Caption: Golfer Vijay Singh with former American Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush Snr and with the current Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimara. Photo: SUPPLIED.
World champion Fijian golfer Vijay Singh has offered to represent Fiji at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, when golf is re-introduced as an Olympic sport for the first time in 112 years.
Singh’s participation is contingent on him making the top rankings on the PGA circuit in the lead-up to the Olympics. But if he repeats his performance this year, his selection is assured.
The announcement that the Lautoka-born champion has made himself available to represent Fiji in Rio was warmly welcomed by the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, who described it as great news for Fiji.
“Vijay is a proud Fijian who has been successfully representing our nation for more than 30 years, bringing great credit to Fiji by reaching the top of world golfing. For him to agree to be part of the Fijian team for Rio if he qualifies is something that every Fijian sports fan will welcome. Because I have no doubt that on his current performance, the chances of him doing so are very high”, he said.
The Prime Minister also revealed that Vijay Singh has agreed to mentor the Fijian Rugby Sevens team, which has already qualified for Rio, along with the Under 19s National Football team.
“To have Vijay in Rio supporting our boys as they chase gold will be a great asset. This is a world champion sportsman who understands the importance of the psychology of winning and I’m sure that whatever assistance he can offer will be crucial”, the Prime Minister said.
From his humble origins as a caddy at the Tavakubu Golf Course in Lautoka, Vijay Singh has gone on become one of the most famous golfers in the world. In 2004 he achieved one of the finest seasons in golfing history, posting nine wins and becoming No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings. He held this position for 32 weeks in 2004 and 2005.
He has represented the International team in eight President’s Cups against the United States and has achieved 34 PGA Tour (USA) victories, including three Majors, the US Masters in 2000 and the U.S. PGA Championship in 1998 and 2004. He was inducted into the World Golfing Hall of Fame in 2006 – the only Fijian and only Pacific Islander ever to have been given the honour.
Golf will be played at the Olympics in Rio for the first since the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, USA, and will feature men and women’s individual events. Both events will have 60 players competing in a 72-hole stroke play format competition for the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.
The 60 players will be determined by an Olympic Golf Ranking list as of early July 2016 and is based on a player’s official world golf ranking.
All players within the top-15 of the rankings as of July 11, 2016, will be eligible, with no more than four players to come from any one country. The rest of the field will be determined by the world golf rankings, with a maximum of two players per country for countries that don’t have more than two players in the top-15.
The CEO of PGA Australia and Fiji International Commissioner, Brian Thorburn, said that if the rankings were to be taken now, Vijay Singh would definitely qualify to represent Fiji in 2016.
“Given his recent form at the Fiji International a few weeks ago, I expect Vijay to be eligible when the team is confirmed next July. We also hope that through the Fiji International in coming years, we will uncover the next Vijay Singh for Fiji, perhaps Sam Lee, who could go on to represent Fiji at the Olympic games in Tokyo in 2020”, Mr Thorburn said.