Skip to main content

Singh Mentioned Amongst Golfs Greats

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Vijay Singh is starting to hear his name associated with some of golf's greatest players.
His victory at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was his 12th consecutive finish in the top 10, leaving him two short of the modern-day record set by Jack Nicklaus in 1977.
The streak includes three victories in his last nine starts, allowing him to nudge closer to replacing Tiger Woods at No. 1 in the world ranking, a spot no other player has occupied since 1999.
But what pleased the big Fijian the most was a reference Sunday to Ben Hogan.
Along with winning nine majors, Hogan was known for his endless pursuit of perfection, a man who was at peace on the practice range as he repeated the most envied swing in golf.
In some respects, Singh is cut from the same cloth.
'I never met the person,' Singh said. 'I've read every book he wrote, and there's so many stories about him. He never stopped practicing. And not that I follow his footsteps - I don't think I can ever follow his footsteps - it's good to be recognized in the same room with his name.
'There is a guy who worked. He found it in the dirt. That's the way I want to be.'
Singh always leaves his signature on the range.
He digs so many balls out of the dirt in marathon sessions hitting balls, that when he finally leaves, his divots form a series of 3-foot trenches. You can easily find where he was long after he's gone.
'There is a lot more satisfaction when you try to find it, and you find it yourself,' Singh said.
His practice has taken Singh to heights he never imagined.
Already regarded as a great player with his two majors, the '98 PGA Championship and the '00 Masters, Singh has emerged as the closest anyone has come to Woods in the last five years.
Phil Mickelson has won as many times on the PGA Tour since 1999. Ernie Els has won more around the world.
But the best measure of Woods is his consistency.
That's where Singh is.
It started with a tie for sixth in the NEC Invitational at Firestone the week after the PGA Championship.
He challenged on the back nine the next week at the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston, and did it again the following week in Canada after recovering from an opening-round 75.
With a chance to win the PGA Tour money title - a trophy Woods had owned the last four years - Singh won the John Deere Classic, finished two behind Woods at a World Golf Championship, won at Disney and finished two strokes behind Retief Goosen in Tampa.
The only time he hasn't contended during the streak was at the Tour Championship, where a final-round 68 gave him a tie for fifth; and the Sony Open, where he tied for 10th. He has good friend Paul Azinger to thank for that - Azinger missed a 4-foot putt on the final hole that would have bumped Singh down to a tie for 11th.
Still, players are taking notice.
'It kind of reminds me of the streak Tiger was on a few years ago when he won the four majors in a row,' Jeff Maggert said. 'It was like all he had to do was show up and he was going to shoot 5 or 6 under. That kind of reminds me of the way Vijay is playing.'
What Singh has learned is that when he's playing well, he doesn't have to play his best to contend.
That was the case Sunday at Pebble Beach.
Singh was not comfortable with his swing all week, especially when he got to the first tee in a tie for the lead with Arron Oberholser.
Not that it mattered.
Singh hooked his first three tee shots and still managed to make birdies, quickly building a three-shot lead that only got larger the rest of the afternoon at Pebble Beach.
'I found out that on the weekends, if you just play decent - you don't have to shoot lights out - you will always improve your position,' Singh said.
He also revealed why he spends so much time on the practice range.
Singh sticks a shaft into the ground behind him to make sure his plane is correct. He also puts a golf glove under his left armpit to further perfect his position throughout the swing.
But what really turns him on is the flight of the ball.
'I just enjoy hitting good shots,' he said. 'I told my caddie a long time ago - I hit a shot in one tournament, it was great, just the way I want to hit it - I told him, 'If I keep doing it, I don't need to play.' It's such a great feeling. That's what I like to do on the range. It doesn't happen ... maybe a few times in a whole session ... but that's what I'm trying to achieve.'
Where will it lead?
Singh needs two more top 10s to equal Nicklaus' mark, and he's playing this week in the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, a course suited for big hitters. Woods is the defending champion.
The more interesting pursuit is of Woods.
Singh would have to win at a higher rate - he has won three of his last nine - and hope that Woods goes into a real slump for him to be No. 1, and even then, it might not happen this year.
The hardest-working man in golf knows it won't be easy.
'I'm playing the best I can,' he said. 'I want to be No. 1 before I finish playing competitively. But it's a hard feat to take Tiger off the top because he's playing well.
'If I keep playing like I'm doing now, I have a shot - maybe not this year, but in a year or two.'
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
  • Full Coverage - AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.