Stoic Singh remains impenetrable

By Jason SobelFebruary 19, 2015, 11:14 pm

LOS ANGELES – Go ahead. Try to figure out Vijay Singh.

He is a World Golf Hall of Famer who blanches at fame. He’s a 34-time PGA Tour champion who skulks through tournaments with little fanfare.

The man is a walking enigma. He appears wholly unburdened yet forever bothered, peacefully tranquil yet armed with a permanent chip on his shoulder. He remains a rare combination of popular and mysterious that fused together creates a blend of notorious not often found in golf’s demure culture.

Not that he cares what we think. Or maybe he cares so much that he does his damndest to prove to us just how much he doesn’t care. It’s hard to know the difference.

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That’s because all of these are observations from afar. When Singh does speak publicly – a limited occurrence in itself these days – he employs an economy of words. The topic never veers from his overall game or a specific performance. He is a master of saying something without saying anything at all.

Following an opening-round 5-under 66 at the Northern Trust Open on Thursday that gave him a share of the overnight lead, Singh offered an explanation dripping with literalities.

“I kept my ball in play, hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens and when I did miss, I chipped it real close,” he said. “It was a comfortable round.”

In his defense, he wasn’t asked the tough questions on this day. We’ve been there, done that.

We’ve asked him the questions about the long-ago cheating accusation when he was a young pro. About the perception that he’s been underappreciated as one of the world’s best players of the past quarter-century. About the ongoing litigation he’s taken against the PGA Tour, accusing the organization of public humiliation and ridicule after releasing the results of an investigation into whether he used a banned substance.

It’s that last one which might be the genesis of Singh’s increased detachment in recent years.

At least, that’s the theory of one man who knows him well.

Retief Goosen has shared a Presidents Cup team room with Singh, battled him down the stretch in tournaments and played with him more times than either of them can remember. On what amounted to Throwback Thursday at Riviera Country Club, they were paired once again, with Goosen matching his playing partner’s 66 to keep pace atop the leaderboard.

After the round, Goosen alluded to the lawsuit without directly mentioning it. He implied that it’s affected Singh more than most of us realize.

“The last couple of years, since what’s happened, has probably drained him a little bit,” Goosen presumed. “Vijay wasn’t as chirpy as he normally would be on the golf course today, because he does have quite a sarcastic sense of humor. He seems a little bit down on himself at the moment, but it didn’t affect his game today, which is good.

“I don’t know. But I think he probably feels at the moment like everybody is against him for no real reason. I think what’s still going on is really working on him. He’s doubting himself and his game and his attitude. He’s not as happy-chappy as he used to be.”

Singh may have never seemed overly “happy-chappy” to those of us watching him from afar, but it speaks volumes that his legal battle has robbed him of that demeanor inside the friendly confines of the field of play.

As he lumbered off the 18th green on Thursday, following a routine two-putt par to finish his round, Singh was still wearing his best poker face. It’s the same one he’s been wearing for years, concealing whether he was delighted by his performance or frustrated or somewhere in between.

He will turn 52 years old on Sunday and would like no better present than to win for the first time in seven years. Actually, that’s what we assume. But we really don’t know. We only know what he’ll reveal, which so far has included such insights as, “The golf swing feels good,” and “I'm happy to be playing,” and “You're not going to win it on Thursday.”

As he says these words, we’re right to wonder what he’s really thinking, what veiled concepts are buried under that hardened exterior. Chances are, we’ll never know. He answers a few more questions about his game, then lumbers away, the walking enigma still leaving us guessing.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.