No 1 Vijay 9 wins 1 major 1 world ranking

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 1, 2005, 5:00 pm
2004 Stories of the YearEditor's note: We are counting down the top 10 stories in golf for the 2004 season. This is Story No. 1.
 
In a few days, Vijay Singh will sit down in a press room in Maui, Hawaii, prior to the start of the Mercedes Championships. A handful of media members will be on hand and they will ask him questions for 5-10 minutes. Singh will probably experience dj vu.
 
Because these journalist, the ones who have covered him over the past few years, the ones who were in that same media center a year ago, will ask him the same questions they always ask him.
 
Why are you playing your best golf after 40? Can you improve upon last season? Did you think you could ever achieve what you have, given where you came from?
 
They asked him these question prior to last years Mercedes, when he was coming off a four-win season in which he topped the PGA Tours money list. And they asked him these questions less than a month ago, when he was announced as Player of the Year, following a nine-win season that included another money title.
 
Not even Singh could have forecasted this year. When he addressed the media before the season-opening Mercedes, he said, I couldnt ask for anything more, in reference to his 2003 campaign
 
But he could ask for a little more ' and he did.
 
He asked to win another major championship; he asked to become a better putter; he asked to be voted as Player of the Year; he asked to become No. 1 in the world.
 
He figured he could accomplish three of those four things this year. Overtaking Tiger Woods in the world rankings, however, might take a little longer. I dont think I can catch him this year, he said. Maybe in a year or so.
 
Who knew he could do it all in 2004?
 
Singh said he started the year slowly. It had nothing to do with the fact that it took him all of four starts to win his first event, at Pebble Beach, but because that was his lone victory until late April
 
Singh won in Houston and in New Orleans in back-to-back weeks; coincidentally, on back-to-back Mondays.
 
But by the time the seasons third major had wrapped up, Singh was still stuck on three wins ' and he hadnt been a factor in the Masters, U.S. Open or the British Open.
 
And so he made a change.
 
After about two-and-a-half years of using the belly putter, Singh switched back to a conventional style.
 
I was putting nicely, but then all of a sudden, I just could not make any more putts. Everything was 33, 32, 33 putts, every round I went out, he said.
 
The British Open was the end of that. I played great golf the first two days and was only 4 under; I should have been 10, 11 under, but just missed so many putts. I think I had 35 putts on the second day and shot 1 under. So, if you do that, you cannot win the golf tournament. You cannot contend anymore.
 
So, you know, I came back and thought about it and said, hey, I can't putt any worse.
 
The decision to revert back to a standard putter was a gutsy one. After all, he had been playing the best golf of his life with the longer version. But both of his major victories came while applying the conventional method. So, he hoped, would his third.
 
The change paid dividends immediately. He won the Buick Open wire-to-wire in his first start post-Troon. His next start was at Whistling Straits, for the PGA Championship.
 
Armed with his usual crisp ball-striking and renewed confidence in his putting, Singh eased to a four-stroke lead through 54 holes of the seasons final major.
 
Thank God for the little putter of mine, he said after the third round.
 
But that putter failed him on Sunday. And so did his driver. And his irons.
 
His game, on the whole, completely abandoned him. He didnt make a single birdie over 18 holes and shot 4-over 76 ' and still qualified for a playoff.
 
Justin Leonards gag job on the final hole of regulation opened the door for a three-man, three-hole playoff between himself, Singh and Chris DiMarco.
 
Singh, admittedly tense during regulation, was visibly relaxed during the playoff. Hey, in a playoff you cant do worse than second, he said. You can just go out there and just beat the crap out of the ball if you have to.
 
He did just that on the first playoff hole, bruising his ball with a driver on the short par-4 10th ' while the other two used fairway metals, leaving him just a pitch shot on his approach. Singh hit his second to 6 feet and converted the birdie putt. It was his only birdie of the day ' and the only birdie he would need, as neither DiMarco nor Leonard could do better than par in the playoff.
 
Singh was once again a major champion.
 
I think this is the biggest accomplishment Ive ever had in my whole career, he said.
 
This makes my year right here.
 
Five wins, one major, roughly $6.8 million in earnings. Thats not just a great year, thats almost the equivalent of what John Dalys accomplished in his entire career ' and it was only the middle of August!
 
Singhs 2004 song, however, hadnt even reached its high note.
 
The win at Whistling Straits gave Singh more than just his third career major championship; it gave him something even he thought was impossible to attain in such a short amount of time.
 
Over the past two years, Singh was arguably the best player on the planet. Now there was no debate.
 
The man who grew up poor in Fiji, was kicked off the Asian Tour in the 80s, gave $10 lessons in a Borneo rainforest, moonlighted as a bouncer while trying to make ends meet on the European Tour, was a PGA Tour rookie at the age of 30, and endured a public backlash in 2003, was now the No. 1 player in the world, ending Woods 264-week reign atop the Official World Golf Ranking.
 
And he still wasnt satisfied. As always, there was still work to be done.
 
Its always been a goal of mine, he said of reaching the top. But I want to finish (the year) No. 1.
 
To win a major, win the money list and the Player of the Year at the same time, and be No. 1 in the world ' that will be an achievement.
 
Singh reached all of his lofty goals by never easing up on the gas. The man who often works out six days a week, usually twice a day, was relentless over the last three months of the season. And damn-near unbeatable.
 
He beat Woods head-to-head at the Deutsche Bank Championship, beat national hero Mike Weir in playoff in the Bell Canadian Open, won the 84 Lumber Classic wire-to-wire, and captured the Chrysler Championship to eclipse the $10 million mark.
 
The final numbers: nine wins; one major; a record $10,905,166 in official earnings; the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average; PGA Player of the Year; PGA Tour Player of the Year; No. 1 in the world; 41 years of age.
 
You dont really wake up one day and think youre going to be able to play like I did this year, Singh said. Its a buildup to it. You win one and then you win another one. You get more confident, like snowballing. You feel more comfortable and confident. You cant wait to get to the next hole and play better. Thats how its been.
 
I think next season will be even harder than this one, he added. They say its really hard to get to the top, but to stay there is going to be the hardest thing.
 
I feel like Im running and everybody is chasing me sooner or later Im going to get tired and guys are going to catch me. So I want to stay there. I want to stay ahead of the pack as long as possible and thats the battle Im going to face the next year and maybe a few more years to come.
 
Singh figures to play about 28 events next season, and doesnt see why he cant win one out of every three tournaments he enters. And why not? From where hes been to where he is ' there are no boundaries.
 
I feel like Im in an open plane, he said. All you see is just the horizon.
 
Related Links:
  • 2004 Year in Review
  • Day finishes strong, leads Aussie Open by one

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 6:12 am

    Jason Day birdied three of his final five holes to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand in Sydney:

    Leaderboard: Day (-10), Lucas Herbert (-9), Jonas Blixt (-7), Matt Jones (-7), Cameron Smith (-6), Rhein Gibson (-5), Anthony Quayle (-5)

    What it means: Day has a great shot at his first victory – in his final start – in 2017. It’s been a frustrating campaign for Day, who has dropped to 12th in the Official World Golf Ranking. A win this week, in his native Open, would be a huge boost as he embarks on the 2018 season.


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Round of the day: Day’s 2-under 69 wasn’t the lowest of the day, but it was the most important. Day parred his first 13 holes before birdies on Nos. 14 and 15. He bogeyed the 17th, but finished with a birdie at the par-5 18th for the outright lead.

    Best of the rest: Blixt’s 66 put him in position to win. Meanwhile, Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya shot the low round of the day, a 6-under 65, to reach 4 under for the tournament.

    Biggest disappointment: No one really blew it on Saturday, but Jordan Spieth was unable to make a move. His 1-under 70 has him eight shots off the lead. Herbert managed an even-par 71 but he had a two-stroke lead until an errant tee shot at the par-3 11th. Speaking of which …

    Shot of the day: Not every Shot of the Day is a great shot. Herbert made a long birdie putt on the eighth and was two clear of the field through 10 holes. But he hit his tee shot long at the 11th and was not able to find it. He had to re-tee, made double bogey and lost his advantage. He’s now chasing a major champion in the final round.

    Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 4:30 am

    Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.

    Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

    “I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.

    Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.

    “Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.

    Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.

    “Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”

    South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

    By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

    South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

    Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

    Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

    Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

    So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

    Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

    The fourball results:

    LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

    LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

    LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

    KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

    LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

    LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

    NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.

     

    Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

    By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

    In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

    Made Cut

    The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

    Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

    “I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

    Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

    Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

    This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

    Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

    Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

    The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

    Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

    Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

    The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

    First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

    “You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

    A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

    “The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

    For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

    Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

    “I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

    Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

    “Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

    Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

    Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


    Missed Cut

    Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

    Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

    “That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

    Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

    While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.