Singh Misunderstood but What a Player

By George WhiteNovember 3, 2003, 5:00 pm
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.
Email your thoughts to George White
Getty Images

McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

@radiosarks on Twitter

Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

Getty Images

Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

“You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

“He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

“I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

“I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

“I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.


Getty Images

Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.