Singh Finds Himself at the Head of the Class

By Associated PressApril 5, 2005, 4:00 pm
Vijay Singh's car pulled up in front of the clubhouse at Augusta National, and he knew the routine from there.
 
He climbed the green-carpeted stairs to the Masters champions locker room, a place he has occupied the last five years.

A view from the top is most appropriate for Singh at this Masters.

It is the first major championship where he is the No. 1 player in the world, and don't think he doesn't know it.
 
'I'm pretty comfortable with the position I'm in,' Singh said Tuesday. 'I should be, you know? I don't have any worries. I'm enjoying my game right now. What can be better? I'm here at the Masters, best player in the world right now and ready to go win another one.'

He knows it won't be easy.

Another warm, dry practice round only made the venerable course firmer and faster, especially the greens. These conditions make the margin of error even smaller than it already is. Mike Weir noticed the rough a fraction higher, which figures to take a little more valuable spin off the ball.
 
And that's just the course.

The guys chasing Singh are positioned nicely -- Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson right behind him, a list that includes Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia and David Toms also playing well.

'I don't think I'm afraid of anybody out there,' Singh said.

'I just think it's really up to me how I play. If I go out there and start worrying about Tiger or Phil or Ernie, then I'm in the wrong business. I've got to try to figure out how I'm going to play, how I'm going to manage my game, and how I'm going to beat everybody else in the field.'

The focus is on the next three guys behind him in the world ranking.
 
Mickelson is the defending champion and was loaded with confidence when he arrived Monday evening at Augusta National, having won the BellSouth Classic in a four-hole playoff for his third PGA Tour victory of the year. And there's always that green jacket he won last year.

Els is still stung by coming up one shot short of a playoff last year, although he remains confident as ever, and for good reason. He hasn't finished worse than sixth the last five years at Augusta National, including runner-up finishes last year to Mickelson and in 2000 to Singh.
 
'I see the golf course in a new light. I'm excited about this year,' Els said. 'I just feel I can do well here, and that's an exciting feeling to have.'
 
But for all the talk of a Big Four, it starts with No. 1 -- the guy who sits atop the world ranking, and the guy he replaced. Many believe Woods is still the man to beat at the Masters, starting with six-time champion Jack Nicklaus.
 
Woods played nine holes Monday, holing out for eagle with a sand wedge on the ninth, and played a full round on Tuesday as tries to get his game into shape. A victory this year would end his longest drought in the majors -- 10 starts -- and allow him to join Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as the only players with at least four green jackets.
 
He isn't anywhere near his level in 1999-2001, when there was question whether anyone else could be No. 1, but it has been good enough for victories this year at Torrey Pines and Doral.
 
'I don't think Tiger has played his best the last year or so,' Nicklaus said. 'He's still obviously the dominant player. I didn't have to play my best to win, and Tiger doesn't have to play his best to win. But when he plays his best, he's going to probably win.'
 
Woods has looked good this year -- at times. But after rallying to beat Mickelson in a thrilling duel at Doral, he lost control of his driver at Bay Hill and couldn't make a putt at The Players Championship, finishing out of the top 20 in consecutive weeks for the first time in four years.

Still, it beats where he was a year ago.

Woods was just embarking on swing changes with Hank Haney, and he had his worst performance ever in the Masters by shooting 2-over 290, 11 shots out of the lead.

'Last year I was just getting started with the changes,' Woods said. 'And this year, I'm just putting the finishing touches on the changes. So, two different scenarios. Last year, I was just hoping to put myself in contention with a short game and putting. This year, I know the ball-striking is there. That's a big difference.'

On trophies alone, Singh is the least accomplished of the so-called Big Four. His only victory came in the Sony Open in January, when he birdied the par-5 18th hole to beat Els by one shot.
 
But the bigger picture reveals a guy who knows where every shot is going, and who is rarely far from the lead. When the other stars vanished at The Players Championship, Singh was making a move on the leaders until a late lapse on the greens. He blew chances to win at the Honda Classic and Bay Hill Invitational.

But he was there. And as Woods is fond of saying, giving yourself a chance is the first step toward winning.

And that's what Singh has done more than anyone else, which explains his perch atop the world ranking.
 
'I think it's good to be No. 1, but you've got to know what your directions are,' Singh said. 'And coming over here, my direction is not to keep the No. 1 spot, but to win a major, win the Masters. That's important.'
 
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    Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

    By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

    If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

    Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

    But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

    Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

    Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

    Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

    Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

    Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

    Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

    Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

    Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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    Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

    Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

    “It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

    Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

    “What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

    Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

    “When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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    Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

    SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

    Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

    Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

    Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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    Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

    SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

    “Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.


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    “We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

    In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.