Slumping Singh Still Searching for Win

RSS

Vijay Singh took an exaggerated pause at the top of his swing, the iron set in a good position, then completed the shot and watched it soar against blue skies Wednesday at Quail Hollow.
 
The club still feels like a wand in the hand of a wizard. His swing is smooth and powerful as ever.
 
The only thing missing is a trophy.
 
Singh is the defending champion when the Wachovia Championship starts Thursday, a place that brings back happy thoughts. He closed with a 6-under 66 last year to get into a three-man playoff, then outlasted Jim Furyk on the fourth extra hole. He made winning look easy, even when he was coming from six shots behind on the last day.
 
Vijay Singh and Jason Gore
Vijay Singh shares a laugh with Jason Gore at the Wachovia Championship.
He won 18 times over a three-year stretch, allowing him to replace Tiger Woods at No. 1 in the world.
 
Now it's a grind.
 
Singh shows up at a tournament feeling as though his game is as good as ever until something breaks down - his driving one week, his irons another week, sometimes his putting.
 
The result is his longest drought in seven years without a victory, and he's running out of answers.
 
'I thought I was pretty close in Houston,' he said. 'And obviously it wasn't.'
 
Singh shot 75 in the third round at Houston and wound up in a tie for 36th, his worst finish of the year.
 
He was poised to capture The Players Championship, one shot out of the lead and playing in the final group. He tumbled to a 77. Perhaps his best chance to win this year was the season-opening Mercedes Championship, but he three-putted for par from 100 feet and lost a playoff to Stuart Appleby.
 
'I'm coming back with not having won for I don't know how many tournaments,' Singh said, 'but just looking forward to playing here again. I have a lot of good memories over here.'
 
Singh has gone 18 starts on the PGA TOUR without winning, his longest stretch since he went 18 between winning the Houston Open and the Tour Championship in 2002. His last victory was nine months ago at the Buick Open, and the last time he went that many months without winning was in 1999.
 
But he hardly looks worried, and there is no reason to panic.
 
'I worked really hard last week and felt good yesterday,' Singh said. 'For the first time, I felt like I was getting very close to where I want to be.'
 
Singh has seven top 10s this year, and he is ninth on the money list with $1.8 million. He lost the No. 1 ranking to Woods last year, and now has slipped to No. 4 behind Masters champion Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen.
 
If his game looks off, it's because there are natural comparisons to where he was.
 
The 43-year-old Fijian hit full stride and stayed at that pace for the better part of three years. He won four times in 2003 when he challenged Woods for player of the year, won nine times and a record $10.9 million in 2004 when he was unquestionably the best player in golf, then added four more victories last year.
 
'His level of play has been incredible the last three or four years,' Mickelson said. 'It's hard to have everything clicking all the time, but he's been able to do it for such a sustained period of time that if he goes just a few months without a win, everyone is clamoring, 'What's wrong with Vijay?' But he's playing incredible golf, and he'll get back to that level.'
 
Mickelson has had moments of brilliance himself, once going 10 consecutive rounds atop the leaderboard. But he could not relate to three years of top-shelf golf.
 
Ernie Els won four tournaments in the first two months of 2004. But three years?
 
'What kind of a drought has he got?' Els said. Told it was nine months, the Big Easy added, 'that answers your question.'
 
'He's been a top player for the last 10 years, and we all work on our swings, we all change things,' Els said. 'We keep working and then we're trying to get better, and sometimes you get worse trying to get better. You've just got to give it some time, be patient for it to turn around, and when it does turn around, you feel like you can start winning again.'
 
Singh would love nothing better than for that to happen this week.
 
The Wachovia Championship is in its fourth year, and already is one of the premiere events on the PGA Tour. The purse is $6.3 million, Quail Hollow reminds players of a major championship course, and the field is one of the strongest of the year.
 
Even without Tiger Woods, whose decision not to play allowed him to be home with his father when Earl Woods died Wednesday, the field features nine of the top 11 players in the world. David Toms, who won at Wachovia in 2003, withdrew earlier in the week.
 
The rough is thick, the fairways are a little tighter, and the greens already are firm and fast.
 
'I think it's going to be a very tough test of golf,' said Mickelson, who tied for 15th last week in New Orleans in his first tournament since winning the Masters. 'It's playing very similar to the way a PGA (Championship) is set up. It's a fair golf course, but it's extremely tough.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Wachovia Championship