Slumping Singh Still Searching for Win

By Associated PressMay 3, 2006, 4:00 pm
Vijay Singh took an exaggerated pause at the top of his swing, the iron set in a good position, then completed the shot and watched it soar against blue skies Wednesday at Quail Hollow.
 
The club still feels like a wand in the hand of a wizard. His swing is smooth and powerful as ever.
 
The only thing missing is a trophy.
 
Singh is the defending champion when the Wachovia Championship starts Thursday, a place that brings back happy thoughts. He closed with a 6-under 66 last year to get into a three-man playoff, then outlasted Jim Furyk on the fourth extra hole. He made winning look easy, even when he was coming from six shots behind on the last day.
 
Vijay Singh and Jason Gore
Vijay Singh shares a laugh with Jason Gore at the Wachovia Championship.
He won 18 times over a three-year stretch, allowing him to replace Tiger Woods at No. 1 in the world.
 
Now it's a grind.
 
Singh shows up at a tournament feeling as though his game is as good as ever until something breaks down - his driving one week, his irons another week, sometimes his putting.
 
The result is his longest drought in seven years without a victory, and he's running out of answers.
 
'I thought I was pretty close in Houston,' he said. 'And obviously it wasn't.'
 
Singh shot 75 in the third round at Houston and wound up in a tie for 36th, his worst finish of the year.
 
He was poised to capture The Players Championship, one shot out of the lead and playing in the final group. He tumbled to a 77. Perhaps his best chance to win this year was the season-opening Mercedes Championship, but he three-putted for par from 100 feet and lost a playoff to Stuart Appleby.
 
'I'm coming back with not having won for I don't know how many tournaments,' Singh said, 'but just looking forward to playing here again. I have a lot of good memories over here.'
 
Singh has gone 18 starts on the PGA TOUR without winning, his longest stretch since he went 18 between winning the Houston Open and the Tour Championship in 2002. His last victory was nine months ago at the Buick Open, and the last time he went that many months without winning was in 1999.
 
But he hardly looks worried, and there is no reason to panic.
 
'I worked really hard last week and felt good yesterday,' Singh said. 'For the first time, I felt like I was getting very close to where I want to be.'
 
Singh has seven top 10s this year, and he is ninth on the money list with $1.8 million. He lost the No. 1 ranking to Woods last year, and now has slipped to No. 4 behind Masters champion Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen.
 
If his game looks off, it's because there are natural comparisons to where he was.
 
The 43-year-old Fijian hit full stride and stayed at that pace for the better part of three years. He won four times in 2003 when he challenged Woods for player of the year, won nine times and a record $10.9 million in 2004 when he was unquestionably the best player in golf, then added four more victories last year.
 
'His level of play has been incredible the last three or four years,' Mickelson said. 'It's hard to have everything clicking all the time, but he's been able to do it for such a sustained period of time that if he goes just a few months without a win, everyone is clamoring, 'What's wrong with Vijay?' But he's playing incredible golf, and he'll get back to that level.'
 
Mickelson has had moments of brilliance himself, once going 10 consecutive rounds atop the leaderboard. But he could not relate to three years of top-shelf golf.
 
Ernie Els won four tournaments in the first two months of 2004. But three years?
 
'What kind of a drought has he got?' Els said. Told it was nine months, the Big Easy added, 'that answers your question.'
 
'He's been a top player for the last 10 years, and we all work on our swings, we all change things,' Els said. 'We keep working and then we're trying to get better, and sometimes you get worse trying to get better. You've just got to give it some time, be patient for it to turn around, and when it does turn around, you feel like you can start winning again.'
 
Singh would love nothing better than for that to happen this week.
 
The Wachovia Championship is in its fourth year, and already is one of the premiere events on the PGA Tour. The purse is $6.3 million, Quail Hollow reminds players of a major championship course, and the field is one of the strongest of the year.
 
Even without Tiger Woods, whose decision not to play allowed him to be home with his father when Earl Woods died Wednesday, the field features nine of the top 11 players in the world. David Toms, who won at Wachovia in 2003, withdrew earlier in the week.
 
The rough is thick, the fairways are a little tighter, and the greens already are firm and fast.
 
'I think it's going to be a very tough test of golf,' said Mickelson, who tied for 15th last week in New Orleans in his first tournament since winning the Masters. 'It's playing very similar to the way a PGA (Championship) is set up. It's a fair golf course, but it's extremely tough.'
 
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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. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.