Singh Mentioned Amongst Golfs Greats

By Associated PressFebruary 9, 2004, 5:00 pm
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.
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    Woods' final round is highest-rated FEC telecast ever

    By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 24, 2018, 9:05 pm

    We've heard it a million times: Tiger Woods doesn't just move the needle, he IS the needle.

    Here's more proof.

    NBC Sports Group's final-round coverage of Woods claiming his 80th career victory in the Tour Championship earned a 5.21 overnight rating, making it the highest-rated telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs and the highest-rated PGA Tour telecast in 2018 (excluding majors).

    The rating was up 206 percent over 2017's Tour Championship.


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    Coverage peaked from 5:30-6PM ET (7.19) as Woods finished his round and as Justin Rose was being crowned the FedExCup champion. That number trailed only the 2018 peaks for the Masters (11.03) and PGA Championship (8.28). The extended coverage window (1:30-6:15 PM ET) posted a 4.35 overnight rating, which is the highest-rated Tour Championship telecast on record.

    Sunday’s final round also saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (up 561 percent year-over-year), and becomes the most-streamed NBC Sports Sunday round (excluding majors) on record.

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    Randall's Rant: Woods' comeback story ranks No. 1

    By Randall MellSeptember 24, 2018, 8:40 pm

    We’re marveling again.

    This time over the essence of the man as much as the athlete, over what Tiger Woods summoned to repair, rebuild and redeem himself, after scandal and injury so ruinously rocked his career.

    We watched in wonder Sunday as Woods completed the greatest comeback in the history of sport.

    That’s how we’re ranking this reconstruction of a champion. (See the rankings below.)

    We marveled over the admiration that flooded into the final scene of his victory at the Tour Championship, over the wave of adoring fans who enveloped him as he marched up the 18th fairway.

    This celebration was different from his coronation, when he won the Masters by 12 shots in 1997, or his masterpiece, when he won the U.S. Open by 15 shots in 2000, or his epic sweep, when he won at Augusta National in ’01 to claim his fourth consecutive major championship title.

    The awe back then was over how invincible Woods could seem in a sport where losing is the week-to-week norm, over how he could decimate the competition as no other player ever has.

    The awe today is as much over the transformed nature of the rebuilt man.

    It’s about what he has overcome since his aura of invincibility was decimated in the disgrace of a sex scandal, in the humiliation of a videotape of a DUI arrest, in the pain of four back surgeries and four knee surgeries and in the maddening affliction of chipping yips and driving and putting woes.

    The wonder is also in imagining the fierce inventory of self-examination that must have been grueling, and in the mustering of inner strength required to overcome foes more formidable than Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and today’s other stars.

    It’s in Woods overcoming shame, ridicule, doubt and probably some despair to rebuild his life outside the game before he could rebuild his life in the game.

    Woods may never let us know the detail or depth of those inner challenges, of what helped him prevail in his more spiritual battles, because he’s still fiercely private. He may never share the keys to rebuilding his sense of himself, but he’s more open than he has ever been. He shares more than he ever has.

    As a father of two children, as a mentor to so many of today’s young players, there’s more depth to the picture of this champion today. There also is more for fans to relate to in his struggles than his success. There’s more of the larger man to marvel over.



    The greatest comebacks in the history of sports:


    1. Tiger Woods

    Four back surgeries and four knee surgeries are just part of the story. It’s why Woods ranks ahead of Ben Hogan. Woods’ comeback was complicated by so many psychological challenges, by the demon doubts created in his sex scandal and DUI arrest. There was shame and ridicule to overcome on a public stage. And then there were the chipping yips, and the driving and putting woes.


    2. Ben Hogan

    On Feb. 2, 1949, a Greyhound bus attempting to pass a truck slammed head on into Hogan’s Cadillac on a Texas highway. Hogan probably saved his life throwing himself over the passenger side to protect his wife, Valerie. He suffered a double fracture of the pelvis, a cracked rib, a fractured collarbone and a broken ankle, but it was a blood clot that nearly killed him a few weeks later. Hogan needed 16 months to recover but would return triumphantly to win the 1950 U.S. Open and five more majors after that.


    3. Niki Lauda

    In the bravest sporting comeback ever, Lauda returned to grand prix racing 38 days after his Ferrari burst into flames in a crash in a race in Germany in 1976. Disfigured from severe burns, the reigning Formula One world champion was back behind the wheel at the Italian Grand Prix, finishing fourth. He won the world championship again in ’77 and ’84.


    4. Greg LeMond

    In 1987, LeMond was shot and nearly killed in a hunting accident. Two years later, he won his second Tour de France title. A year after that, he won it again.


    5. Babe Zaharias

    In 1953, Babe Zaharias underwent surgery for colon cancer. A year later, she won the U.S. Women’s Open wearing a colostomy bag. She also went on to win the Vare Trophy for low scoring average that year.


    6. Monica Seles

    Away from tennis for two years after being stabbed with a knife between the shoulder blades during a match in Germany, Seles won in her return to competition at the 1995 Canadian Open. She was the highest ranked women’s tennis player in the world at the time of the attack.


    7. Lance Armstrong

    After undergoing chemotherapy treatment in a battle with potentially fatal metastatic testicular cancer in 1996, Armstrong recovered and went on to win seven Tour de France titles. Of course, the comeback wasn’t viewed in the same light after he was stripped of all those titles after being implicated in a doping conspiracy.


    8. Mario Lemieux

    In the middle of the 1992-93 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins star underwent radiation treatment for Hodgkin disease and missed 20 games. Making a start the same day as his last treatment, Lemieux scored a goal and assist. The Penguins would go on a 17-game winning streak after his return and Lemieux would lead the league in scoring and win the Hart Trophy as league MVP.


    9. Peyton Manning

    Multiple neck surgeries and a spinal fusion kept Manning from playing with the Indianapolis Colts for the entire 2011 season. He was released before the 2012 season and signed with the Denver Broncos. He won his fifth NFL MVP Award in ’13 and helped the Broncos win the Super Bowl in the ’15 season.


    10. Bethany Hamilton

    A competitive surfer at 13, Hamilton lost her left arm in a shark attack in Hawaii. A month later, she was surfing again. Less than two years later, she was a national champion.

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    Woods' win makes us wonder, what's next?

    By Ryan LavnerSeptember 24, 2018, 6:35 pm

    The red shirt and ground-shaking roars.

    The steely glare and sweet swings.

    The tactical precision and ruthless efficiency.

    If not for the iPhone-wielding mob following his every move, you’d swear that golf had been transported to the halcyon days of the early 2000s.

    The Tiger Time Machine kicked into overdrive at East Lake, where Woods won for the first time in 1,876 days and suddenly put two of the sport’s most hallowed numbers – 82 and 18 – back in play.

    “I didn’t understand how people could say he lost this and lost that,” said Hank Haney, Woods’ former swing coach. “He is so good. He’s Tiger Woods. He’s won 79 times. If he can swing, he can win again.”

    The only disappointing part of win No. 80 is that Woods will have to wait four months for another meaningful chance to build upon it. That’s a shame, because all of the pieces are in place for him to make a sustained run, and the Tour Championship might just be the start of an unimaginable final act.

    A season that began with questions about whether a 42-year-old Woods could survive a full schedule with no setbacks ended with him saving his best for last, when his younger, healthier peers seemed to be gassed. Taking his recovery week by week, Woods ended up making 18 starts – his second-heaviest workload since 2005 – and never publicly complained of any discomfort, only the occasional stiffness that comes with having a fused lower spine.

    Remember when Woods’ tanking world ranking was punch-line material? Now he’s all the way up to No. 13 – not bad for a guy who was 1,199th when he returned to competition last December at the Hero World Challenge. Nowhere close to reaching his 40-event minimum divisor, he’ll continue to accrue points and charge up the rankings, putting the game’s top players on notice.


    Final FedExCup standings

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    The victory at East Lake moves Woods only two shy of Sam Snead’s all-time PGA Tour wins record (82), a goal that seemed unthinkable a year and a half ago, when he was bedridden following the Hail Mary fusion surgery. And for those wondering whether he’s capable of chasing down Big Jack, remember that Woods almost picked off two majors this summer, at Carnoustie and Bellerive, with a body and swing that was constantly evolving. 

    Indeed, in an era of TrackMans and coaching stables designed to maximize a player’s performance, Woods has refreshingly gone back to his roots. It always seemed incongruous, watching the game’s most brilliant golf mind scrutinize down-the-line swing video, and so this year he has been a solo act, relying on old feels to guide his new move. The credit for this resurgence is his alone. 

    Sure, there were growing pains, lots of them, and for months each tournament turned into golf’s version of Whack-a-Mole, as yet another issue arose. The two clubs that most consistently held Woods back were his driver and putter, but recent improvements portend well for the future.

    After wayward tee shots cost him the PGA, Woods changed the loft and shaft on his TaylorMade driver. For years, even while injured, he violently attacked the ball in a vain attempt to hang with the big hitters. But these tweaks to his gamer (resulting in lower swing speed and carry distance) were a concession that accuracy was more vital to his success than power. His newfound discipline was rewarded: He ended the season with four consecutive weeks of positive strokes gained: off the tee statistics, and on Sunday he put on a clinic while Rory McIlroy, one of the game’s preeminent drivers, thrashed around in the trees. Woods is still plenty long, closing out his victory with a 348-yard rocket on 18, and from the middle of the fairway he can rely on his vintage iron play. 

    His troubles with the putter weren’t as quick of a fix. Frustrated with his inconsistent performance on the greens, Woods briefly flirted with other models before rekindling his love affair with his old Scotty Cameron, the trusty putter with which he’s won 13 of his 14 majors. It’s exceedingly rare for a player to overcome the frayed nerve endings and putt better in his 40s than his 30s, but Woods was downright masterful on East Lake’s greens.

    “It’s more satisfaction than anything,” said Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava. “People have no idea how much work he put into this.”

    By almost any statistical measure, Woods’ season-long numbers suggest that he’s already back among the game’s elite – even after struggling to walk and swing for the past four years. He’s the best iron player in the game. He finished the season ranked seventh in strokes gained: tee to green. And after his normally stellar short game went MIA for a few years, his play around the greens appeared as sharp as ever.

    And so on Sunday, while watching Woods school the top 30 players on Tour, even Johnny Miller got caught up in the latest edition of Tigermania.

    “He’s not looking like he could win a couple more,” Miller said. “He’s looking like he could win A LOT more.”

    Where Woods’ story is headed – to No. 1 in the world, to the top of Mt. Nicklaus, to the operating table – is anyone’s guess, because this comeback has already defied any reasonable logic or expectation.

    He’s come back from confidence-shattering performances at Phoenix (chip yips) and Memorial (85) and even his own media-day event where he humiliatingly rinsed a series of wedge shots.

    He’s come back from four back surgeries and pain so debilitating that his kids once found him face down in the backyard; pain so unbearable that he used to keep a urine bucket next to his bed, because he couldn’t schlep his battered body to the bathroom.

    He’s come back from an addiction so deep that in May 2017 police found him slumped over the steering wheel of his Mercedes, five drugs coursing through his system, a shocking and sad DUI arrest that was the catalyst for this clear-eyed comeback.

    All of the months of unhappiness and uncertainty nearly came pouring out afterward – the culmination of a remarkable journey from turmoil to redemption that ranks among the most unlikely in sports history. Woods fought back tears as thousands formed a big green mosh pit and chanted his name, a surreal scene even for this larger-than-life legend. Hugging LaCava, Woods said into his caddie’s ear, over and over: “We did it! We did it! We did it!” 

    “He’s pumped up,” LaCava said later. “I’ve never seen him this excited.”

    And not just for this moment, but for the future.

    The prospects are as tantalizing as ever. 

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    DJ may keep cross-handed grip for Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 4:29 pm

    SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – As he’s proven in the past Dustin Johnson isn’t averse to switching things up when it comes to his putting, but this was extreme even for him.

    Johnson switched to a cross-handed grip on the sixth hole during Saturday’s third round at the Tour Championship and continued to use the same grip through the final round.

    It was the first time he’d putted cross-handed in competition and the first time he switched his grip mid-round.


    Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    “I did it a few times on the putting green. Sometimes I do it on the putting green just to get my setup a little bit better because it just levels out my shoulders,” said Johnson, who closed his week at East Lake with a 67 and finished alone in third place. “I was putting well. I hit some bad putts for the first five holes, so after I hit a really bad putt for eagle on 6, the next one I tried it, I made it, so I kept it going.”

    Johnson, who moved back into the top spot in the World Golf Ranking thanks to his third-place finish, was encouraged by his putting on the weekend but he was vague when asked if he planned to putt cross-handed this week at the Ryder Cup.

    “We're going to stick with it for now. We'll try it,” he said.