Fiji golfer Singh looks to break drought on home soil
Fiji's Vijay Singh hits a shot during a practice round in Nadi ahead of the Fiji International golf tournament, August 12, 2014 - by Paul Lakatos
Singh has an advantage over his competitors in the US$1.0 million event -- he designed the tournament's Natadola Bay course, which opened in 2009 and takes advantage of stunning coral reef and Pacific ocean backdrops.
Singh said participating in the new tournament, co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia and OneAsia, was his way of returning something to Fiji.
"It's been a little while since I've been back but this is a great opportunity and I hope that I can contribute to its success and give a little back to Fiji," said the 51-year-old, who lives in the United States.
"I wish this was five or six years ago when I was playing a lot better, but I'm beginning to play well again and hope I can go out there and show Fiji how good I can play."
Singh won three majors in his heyday and was ranked number one in the world for 32 consecutive weeks in 2004 and 2005.
While his last tournament victory came in 2008 and his world ranking has slipped to 193, Singh has shown signs of recent improvement, including third place in the Australian Masters in November.
Australian online bookmaker Sportsbet rated him as a narrow favourite in the 120-strong field for the Natadola Bay tournament at 13/1, ahead of rising Indian star Anirban Lahiri (15/1) and Australia's Matthew Griffin (16/1).
Fiji's interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said he believed the event, which is being billed as the country's largest-ever sporting event and the first golf tournament of its scale in the South Pacific, would provide a boost for the island nation's tourist industry.
"Although Fiji has long offered a selection of beautiful courses, both to visitors and to local golfers, we have never truly capitalised on the sport's potential here, especially as we are naturally positioned to take advantage of golf's rapidly growing popularity in Asia," he said.
The tournament begins on Thursday, August 14 and continues until Sunday, August 17.