This is a streak that has been inexorable, remarkable and a tantalizing mixture of hard work and the sheer joy of properly striking a golf ball.
But the level of sophistication to which Vijay Singhs understanding has risen with regards to his position in the Official World Golf Rankings and his exalted status vis--vis Tiger Woods is also remarkable.
Late Sunday afternoon, after he had won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am by three strokes over Jeff Maggert, Singh didnt have to wait long for the question. Are you, the question demanded, the best player in the world right now? Singhs reply was agile.
Didnt say he was. Didnt say he wasnt. This is a cat and mouse game that will be played out as long as Singh retains his current rich vein of form. If Woods is the cat, Singh is the mouse that is roaring.
Singh also understands that this is a marathon, not a sprint. He knows we are already rubbing our hands together in gleeful anticipation of a field at this weeks Buick Invitational that includes himself, Woods and Phil Mickelson, who at the beginning of last season held Singhs No. 2 spot in the world rankings.
Mickelson has won the Buick Invitational before. He has stopped Woods in his tracks there before. And he has clawed his way back to No. 9 in the world. Mickelson has played in three events this year and has three top 10s including a win at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
Mickelson and Singh, in the same foursome each day, squared off for the first 54 holes at the Monterey Peninsula. Mickelson was leading the tournament as late as Saturday afternoon at Pebble Beach. Thats when Singh burned the back nine for a torrid 31. Mickelson needed 38 blows. Mickelson wound up third. Tail lights.
Singh wound up in the seat late Sunday answering the questions about whos the best player in the world.
The answer, of course, is Woods. But there is a sense that Singh is spearheading some kind of palace revolt that includes insurgents like Mickelson and Ernie Els who, oh-by-the-way, torched the stout test that is Royal Melbourne for a 60 Thursday en route to his third straight Heineken Classic in Australia.
Is Woods worried about any of this? Of course not. Woods is long past wasting energy on things he cant control.
Is Woods paying attention to any of this? Absolutely. He knows if he processes these challenges and re-directs the energy to the right competitive engine room, it can serve as fuel.
If Bay Hill (Mar. 18-21) doesnt give us Woods, Singh, Els and Mickelson on the same stage, The Players Championship (Mar. 25-28) will. We will have more answers by April 11, Masters Sunday.
What we have at the moment is delicious speculation. Its a little like examining the past performance charts in The Daily Racing Form in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby.
If golf were boxing--which, thankfully, it is not--there would be a torrent of words and a storm of posturing right now. Vijay Singh, for one, has learned that this is not the way of his sport. Part of the reason he has learned this is because he has put his foot in his mouth in public on at least one prior occasion.
But the main reason, right now, is that Singh is completely content to let his clubs do the talking. The language of those clubs, right now, is more poetic than prosaic. The meter is precise. The verse is clean.
Its quite something.
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