After winning seven times in his first seven years on tour, Sindelar went 14 years and 370 tournaments without a trophy until a stunning victory last May in the Wachovia Championship, where he surged past Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and beat Arron Oberholser in a playoff.
It got him back to the Mercedes Championships at age 46, and it truly felt like paradise.
'To start the year here, I'm a little bit mad that my vacation was shortened by a couple of weeks to have to come and do this, but I'm getting over it,' Sindelar said with his engaging smile. 'It's working OK.'
Where does he go from here?
He could follow the path of Jay Haas, who resurrected his game at age 48 and played well enough to put the Champions Tour on hold. Haas, who turned 51 last month, has qualified for the Tour Championship the last two years and played on the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams.
'He didn't see it as a swan song,' Sindelar said. 'He said, 'I'm going to run with it.' I have to be realistic. The guys in the top 10 or 20 or even beyond are so driven, and it's their life. And I'm in a different place in my golf life and my life-life. I don't know that I'm even trying to beat that.
'I work hard. I try to be my best. I definitely think I can win again. Do I think I'll be No. 1 on the money list? I don't think that's where I'm going.'
Sindelar isn't even sure what to expect this week.
He hit three buckets of balls around Christmas when he caught a pristine day in Horseheads, N.Y. -- 20 degrees and no wind. Then he went to Palm Springs, Calif., last week to get ready, and found the weather not much better.
'It would be a fluke for me to finish in the top five,' said Sindelar, who shot 2-under 71 in the first round Thursday, leaving him five shots out of the lead. 'I'm just building up arm strength and making sure that the divot is in front of the ball, stay on the green when you hit the first putt, all that kind of stuff.'
A dream year would be getting into the Tour Championship. Sindelar finished in the top 30 on the money list three out of four years early in his career, but last made the elite field in 1988 after finishing No. 3 on the list.
'That would thrill me,' he said. 'That would be the measure of a good year.'
Tiger Woods is still No. 1 on at least one list. In its annual list of total earnings, Golf Digest magazine reports that Woods made more than $89 million in endorsements, earnings and appearance money last year, more than three times the amount of Phil Mickelson.
That also was tops in sports, beating out Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher, who made an estimated $80 million. Woods' amount placed him fourth among top entertainers behind Mel Gibson and Oprah Winfrey ($210 million each) and 'Harry Potter' author J.K. Rowling ($147 million).
Woods was estimated to have earned $75 million in endorsements alone.
Mickelson cashed in for $25.8 million, while 75-year-old Arnold Palmer made $23.7 million. They were followed by Ernie Els ($20.1 million) and Vijay Singh ($18.6 million). Of the top five, Singh was the only player who made more money in tour earnings than endorsements.
The 50 golfers on the magazine's list accounted for $427 million in earnings on and off the course last year, up $38 million from 2003.
SPORTS IN AMERICA
Retief Goosen gets just as bored watching sports in America as most Americans do in other parts of the world. He prefers rugby, cricket and soccer.
'I could probably watch a bit of basketball, American football,' he said. 'Baseball is not something that's really exciting for me. A bit too slow.'
Goosen didn't watch the World Series and doesn't even know who won this year. He did go to a baseball game one year in Canada, but didn't stay long.
'Forty-five minutes,' he said. 'Nothing happened. I went home.'
He likes auto racing, but thinks NASCAR is too boring unless there's a crash. And he doesn't mind hockey. Told there is no major league hockey this year because of the lockout, the laconic South Africa merely shrugged.<
Vijay Singh has agreed on a new deal with Cleveland Golf in which he will use all its driver, fairway metals, irons, wedges and putters. Singh has been with Cleveland since leaving Wilson after the 1999 season.
The new deal also means a change in drivers. Singh, who used a TaylorMade last year when he won nine times and earned nearly $11 million, started the year with a Cleveland Launcher 460.
'It's going 460 yards, too,' he said with a laugh.
Singh said he felt comfortable with the new club during the first round, when he opened with a 66 for a one-shot lead. And he felt good about the contract extension. Terms were not disclosed, but Singh said the deal virtually assures that he will play Cleveland equipment for the rest of his PGA Tour career.
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