Who's the fourth?
Most everyone would agree that Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els are the three best players in golf. Masters champion Phil Mickelson seems like a good candidate to fill out the foursome, but that would be ignoring Retief Goosen.
That happens frequently to the quiet South African.
Goosen has won each of the last four years on the PGA Tour, including two U.S. Open titles. He has risen to No. 4 in the world ranking, narrowly ahead of Mickelson to start the year.
'I think looking at a guy like Retief is like a stranger looking at Manhattan -- you don't realize how tall the buildings are until you go there,' Joey Sindelar said. 'Retief is a long hitter with a beautiful, fabulous, slow swing, and nobody even talks about him.'
That's OK with Goosen.
He heard all the cheers for Mickelson when he was beating him at Shinnecock Hills, just like he did at East Lake when he ended the year with a rare comeback against Woods in the Tour Championship.
'I don't let things like that upset me,' Goosen said. 'People have their opinions, and maybe that's the way it is. Phil has won quite a few tournaments. I think I've shown I can make a few putts when I need them.'
Goosen was the first to admit he wasn't in the same league with Singh, Woods and Els after winning the Tour Championship, saying he needed a few more years of winning big tournaments.
'They've been on tour here a little bit longer than me and people know them a little bit better, so I think a couple more years of good play, it might be a different story,' he said.
Goosen doesn't draw much attention to himself, but he does not go unnoticed by his peers.
'Very, very underrated,' Woods said.
'He just goes around the world and does his job,' David Toms said. 'He's not in anyone's face. They don't put him on TV. And maybe he likes it that way. But all the players know how good he is.'
Asked about the 'Big Four,' Goosen smiled and came up with a solution.
'Maybe it should be the Big Five,' he said.
Whatever the case, it will be a long time before all of them are together.
Mickelson is not playing the winners-only Mercedes Championships. Goosen won't be at Torrey Pines. Els is skipping the Match Play Championship. The best bet to see them in the same tournament probably will be The Players Championship.
By then, golf's elite group could be even larger -- or smaller.
Vijay Singh will start the new season without the caddie he has had since June 2003.
Singh and Dave Renwick had a testy relationship toward the end of the Fijian's record-setting season, and it ended in late November at the Grand Slam of Golf in Hawaii.
At least for now.
Renwick is in Scotland, taking a much-needed break from 18 months with the hard-working, and at times hard-nosed Singh.
'I'm not retired,' Renwick said from his home near Edinburgh. 'I spoke to Vijay theother day and said I would call him the first week in March. If I don't come back with Vijay, I'll look for someone else.'
Singh will use his trainer, Joey Diovisalvi, at the Mercedes Championships, and then Paul Tesori at the Sony Open and beyond. Tesori, who had been working for Jerry Kelly, was Singh's caddie until the middle of 2003.
Renwick can enjoy the fruits of his labor. Singh won more than $11 million worldwide last year, and assuming Renwick got the standard 10 percent, the caddie would have earned enough to finish in the top 70 on the PGA Tour money list.
'I'm just going to hang out at home, spend time with the wife and family, not do too much,' Renwick said. 'I'll be ready to get back to work.'
Joey Sindelar is thrilled to be on Maui after winning for the first time in 14 years, although he remains wistful about another piece of paradise: Augusta National.
Sindelar thought he would get into the Masters by finishing in the top 40 on the money list. But in the final event of the year, Jesper Parnevik made an 18-foot birdie on the 18th hole, and Tommy Armour III missed a 3-footer for par. That combination resulted in a $100,000 swing that knocked Sindelar out of the top 40.
'When I missed the cut myself (at Tampa) ... that was my chance,' Sindelar said. 'On Sunday, all my stat friends were calling me saying, 'This could work.' Someone from the tour actually called. We had tears going, that's how happy we were. Then Jesper had to show up, that dirty dog.'
Sindelar doesn't feel sorry for himself.
'It's the Jim Colbert answer,' he said. 'Whenever guys were griping at a player meeting ... he'd stand up in a way only Jim Colbert could and say, 'Play better.' And that's still the answer.'
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Retief Goosen is playing in the Mercedes Championships for the fourth consecutive year, the longest active streak among the 31 players at Kapalua.
'I didn't like golf as much as I thought I did.'
-- British Open champion Todd Hamilton, on what he took out of a busy silly season when he played in India, Japan, Hawaii, South Africa and California.
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