Singh Looking to Add a Little Defense


Unlucky and ominous, 13 may be the appropriate number this week for Vijay Singh.
Singh is the defending champion of the EDS Byron Nelson Championship. This is the 13th PGA Tour title that hes had the opportunity to defend.
And judging by past Byron Nelson champions, Singh will have a difficult time sticking around for the weekend, let alone holding on to his title.
Tom Watson was the last player ' and one of only three in the tournament's 51-year history ' to successfully defend his title, when he won back-to-back-to-back from 1979-81.
But the Byron Nelson curse has been more than just players having trouble repeating victory; no defending champion since Fred Couples, who won in 1987, has even finished the following year inside the top 10. And during that stretch six defending champs have missed the cut the year after, including the last two to try.
Even if he does perform well, this will be a title defense like no other for Singh.
This time a year ago the vilification of Vijay began in earnest, when he made a few negative comments, got lambasted by the media, and then rode off into the Texas sunset on Sunday with his black hat and a fist full of dollars.
Singh was openly critical of Annika Sorenstams inclusion ' I hope she misses the cut, he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying ' in the Bank of America Colonial, which was contested the week after the Nelson. But despite the constant barrage of criticism fired his way thereafter, he managed to dodge the onslaught of bullets and win the Nelson by two strokes over Nick Price.
Singh then said he was skipping the Colonial.
It has nothing to do with the controversy, he said at the time. Ive played in four straight tournaments, and I need a break.
Singh went on to have his most fruitful and frustrating season in his 11 years on tour.
He won a total of four times, ended Tigers four-year reign atop the money list, and became the second-ranked player in the world.
He also endured a very testy relationship with both media and fans.
But time seems to have healed many of those wounds, to the point where the mention of Singh's name induces thoughts of briliance not boorish behavior.
Beginning at the Byron Nelson, Singh has played 30 tour events, which includes six victories, five runner-up finishes and 21 top-10s. He has cut his deficit to Tiger Woods in the Official World Golf Ranking from 10.74 to 2.58.
And, with one of the best fields ever comprised at this tournament, hell have an opportunity to gain more points and further close the gap.
Five of the top six players in the world are in attendance, with the exception of No. 4 Davis Love III.
And to make matters more exciting, four of those five have won this event: Ernie Els (No. 3 in the world) in 1995; Phil Mickelson (No. 5) in 96; Tiger Woods (No. 1) in 97; and Singh a year ago.
On the other hand, Mike Weir, ranked sixth in the world, has played this tournament five times, missing four cuts and tying for 11th in 2001.
For the 11th straight year, the tournament will use a two-course rotation. The TPC at Las Colinas (par 70, 7,022 yards) will serve as host, while the Cottonwood Valley Course (par 70, 6,846 yards) will be played by each competitor once over the first two days of the tournament.
Tournament namesake Byron Nelson won the inaugural event in 1944. He was followed by Sam Snead in 45 ' he also won in 57 and 58 ' and Ben Hogan in 46.
Other notable champions include Julius Boros (1959), Jack Nicklaus (1970-71), Raymond Floyd (1977), Ben Crenshaw (1983), Craig Stadler (1984) and Payne Stewart (1990)
This event was Watsons personal playground in the late 70s and early 80s. During an eight-year span, he won three consecutive times, and never finished outside of the top 4.
In those eight years, he banked a total of $275,571. This year, fourth place alone will get $278,400. The winner will get $1,044,000 of the $5.8 million purse.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - EDS Byron Nelson Championship
  • This Week's field