disappear.

Does he hit balls out of need or raw desire?

"Kind of both," Singh said. "A lot of times, I practice because I need to practice. And a lot of times, I go out there because I just feel like I want to practice, and it's what I enjoy."

If nothing else, it takes his mind off all the controversy swirling around him and allows him concentrate on his golf, the one thing he could always trust.

Meantime, he is playing the best golf of his life.

Vijay means "victory" in Hindu.

But only inside the ropes.

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