In Search of Vijay Singh

By Brian HewittOctober 27, 2003, 5:00 pm
Vijay Singh had done the math. Fresh in the flush of his fourth victory of the season, a four-shot breeze past Tiger Woods, Singh already had figured out that he controlled his own destiny.
'I'm in the best position to win the money title,' Singh said while seated in the media room late Sunday at Walt Disney World. 'I've got two tournaments to go and I'm playing one extra tournament.'
One more 'extra' tournament, Singh pointed out, than Woods. Which meant that if Singh won his fifth event of the year next week at the Chrysler Championship in Tampa, he would guarantee himself his first money title, regardless of what happened at the season-ending tour championship the following week in Houston.
That Singh had done the math was no accident. He knows there are personal perceptions about him in the media. And in the public. And among the other players. And the preponderance of those perceptions is not good. Which is why his carefully chosen goal is to win the money title, not Player of the Year.
Player of the Year is voted on by his peers, which makes it a subjective award. Singh can't count on popularity. The money title, on the other hand, has nothing to do with personality and everything to do with hard work and perseverance.
'I've hit a million balls,' said the tireless Singh.
His personality, by the way, isn't as universally disliked as certain members of the media would have you believe. 'He's goofy in a funny way,' said Stewart Cink, who tied for second at Disney with Woods and Scott Verplank. 'He's got a sense of humor. He likes to dish it out. And he can take it.'
That's the part the media rarely sees and, therefore, the part that the public almost never learns. On his bad days, Singh wears the look of a man who feels like a dog that has been kicked too often. You see the mistrust in his eyes. On his worst days, that mistrust produces a meanness.
Add onto that the fact that Woods is the one Singh would have to fight for the public's affection if he ever chose to make a contest of it. Woods isn't perfect either. But he is a good guy with a good staff and an innate sense of when to smile and where to pitch his battles. Singh isn't Woods that way.
There is no law that says Vijay Singh has to be friendly when it doesn't suit him. There is no law that says he has to suffer fools gladly. There is no law that says players, or fans, or media members have to like him.
The sad part of it all is how much negative energy currently emanates from this tall, Fijian Indian with the preternaturally graceful swing; a fluid action that generates an almost languid power. There is nothing hurried about the 40-year-old Singh. But neither is there any indication that he will be running low on batteries any time soon.
He has won two major championships and he will surely find his spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame before his 50th birthday. Some people believe he practices ceaselessly because he doesn't know any better; that he wouldn't know a good book if it hit him on the head at the top of his backswing. Others sense an almost childlike joy in his practice habits: He hits balls because it is the thing he loves best. Most players practice to get better. Singh practices for the simple sake of the ineffable pleasure that comes with a clean strike, a shallow divot, a boring trajectory and an on-balance finish that produces no strain.
'Over time I will get comfortable and start talking again,' Singh said Sunday.
We should all look forward to that time. And if it turns out, as some suspect, that he has little to say, we can always enjoy the language of his swing.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.