Singh Looking to Add a Little Defense

By Golf Channel NewsroomMay 10, 2004, 4:00 pm
Unlucky and ominous, 13 may be the appropriate number this week for Vijay Singh.
 
Singh is the defending champion of the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. This is the 13th PGA Tour title that hes had the opportunity to defend.
 
And judging by past Byron Nelson champions, Singh will have a difficult time sticking around for the weekend, let alone holding on to his title.
 
Tom Watson was the last player ' and one of only three in the tournament's 51-year history ' to successfully defend his title, when he won back-to-back-to-back from 1979-81.
 
But the Byron Nelson curse has been more than just players having trouble repeating victory; no defending champion since Fred Couples, who won in 1987, has even finished the following year inside the top 10. And during that stretch six defending champs have missed the cut the year after, including the last two to try.
 
Even if he does perform well, this will be a title defense like no other for Singh.
 
This time a year ago the vilification of Vijay began in earnest, when he made a few negative comments, got lambasted by the media, and then rode off into the Texas sunset on Sunday with his black hat and a fist full of dollars.
 
Singh was openly critical of Annika Sorenstams inclusion ' I hope she misses the cut, he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying ' in the Bank of America Colonial, which was contested the week after the Nelson. But despite the constant barrage of criticism fired his way thereafter, he managed to dodge the onslaught of bullets and win the Nelson by two strokes over Nick Price.
 
Singh then said he was skipping the Colonial.
 
It has nothing to do with the controversy, he said at the time. Ive played in four straight tournaments, and I need a break.
 
Singh went on to have his most fruitful and frustrating season in his 11 years on tour.
 
He won a total of four times, ended Tigers four-year reign atop the money list, and became the second-ranked player in the world.
 
He also endured a very testy relationship with both media and fans.
 
But time seems to have healed many of those wounds, to the point where the mention of Singh's name induces thoughts of briliance not boorish behavior.
 
Beginning at the Byron Nelson, Singh has played 30 tour events, which includes six victories, five runner-up finishes and 21 top-10s. He has cut his deficit to Tiger Woods in the Official World Golf Ranking from 10.74 to 2.58.
 
And, with one of the best fields ever comprised at this tournament, hell have an opportunity to gain more points and further close the gap.
 
Five of the top six players in the world are in attendance, with the exception of No. 4 Davis Love III.
 
And to make matters more exciting, four of those five have won this event: Ernie Els (No. 3 in the world) in 1995; Phil Mickelson (No. 5) in 96; Tiger Woods (No. 1) in 97; and Singh a year ago.
 
On the other hand, Mike Weir, ranked sixth in the world, has played this tournament five times, missing four cuts and tying for 11th in 2001.
 
For the 11th straight year, the tournament will use a two-course rotation. The TPC at Las Colinas (par 70, 7,022 yards) will serve as host, while the Cottonwood Valley Course (par 70, 6,846 yards) will be played by each competitor once over the first two days of the tournament.
 
Tournament namesake Byron Nelson won the inaugural event in 1944. He was followed by Sam Snead in 45 ' he also won in 57 and 58 ' and Ben Hogan in 46.
 
Other notable champions include Julius Boros (1959), Jack Nicklaus (1970-71), Raymond Floyd (1977), Ben Crenshaw (1983), Craig Stadler (1984) and Payne Stewart (1990)
 
This event was Watsons personal playground in the late 70s and early 80s. During an eight-year span, he won three consecutive times, and never finished outside of the top 4.
 
In those eight years, he banked a total of $275,571. This year, fourth place alone will get $278,400. The winner will get $1,044,000 of the $5.8 million purse.
 
Related Links:
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  • Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

    By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

    At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

    Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

    In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.


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    Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

    Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

    Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

    ''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

    ''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

    Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

    ''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

    ''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

    Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

    Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

    ''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

    Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

    Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

    ''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

    The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

    ''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

    The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

    ''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

    Joel Dahmen had a 64.


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    ''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

    ''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

    ''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

    ''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

    Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

    ''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

    Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

    Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

    Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

    Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

    Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

    Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

    “At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

    Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.


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    With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

    “I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

    Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

    Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

    “As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

    Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

    Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

    Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

    Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

    Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.


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    Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

    There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

    “I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

    Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

    The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.