Singh Misunderstood but What a Player

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OK, so Vijay Singh isnt Tiger Woods. In the very humble opinion of this scribbler, no one else is ' or has been - either. But Singh is having one incredible windup to this season, and I dont care if the guy hes chasing is Soloman the Wise. Too bad for him that its already November.
 
His second-place finish at the Chrysler Championship last week meant that he hasnt finished lower than a tie for sixth since the PGA Championship in August. In his last four tournaments, he has won twice, finished in a tie for second, and finished second. The last four months, he has finished out of the top 10 only twice ' and one of those was an 11th place finish at the Western.
 
Unfortunately, just about everyone knows Singh because of the remarks he allegedly made this year concerning Annika Sorenstam and her entry into Colonial. Dont forget, nice-guy Nick Price voiced strong disapproval, among countless others. Singh says he wasnt quoted correctly ' common when an athlete says something and then reconsiders when he sees it in print. But Singh was commenting in the locker room where tape recorders are not allowed, and the reporter was trying to capture the remarks via longhand. Whether he said it exactly as quoted is open for debate, but Im willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I would give him the benefit even if I were the reporter.
 
Nonetheless, Singh has three or four things going against him ' one is the Annika situation; another is the fact that he is ' lets face it ' a foreigner, and his main adversary, Tiger Woods, is American; another is his reticence at public speaking, exacerbated by the Annika thing; and then there are the allegations that he cheated many years ago in Asia, signing for one stroke lower than he actually had to make a cut ' an accusation that he has denied numerous times since, incidentally.
 
Singh, in short, isnt going to win any popularity contests. But that doesnt mean that he hasnt developed into a superb golfer.
 
He has played nine more events than Woods, meaning Woods has a sizeable lead in the money-won-per-event-played category. On the other hand, it really lends credence to his driving average of 302 yards per whack, seventh best on tour. It speaks reams about his 15th rank in greens-in-regulation, his 13th position in putting, No. 2 ranking in scoring, and his No. 1 ranking on par-4s. He has, in essence, turned in one unbelievable season.
 
A lot of pundits say that Woods raised the bar, to regurgitate a saying that by now is getting pretty nauseating, with his excellence the past five years. It may be the Tiger influence, but for Singh, it is the product of a lot of tiring work.
 
Im playing better than I have before, Singh told a news conference after his finish at Chrysler. Its easier to go out there and hit the wall, and it feels good. I am enjoying playing the game of golf.
 
I have been working physically hard on my golf game. So its just now coming together.
 
I dont think its Tiger doing this - I think everybodys game has risen to the next level, and I just kind of rose with it.
 
Singh will be the first to admit hes made mistakes ' plenty of mistakes. But he seems to have a knack of doing the wrong thing at the worst time. He undoubtedly has hurt himself by being so closed-mouthed to the press. But starting with the incident in 1985 in Asia and going though the Sorenstam thing this year, he feels he has to keep it under wraps. Say no evil, write no evil, thats the motto.
 
But simply clamming up has hardly been the best way to deal with the issue. There are many columnists who get paid to give opinions. And just because the subject hasnt spoken is no reason not to comment ' especially if the subject has played as well as Vijay has. But most of the press are professional in their remarks, he says.
 
A majority of the press treat us with respect, he told Golf Digest last year, but it only takes a few, on the other side, to spoil things.
 
Of course, it only takes a momentary lapse of memory to forget that you said something that might have come out wrong. But Singh has been judged rather harshly, and its time he was cut a little slack.
 
Singh is 40 years old now, but he has the physique of a man in his 20s. Hes 6-2 and still weighs under 200 pounds. He has developed into a superb golfer. If hes 40 or if hes 20, he has proven that dedication to the task at hand can pay remarkable dividends.
 
I don't think there are any secrets out there, Singh said. This year with Jay Haas winning and (Craig) Stadler winning over here, (Peter) Jacobsen winning over here - it doesn't really matter. Age doesn't matter. If you are physically fit and your mind is fresh, I think you can play at any age.
 
Vijay has arrived, even if he is a bit late getting to the ball. But are you aware that he has been inside the top 20 on the money list since 1995, and inside the top five since 1998? Thats six straight years he has finished fifth or better.
 
He plays a lot, but thats what the tournaments are there for. And he wins a lot of the John Deeres and Funai Classics and Hondas and Houstons. But someone has to win them. And meanwhile, Vijay Singh has very slowly, very quietly crept up to a position of real eminence.
 
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