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Singh looking for defence of John Deere title

While most of the world's top golfers prepare for next week's British Open, Vijay Singh seeks to defend his title at the John Deere Classic starting here on Thursday.

Prior to 2003, Singh had never played here, but it didn't take long for him to take a liking to the Tournament Players Club at Deere Run.

He opened strong with a 5-under 66 and finished with a 65 to win the event by four strokes in a Monday finish.

"Obviously, I have very great memories from last year," Singh said. "Any time you win a golf tournament for the first time on a course you haven't played, you leave with a very positive attitude.

"A lot of guys questioned my decision coming over here with the British Open next week, but I committed myself and I'm here to play. I'm looking forward to defending it and if I can I will win it.

"You have to worry about getting tired before a major, but I don't feel that. I feel fresh."

This year, Singh has won three tournaments and is second on the money list with $4.78 million in earnings.

Deere Run is vastly different from what Singh will see at Royal Troon but he still calls the course good preparation.

"The shotmaking aspect and just being in competition helps a lot," Singh said. "It gives you that edge that maybe you will go having played well the week before."

Tour money leader and Masters champion Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, South African Ernie Els, Aussie Adam Scott, Spain's Sergio Garcia, U.S. veteran Davis Love III and Australian Stuart Appleby are among the high-profile players skipping the event before they head to Royal Troon in Scotland for the British Open.

Mickelson and Els are both teeing off this week in the European Tour's Scottish Open.

Trinidad-born Canadian Stephen Ames, who earned his first PGA Tour victory last week in the Western Open, also is not participating here.

Besides Singh, Jay Haas is the highest-ranked player at No. 20 in the world. He has six top-10 finishes this season and tied for ninth at the U.S. Open in his last start.

The field also features Chris DiMarco and Japan's Shigeki Maruyama. DiMarco is coming off consecutive ninth-place finishes and Maruyama is two starts removed from his tie for fourth at the U.S. Open.

The par-71 course is a 7,183-yard layout.

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