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A Little Late-Season Magic

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2005 Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World ResortVijay Singh was like a dominant college football program a year ago. He was the hot knife. His fall schedule was butter.
 
From August to November, the Buick Open to the season-ending Tour Championship, Singh competed in nine tournaments. He won six of them.
 
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh has won 19 PGA Tour events over the last four seasons.
One of those three tournaments in which he did not prevail was the Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort. He tied for second, finishing three shots back of Ryan Palmer, who closed in 10-under 62 for his first tour title.
 
When Singh made his way to the Magic Kingdom last season, he had eight wins to his credit, including a major championship, and was officially ' and undisputedly ' the No. 1-ranked player in the world.
 
Fast-forward a year, and Singh is a four-time winner ' with no majors, and is much, much closer to the third position on the Official World Golf Ranking than the first.
 
Its not that Singh has had a terrible campaign. Hes second to Tiger Woods in both victories (4) and earnings ($7,733,503).
 
The difference between 04 and 05, however, has been The Close.
 
Singh repeated his victory at the Buick Open, but unlike last year, it didnt catapult him to greater heights. Though he has four top-10s in his five starts since leaving Grand Blanc, he doesnt have another win.
 
He looks to reapply the glass slipper this week in the shadows of Cinderellas Castle.
 
The event takes place on two courses: the Palm (par 72, 7,015 yards) and the host Magnolia (par 72, 7,516 yards). The 'Mag' is played exclusively over the weekend. It has been lengthen by over 300 yards.
 
Singh won this event in 2003. But its a fellow past winner ' a two-time champ ' who will likely be his chief opponent.
 
Five for the Title:
 
Tiger Woods
Woods has once again distanced himself from the rest of the golf world. He captured his sixth event of the season in his last start, a playoff victory over John Daly in the WGC-American Express Championship. In eight fewer starts this year, he leads Singh by over $2 million on the money list. Woods has had 42 opportunities to play on tour this season, but, including the Presidents Cup, has teed it up only 20 times. He certainly loves his time off. But he loves returning to competition even more. He is most dangerous when taking off just one week. He has played in 10 events this season after taking a one-week hiatus, and has returned and won four of those tournaments and finished runner-up in three of them. Thats again the scenario this week. Woods, who is still nursing some sore ribs he injured at the Presidents Cup, won this event in 1996 and 99, and was runner-up to Singh in 03.
 
Vijay Singh
Singh has again been impressive ' just not quite as impressive as a year ago. While the most glaring numerical difference between this season and its predecessor is in the win tally, a closer look shows why there is such a discrepancy between the two. Singhs statistical numbers are just a little bit worse this year in just about every major category: greens hit in regulation; putting average; birdie average; scoring average; scoring average before cut; third-round scoring average; final-round scoring average. It might sound bad, but he still ranks in the top 10 on tour in six of these seven categories. It just goes to show you how incredibly he played a year ago ' and how hes not too far removed from that form.
 
Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen is playing for the first time since the Presidents Cup.
Retief Goosen
Goosen is ready to return to action after being forced to pull out of the AmEx due to a groin injury. With his win in this years International, he continued a streak of five consecutive seasons with at least one tour title. Now hes in search of his second straight multiple-win season. He has played this event once before, tying for 18th in 2003.
 
Jason Gore
This would be the perfect place for Gore to win, as his year seems like it was scripted by Walt Disney himself. Gore has already had a dream season, but he would love to cap it by qualifying for the Tour Championship. He is currently 88th on the money list, almost $1 million behind No. 30. He has two more opportunities ' this week and next weeks Chrysler Championship ' to punch his ticket to Atlanta.
 
Chris DiMarco
DiMarcos search for that elusive fourth tour title continues this week, right down the interstate from his Orlando home. DiMarco has had some success in this event. He looked like a runaway victor in 2002. But after opening in 64-63, he closed in 69-68 and finished one shot higher than Bob Burns. He tied for 16th last year.
 
Playing Out the Front Nine
 
Four more to keep an eye on
 
*Fred Couples, who is trying to qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time since 1998. Couples is currently 32nd on the money list.
 
*Charles Howell III, who is also trying to earn a trip to compete at East Lake. The Orlando resident, whose only tour title came in 2002, has four top-5s this season and is 30th in earnings after his fifth place finish in Vegas.
 
*Briny Baird, who finished tied for second here a year ago. Baird was in danger of losing his card until a strong performance in last weeks Michelin Championship at Las Vegas. He may be able to ride the momentum of his eighth-place showing to his first tour win.
 
*Ryan Palmer, who is the defending champion. Palmer has amassed over $1 million for the second straight year. He tied for 12th last week in Vegas. He is trying to become the first repeat winner of this event since Tim Simpson in 1990.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort