Notes Singh Content with 2004


04 Tour Championship by Coca-ColaATLANTA -- Singh looked at Sunday as the beginning, not the end.
The 41-year-old Fijian wrapped up one of the greatest years in golf history with his best round of the week, shooting a 5-under 65 to finish ninth at the Tour Championship.
Singh came to East Lake with a chance to become the first player since 1950 to win 10 tournaments in a year. He surged into contention on the front nine, getting as low as 7 under for the round, but bogeys at 16 and 17 ended his hopes.
'It would have been nice to get 10 wins, but I'll take nine,' Singh said. 'Ten wins is a dream year. That's why it hasn't happened in some 50 years.'
Singh already had a dream year financially, becoming the first player to win $10 million in a season. In fact, he just missed getting to $11 million, coming up $94,834 short on the official money list.
After a short break, Singh will begin preparing for 2005. He doesn't want the year he became the world's No. 1 player to be the pinnacle of his career.
'This is not the end,' he said. 'I'm just beginning a great career, I hope. I can't wait to get out there and do it again.'
One other thing: Singh clinched his first Vardon Trophy by having the PGA Tour's lowest scoring average (68.84), beating out Ernie Els (68.98).
Tiger Woods, who had captured the award five years in a row, dropped to third at 69.04.
On the driving range before the final round, Jay Haas got in some extra swings with his 5-wood. He thought they would come in handy at the 18th hole.
'I had visions of coming to the last hole and needing a par to win the tournament,' Haas said. 'I felt like it was going to come down to me and somebody.'
As it turned out, the oldest player ever to make the Tour Championship was hopelessly out of contention by the time he got to the final hole.
The 50-year-old Haas, who was tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at the start of the day, looked his age coming down the stretch. He played the last six holes at 4 over, including a crushing double bogey at No. 16.
Haas drove into the thick rough along the right side, forcing him to pitch it back out into the fairway. Then, after getting on the green, he three-putted from 26 feet.
'The greens were very quick, but there was no wind to speak of,' Haas said. 'It probably played as easy as it could have all week, and I just didn't have it.'
After shooting in the 60s the first three days, Haas closed with a 5-over 75. He wound up in a tie for seventh, seven strokes behind winner Retief Goosen.
When it was over, Haas sure felt his age.
'It's hard to look back on the whole thing and get past today,' Haas said. 'When I play rounds like I did the first three days, I feel like I can still do this. When I play like I did today, I feel like I'm done and I can't do this anymore.'
Padraig Harrington is joining the PGA Tour next year, which he hopes will help him win a major on this side of the Atlantic.
While Harrington is one of the top players in Europe, he's heard over and over that his chances at the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship are hampered by his winless record in the United States.
'I don't want anything to take away from winning a major,' Harrington said. 'I don't want anyone questioning on Saturday whether I can hold up.'
The Irishman intends to play 16 to 18 tournaments in the United States, after entering only four regular Tour events this year. He'll also maintain his schedule on the European Tour, which means he'll likely take part in about 30 tournaments overall.
'I've won plenty of events, but there's still that tag when I come here that I haven't won here,' he said. 'The only way to get rid of it is to win here.'
Harrington came oh-so-close to his first American victory this year. He was runner-up in the Players Championship, finished fourth at the BellSouth Classic and lost in a playoff at the Buick Classic.
He got into the Tour Championship based on his earnings in the United States, which would have put him in the top 30 if he was a member of the Tour. He didn't contend this week, finishing 11 strokes behind winner Retief Goosen in 14th place.
'I'm happy with my year,' Harrington said. 'I definitely feel I'm a much stronger player than I was last year.'
He had planned to join the American-based tour for 2004, but the birth of his son, Patrick, put those plans on hold. The youngster is now 14 months old, and his father figures the timing is right.
'It's easier to travel,' Harrington said. 'If I'm going to do it, I better do it now.'
He won't be moving to the United States. He's comfortable in Dublin and there's plenty of flights to and from Ireland.
'I'll fly out tonight, sleep on the plane and be home tomorrow,' he said on his way out of East Lake.
While Phil Mickelson came within five shots of winning the Grand Slam, he couldn't be happy with the way his year ended.
The Masters champion played four of his last five tournaments over par - 5 over at the NEC Invitational, 7 over at the Canadian Open, 5 over at Chrysler and 4 over at Tour Championship.
He was 9 under in Las Vegas, but withdrew with food poisoning.
Mickelson shot a closing-round 74 at East Lake and dropped to No. 3 on the final money list. Ernie Els, who closed with a 67, beat out Lefty for the runner-up spot by $2,392.
Not that Mickelson did too shabby, ending up with nearly $5.8 million.
Jesper Parnevik was glad that Padraig Harrington didn't win at East Lake. That would have knocked the Swede out of the 40th spot on the official money list - and cost him a spot at the 2005 Masters. ... Another player breathing easier: Tag Ridings kept his hold on the 125th spot and keeps his Tour card for 2005. ... Stephen Ames danced on the green after rolling in an 18-foot par putt on the final hole. No wonder. The Canadian clinched a tie for fourth and earned $248,000, winding up eighth on the season money list with more than $3.3 million.
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