Vijay Singh Defending champ Vijay Singh brings his new swing to Mercedes-Benz Championship

Armed with a new golf swing for the new season, Vijay Singh is set to defend his title in this week's Mercedes-Benz Championship.

Singh, a winner of 31 PGA Tour events, will be among the 31 players who will get the 2008 season underway Thursday in the $5.5 million winners-only event played on The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort in Hawaii.

The changes to Singh's backswing actually started late last season in hopes that he'd be comfortable with it by the start of the year. The 44-year-old native of Lautoka, Fiji, admits, however, that the swing changes remain a work in progress.

"I'm still not comfortable, still working on it," Singh told reporters Wednesday. "I worked a little bit on my short game and did a driver change here and there - just the same thing over and over again - but fine-tuning the golf swing was the main thing."

Singh said the biggest hurdles to the adjustment are more mental than physical.

"I think it's there, but my mind is still not believing it because it's quite a big change from what I used to have," Singh said. "My caddie says it's good. Everybody says it's good, but I think my mind is still not comfortable with it. Once I get going, I think I'll pretty much forget about thinking about it as much."

Singh, who earned one of his two Tour victories last year in the Mercedes-Benz Championship, is coming off a campaign that saw him make cuts in 25 of 27 events and earn more than $4.7 million. He produced 16 top-25 finishes, including seven top-10s.

But despite winning more than $54 million in prize money since turning pro in 1982, Singh said he thought it was time to revamp his swing.

"I almost fell over the other day when I saw a shot of my backswing at the U.S. Open and I said, 'Wow, I didn't know I was swinging that bad,'" Singh said. "It showed that if you get too complacent about your golf swing it can get from bad to worse. I just play from year to year and see what needs to be done, and this is a big, big difference."

Widely known as one of the hardest workers on the PGA Tour, Singh said he's also made changes to exercise regiment. He changed trainers and said he feels great about his physical shape entering the new season.

"It's a very hard workout, but it's making me feel good," Singh said. "It's different, it's new and (my new trainer) is really enthusiastic about everything. I think that's the biggest change.

"If you look at my body, I've lost a lot of size, but I haven't lost weight, so that means I've put on a lot more muscle. I think I'm the same weight, but I'm slimmer. I feel good. I feel strong. I feel energized."

After spending less than a month away from the game in the offseason, Singh said he also likes his chances in the tournament. While many of the American players have traveled to Hawaii to knock the rust off of their games, Singh has practicing full tilt for several weeks now.

"I know that everybody that shows up here are ready to play and ready to win - they're all winners - but I know that half of the guys will show up here because they've won and they want to get prepared this week," Singh said. "I'm prepared when I come over here. If you look at it that way, I think I've only got half the guys to beat because so many guys are coming from how cold their home is right now. Half of America is under snow, I think.

"I've seen a few guys coming up to the TPC to warm up before coming over here, guys practicing and getting ready for this event. I'm ready to play and ready to win."

However, veteran Mark Calcavecchia said he thinks most of the players will be ready to compete.

"Woody Austin came out of the snow in Wichita at the Shark Shootout and didn't miss a shot pretty much for five days, and he's been in snow and iced in," Calcavecchia told reporters. "All these guys - it doesn't take us long, really, a couple days. If I didn't make a golf swing for two months, I would think I could be ready to go in two days to play a golf tournament."

Every player's chances of winning should be helped by the fact that the relatively small field contains only four of the top 10 players in the world. World No. 1 Tiger Woods has opted to skip the tournament, as has Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington and Scott.

Mercedes-Benz Championship

SITE: Kapalua, Hawaii.
SCHEDULE: Thursday-Sunday.
COURSE: Kapalua Resort, The Plantation Course (7,411 yards, par 73).
PURSE: $5.5 million (winner's share: $1.1 million).
TV: Golf Channel (Thursday, 6-10:30 p.m. EST; Friday-Saturday, midnight-4:30 a.m. EST, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. EST, 6-10:30 p.m. EST; Sunday, midnight-4:30 a.m. EST, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. EST, 6-10 p.m. EST; Monday, midnight-4 a.m. EST).

January 3, 2008

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