The Hacker: A happy new year if it kills me as Vijay's presence sobers me up

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The Independent Online

The only thing I've found sobering over the festive season is the news that Vijay Singh practised for four hours on Christmas Day.

Why the big Fijian felt the need to belt the hell out of a couple of hundred balls instead of spending the holiday in the rosy glow of the £8 million he has won in two recent tournaments is not a comfortable question for a hacker to ask.

That's one of the reasons he is what he is and we are what we are. However, the uncompromising force that drives Vijay is exceptional even by the high standards of dedication among the world's best players. He once gave me a lift in a courtesy car from the Volvo Masters in Valderrama to Gibraltar Airport. At the Spanish border, the customs officer stared unbelievingly at Vijay's passport before calling over a mate who promptly called over another.

Vijay ranted at them: "Have you never seen a Fijian passport before?" They shook their heads in a manner that suggested they'd never heard of Fiji before and headed for the supervisor's office, pursued by Vijay's angry voice.

Since we were running late for our flight, I made a suggestion along the lines that a cool head might be a good idea. He replied with a saying you wouldn't have found in any Christmas cracker.

We made the plane, and his temper might not have been helped by his form at that particular time, but in the 15 years since then Vijay has put together a portfolio of victories, including three majors, that shows no sign of ending even though he is 45.

His unrelenting search for improvement is a lesson to us all, especially on 25 December. Despite the fact that I need the practice vastly more urgently than he does, it never entered my head that I should do so.

In any case, our course would have been deserted on Thursday apart from one or two trying out their Christmas presents. I was due to be there for the Boxing Day cross-country tournament and for another festive romp yesterday, so I am not inactive.

But from the start of the new year I am resolved to do some sort of practice every day, even if it is only a bit of chipping around the furniture.

I am also going to get as much advice as I can, although I am warned by a reader, Preet Dhillon, to avoid having too many lessons. Preet, who calls himself a "slowly improving 24- handicapper", says: "Sooner or later you're going to have to work things out for yourself."

If you must have a lesson, he says, hire a pro to accompany you for a whole round, as "a golf tip in isolation will yield only temporary benefits".

Tony Coppack, on the other hand, suggests I find a way out of my misery by going to and studying Jim McLellan's swing – "He's brilliant at ridding your brain of all the things that stop you playing the best golf you can".

Oddly enough, I met a local pro while shopping last week who offered a similar remedy.

I shall gather all the help I can get. I am going to have a happy new year if it kills me.