Big Fijian Derives Strength from Desire

By Associated PressJanuary 8, 2007, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)KAPALUA, Hawaii -- First came his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame. A week later brought an end to his worst season in five years on the PGA TOUR, and what appeared to be the beginning of the end to Vijay Singh.
 
'I think he was out to prove that wasn't the case,' Davis Love III said.
 
The proof was in Singh's two-shot victory in the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship, a command performance in which Singh didn't make a bogey over the final 29 holes and never let anyone closer than two shots to him over the final 25 holes.
 
And it was no accident.
 
Morning and evening for two weeks on the Big Island, he pounded his body in the gym. During the day, he spent five hours on the practice range hitting some 400 balls, leaving enough time for him to play 18 holes. Then he flew over to Maui determined to remind the winners-only field that he has not gone away.
 
'I wanted this win, and I practiced hard for it,' said Singh, who turns 44 next month. 'I worked hard and it paid off.'
 
His work ethic is now legendary in golf circles.
 
Adam Scott figured it out quickly when he joined the PGA TOUR and noticed that Singh didn't leave the practice range before dark. Davis Love III rarely goes to the gym without seeing Singh, 'and I'm sure he's in there when I'm not.'
 
More than sheer work, however, Singh's legacy might be his desire.
 
He already considers it a miracle that someone could grow in Fiji and win on the PGA TOUR. Even more astounding is that Sunday was his 30th career victory, tied for 16th on the career list with Leo Diegel.
 
And he now has won 18 times since turning 40, breaking the record held by Sam Snead.
 
Singh wasn't impressed.
 
'There's no trophies for doing it,' he said. 'Really, it's just a record created by who? It's not even a record. It's just numbers.'
 
But put that in perspective.
 
Love has won 19 times (one major) in his career. Singh is one victory away from doing that in his 40s.
 
'And everyone looks at Davis as having a great career,' Luke Donald said. 'If you keep yourself fit, age isn't a factor and he's a testament to that. It's hard to have that dedication for so long, that desire to want to succeed. Let's face it, we all get lazy from time to time. Vijay seems to bypass that and continues to work hard to get better.'
 
Johnny Miller once said the difference between him and Jack Nicklaus was that Miller once reached the top of the mountain and wondered what else there was to prove, while Nicklaus reached the top and looked for the next mountain.
 
Singh knows the feeling.
 
He reached his peak in 2004 when he won nine times and replaced Tiger Woods at No. 1 in the world, holding the top spot for the better part of six months until Woods went on one of his tears.
 
Singh has a constant battle with his putting, and then his swing started to leave him. But he never lost his desire.
 
'It's easy to fall off the top,' he said. 'Once you're sliding down, you've got to have something to hold onto. My physical condition probably kept me there. If I wasn't strong enough, once you mentally get a little frustrated, you can just slide off so quickly. The good news is I'm fresh and I'm really looking forward to the season.
 
'I'm quite happy with the way I'm feeling right now.'
 
For the longest time, Love was motivated by how well Nicklaus played in his 40s. He won the U.S. Open and PGA Championship at age 40, then captured his sixth Masters title in 1986 at age 46. Love also was inspired by good friend Jay Haas, who qualified for the TOUR Championship when he was 50.
 
'This is now the standard of never saying, 'I'm done,'' Love said of Singh. 'It's pretty incredible. He doesn't get injured very much. He's good at what he does, and he's very efficient. If he wasn't that strong, or that supple, he might not be able to do that.'
 
The next question is how much longer Singh can play at this level.
 
He was approaching his 40th birthday when he set out to become No. 1 in the world, a goal that seemed laughable considering his age (39), his world ranking (No. 7) and the fact Woods had won the Masters, U.S. Open and was runner-up at the PGA Championship that year.
 
Two years and 13 victories later, Singh was No. 1.
 
'He's a great ball-striker; he hits enough balls, he ought to be,' Scott said. 'But he's pretty good at everything. You don't get to where he's gotten being average.'
 
The odds are against Singh reaching that pinnacle again, mainly because Woods shows no sign of letting up. The world's No. 1 player skipped Kapalua, and will go after his seventh consecutive PGA TOUR victory in three weeks at the Buick Invitational.
 
Singh sets no limits to what he can do.
 
'Fred Funk won a golf tournament when he was 48, and I'm a lot bigger and a lot stronger than Freddie Funk,' Singh said. 'So if he can win at 48, what makes me think I'm not going to win when I'm 50? I'm not looking that far ahead. Right now, I'm just looking at the way I feel and I'm going to continue to work hard at my physical shape.
 
'If I'm healthy and playing the way I'm doing right now ... five, six, 10 years, I don't know. I'm just going to keep going.'

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    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.