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Vijay Singh an example of hard work paying

If success is earned by those who work the hardest, then newly crowned world number one Vijay Singh is a shining example.

It has been a long, and often gruelling, global odyssey for the 41-year-old Fijian but he finally achieved his goal of claiming top spot from Tiger Woods with a three-shot victory in the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday.

Known for the long hours he has always put in on the practice range, U.S. PGA champion Singh has consistently played the best golf in the game for the last 14 months.

After going to head-to-head with Woods in a thrilling final round at the Tournament Players Club of Boston, and prevailing, his acknowledged dominance was at last recognised by the official world rankings.

"Finally it's turned into my favour," Singh told reporters after closing with three birdies in the last four holes for a two-under-par 69.

"I've worked pretty hard for this. I finally achieved what I wanted to do starting at the beginning of the year."

Singh, who ended Woods's record run of 264 consecutive weeks at the top, is the 12th player to become world number one since the rankings were introduced in 1986.

Monday's win, his sixth on the 2004 PGA Tour, earned him a cheque for $900,000 and lifted his season's earnings to a staggering $7,889,566.

Rich pickings, indeed, that must seem a lifetime away from Singh's early days as a club professional in Borneo.

After turning professional in 1982, he started out on the Asian Tour but ran into unwanted trouble in 1985 when he was accused of altering a scorecard for the better in Indonesia.

Banned indefinitely from the Asian Tour, Singh has always protested his innocence and there has not been a whiff of doubt over his on-course honesty since his re-emergence on the European Tour three years later.

Before that, though, he decided to work as a club professional in Borneo, where he honed his game through long hours on the practice range when he was not coaching others. He was paid the minimum wage, plus $10 a lesson.

"I was thinking about the next day, not really thinking about what's going to happen in two, three, 10 years from then," Singh recalled.

"I was starting to think...'How many lessons are you going to have the next day?'"

It was a tough and often lonely preparation but it provided the ambitious Fijian with the ideal platform.

He went on to win titles in Malaysia, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe and Morocco before graduating from the European Tour's qualifying school in 1988.

After that, he played seven years in Europe before making his base in the United States. He has since won tournaments in Sweden, Spain, Germany, France, South Africa, Britain, Singapore and Canada, as well as 21 in the U.S.

U.S. PGA champion at Sahalee in 1998, U.S. Masters winners in 2000 and U.S. PGA champion for a second time at Whistling Straits last month, Singh has firmly established himself as the best player in the game -- for now.

"It feels great, all of the hard work and all that I've come through, all of the people that have helped me through, I'd like to thank them," said the Fijian, the son of an airplane technician.

"It's been a journey and something that cannot be forgotten. It was difficult from the very get-go.

"I didn't have sponsorship to get on tour. You need to make money week-in, week-out to get to the next week. It was just a whole struggle. That's the way to describe it.

"But it was a good one, it's a good experience, and probably that's what made me where I am today," added Singh, who as a child would climb over the fence at Nadi Airport's golf club and practice for hours.

"Maybe I deserve all the wins the way I've been practising and the way I've been playing. Now I just want to go out there and win.

"The harder I work, I feel I can win more and more.

"I wasn't expecting this. I wasn't expecting to be top 10 in the world, or number one. I just wanted to enjoy playing golf and make a good living."

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