Singh Woods at Ease on PGA Eve

By Mercer BaggsAugust 10, 2005, 4:00 pm
2005 PGA ChampionshipSPRINGFIELD, N.J. ' Tiger Woods ended his pre-tournament interview Tuesday and then engaged in a 20-minute, impromptu gab session with some media types.
 
Vijay Singh started his pre-tournament interview Wednesday with a few one-liners about his public speaking skills, nearly putting the moderator in tears.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has looked focused on the course, but relaxed off of it.
These actions, from these two players, can best be described as unusual ' particularly given the circumstances.
 
Woods never, ever chats casually with reporters ' especially at a major championship ' unless its in the locker room around a few of those he trusts.
 
And while Singhs friends love to point out that he does have a sense of humor, its rare that he actually showcases it to the working press.
 
The top 2 players in the world appear very comfortable and sound quite confident as they get ready to engage in the final major of the season at the 87th PGA Championship.
 
There are, the field list says, 156 men who will be competing on the 7,392-yard, par-70 Lower Course at Baltusrol Golf Club. There are, however, two who clearly stand above the rest in terms of accomplishment and expectation.
 
The Big Four, which became the Big Five, is now the Big Two.
 
Woods has won four times this season, including the Masters and the British Open. He hasnt had a finish outside the top 3 since missing the cut at the Byron Nelson in May.
 
Singh has also won four tournaments; though, no majors. In his most recent performance, he smoked Woods head-to-head (63 to 70) in the third round at Warwick Hills en route to claiming his third Buick Open title.
 
Tigers campaign is drawing favorable comparisons to that of 2000, the last time he won three majors in a single season. But while it might look like 2000, it doesnt feel that way. Not to Tiger and not to his competitors.
 
I think the atmosphere is nowhere near what it was in 2000, Woods said. I guess from some guys Ive talked to this week, you know, in the media, just the novelty factor is not there anymore; Ive already done it.
 
In 2000, he was a phenomenal player that nobody could touch, said Padraig Harrington. I think now hes still a great player, but I dont think ' hes probably not as untouchable as he was in 2000.
 
There definitely was a perception if he was in the field he was going to win, at that time, Lee Janzen said. I think the perception now is that he is still the guy to beat, but its not ' I dont think guys think its a given that he is going to win.
 
Well, certainly his wins would lead anybody to feel that way, Phil Mickelson said about a 2000 revival. But as a player and a competitor, I dont really subscribe to that.
 
I showed to everybody and to the rest of the world that he can be beatable two months ago, said Michael Campbell. He was favored to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst; I managed to knock him off his pedestal for a week, which is nice.
 
Tiger Woods 2005 is not Tiger Woods 2000. Nor does he want to be. He wants to improve upon that. Become more dominant. Even more untouchable than ever before.
 
I dont want to go back to 2000. I want to become better than that. Thats why I made the (swing) changes, said Woods.
 
People ask me, Are you there yet? No. You never get there. And that's the great thing about it. You can always be better the next day. That's how I look at golf and how I look at life. You can always, always be better.
 
No one has improved more over the first half of this decade than Singh. In less than three years, Singh has won 17 PGA Tour events ' seven more than Woods. He has also in that span topped Tiger in the world rankings, on the money list, and for player of the year. He was elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame this year.
 
Another difference between now and then: five years ago, Woods was without peer. Today, there is Singh.
 
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh shared a few laughs early in his press conference, before shifting the tone.
I feel right now Im playing the best golf Ive ever played. To me, Im playing a lot better this year than Ive done last year, said Singh, who won nine times in 2004, including the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
 
Im probably driving the ball much straighter and probably further than I did last year. Im on the same track as last year. I dont know if Im going to do the same thing or not, but you know, I just have to focus on this week and see if I can pull this one off and go from there.
 
Putting not distance, Singh believes, will determine the winner of this event. And both Singh and Woods are quite pleased with their short games at the moment.
 
Just two weeks ago, Singh switched to a mallet-style putter and used a left-hand-low grip. With Woods by his side ' and just one day after Woods had fired 61, Singh made seven birdies over his first nine holes, turning a one-stroke lead into an eight-stroke advantage by days end.
 
Obviously, I was fired up to play with Tiger, Singh said. But I wasnt (under any) pressure at all.
 
Singh and Woods share a rivalry, but not a friendly one. What they do maintain, however, is a mutual regard for one another.
 
How can you not? Woods responded when asked if he respected Singh. What hes done in the game and where he came from; he should be commended. It's not like he was given anything. He went out and earned it.
 
When prompted with the same question about his respect for Woods, Singh replied: Who doesnt? Hes the best player in the golf game right now. Hes been like that for a while. Gosh, if you dont have respect for what hes done, then youre not thinking right.
 
Woods and Singh may feel similarly about one another, but public perception ' and appreciation ' is a different game. While both have their detractors, fans either seem to like or dislike Woods to extremes. Singh has never been embraced as warmly as has Woods, but he has certainly felt the sting. And this he credits to his portrayal in the press.
 
I dont know what I need to do to win you guys. Im not going to beg. Im not going to get down there and get on my knees and say, hey, write good things about me. Im not going to do that, Singh directed toward the media members in attendance.
 
I have not done anything not to win your confidence. Im a player; Im an athlete. I go out there and speak my mind and Im very honest about it. Im not a fake like many guys out here. So you write whatever you want to write, but write what I say, dont mix things over. And thats the way I am.
 
Does he feel underappreciated?
 
In my mind, no, he said. Ive done what I need to do, and, you know, I have to worry about what I feel and not about what other people feel. And I feel great about my game, myself, and what I have done.
 
He also feels great about his chances to win a third career PGA title this week.
 
The guy who putts well is going to win the golf tournament right here, he said.
 
Im really confident with the way Im putting, and I think thats the key to my golf game, is if I start making putt, then Im going to have a good chance of winning tournaments.
 
Woods, a two-time PGA winner (1999, 2000) himself, likes his chances, too. And why not? He seems focused on the course and at ease off of it. At this point in time, he believes he is a better in nearly every aspect of the game than he was five years ago.
 
If there is one thing, though, that hasnt changed since 2000; its his desire to win.
 
The drive is still the same to go out there and win the championship, put myself there and hopefully come out on top, he said. That hasnt changed. Thats still the same.
 
Related Links:
  • Photo Gallery
  • PGA Championship Video Vault
  • Full Coverage - 87th PGA Championship
  • Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

    The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

    The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

    In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

    Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

    Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

    Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

    John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

    Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

    By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

    Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

    Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

    Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

    Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


    FALLING

    J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

    Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

    Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

    DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

    LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

    Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

    Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

    In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

    "Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

    Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

    "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," he wrote.

    The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

    "Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

    Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

    Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

    By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

    We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

    God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

    We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

    Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

    There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

    It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

    Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

    Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

    BORN IN 1912

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
    May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
    Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

    Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


    BORN IN 1949

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
    Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
    Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

    Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


    BORN IN 1955

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
    Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
    Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

    Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

    Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
    Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
    Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
    Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
    Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

    A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


    EUROPE'S BIG 5

    Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
    April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
    July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
    Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
    Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
    March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

    The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


    WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
    Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
    May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
    May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
    June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

    Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


    BORN IN 1980

    Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
    Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
    July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
    July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

    Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

    Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.