Same old song for Singh
Sunday was a busy sports day, with superstar athletes doing superstar things all over the world. Barry Bonds hit his 703rd career home run. Peyton Manning threw five first-half touchdowns. And Serena Williams won a tournament in China.
But with all due respect to Bonds, Manning, Williams and countless others, no professional athlete has been as dominant recently as Vijay Singh.
With his victory at the 84 Lumber Classic, Singh won his fifth event in his last six starts -- the greatest run the PGA Tour has seen in years.
As the Weekly 18 suggests, maybe Singh's wins are boring. Maybe he needs to play with more style. Maybe he should be more popular.
And maybe he doesn't care about any of that. Maybe all he cares about is winning.
From the Department of Redundancy Department: Vijay Singh won again on the PGA Tour.
You may have read this story already. Singh gets lead, Singh keeps lead, Singh wins tournament. If there's more to the formula than that, Vijay isn't letting us in on the secret.
When Tiger Woods was lapping fields a few years ago -- take the 2000 U.S. Open for example, where he won by 15 strokes -- he was doing so with a style and flair that we hadn't seen since Arnold Palmer was in his prime. Tiger was electric; his talent led to him becoming the most popular athlete on the planet and, without a doubt, one of its richest. The more Woods won, the more the sport of golf won, as TV ratings grew and tournament purses vaulted to all-time highs. By comparison, Singh is, well, boring. He hits the ball a mile off the tee, almost always straight down the fairway. He knocks a high percentage of iron shots close to the hole. And, since switching back to a standard putter at the Buick Open, he's been making an awful lot of birdie putts.
If Tiger Woods is a cherry-red Porsche then Vijay Singh is a family sedan: safe, reliable and never flashy but gets from Point A to Point B with seemingly no trouble.
Call Singh boring and he's likely to chuckle and shrug his shoulders. After all, if being boring means setting a single-season PGA Tour record by winning more than $10 million and claiming eight victories, then any golfer would love to be as boring as Singh.
Chris DiMarco has been hot lately. Not only was he the only U.S. Ryder Cupper to finish above .500 (he was 2-1-1 in four matches), on Sunday DiMarco grabbed his fourth top-six finish in his last five starts. Starting with The International (when he failed to build on a large lead he owned entering the weekend), DiMarco has finished T-6, T-2, T-6, T-24 and T-3 in the last five events he has entered.
The eminently popular John Daly always makes for good television. However, on Saturday it was Daly's announcing, not his playing, that excited viewers. Joining the ESPN broadcast team in the booth, Daly watched Vijay Singh standing over his fifth shot on the 16th hole and surmised, "He's likely to chip it in." Singh did just that, proving either Daly's a terrific analyst or Vijay's a terrific golfer. Either way, it was entertaining stuff.
Vijay Singh and Chris DiMarco were among those who criticized pace of play after Saturday's third round -- and rightly so. Playing in threesomes and with only 74 players still remaining after the cut, most rounds took upwards of five-and-a-half hours to complete. After shooting an even-par 72, Singh blamed the hit-and-wait tempo of the round for his average finish.
Ben Curtis must have been kicking himself after following up a 67-67 start at the 84 Lumber with a third-round 81 that featured seven bogeys, a double-bogey and no birdies. The 2003 British Open champ hasn't contended much on tour since then but trailed Singh by only two strokes on Friday night. Curtis made a strong comeback in Sunday's final round, shooting a 68, punctuated by a hole-in-one on 12 and another eagle on the par-5 16th. If Curtis could have shot just a 70 on Saturday, he would have topped Singh's 273 total by a stroke. Instead, he finished T-32 and was left wondering what happened on Saturday.
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You have to wonder what was going through Tiger Woods' mind when he entered the 84 Lumber Classic last week. Just four days after declaring himself part of the 156-player field, Tiger rescinded his acceptance, instead spending the early part of the week hawking his new Tiger Woods 2005 EA Sports video game everywhere from Good Morning America to Late Night with Conan O'Brien. "I was psyched up to play, but [the Ryder Cup] just took so much out of me emotionally," Tiger said on SportsCenter Tuesday. "Physically, yeah, I could handle it. But emotionally, I'm just spent." Speaking of being spent, the 84 Lumber must have made plenty in ticket sales during the four days Woods was actually in the field. Sure, they didn't get to promote images of his likeness in the months leading up to the event as most other Tiger-inclusive tournaments do, but the event certainly got a boost from late buyers expecting to see Woods compete.
Just over a month ago, Phil Mickelson announced plans to play a full schedule for the remainder of the season, in part to make a run at his first career Player of the Year award. Since then Singh has locked up those honors and Mickelson has been the subject of controversy. After locking up his fourth top-six finish of the season at the PGA Championship, Phil switched allegiances from Titleist to Callaway, then became posterboy for what went wrong in the Ryder Cup, eschewing two team practice rounds and claiming only one point in four matches. Now comes word that Mickelson will skip the AmEx Championship in Ireland, citing "personal reasons."
2006 was supposed to be Payne Stewart's year to captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Stewart was ultimate team player, an emotional man with a strong sense of gamesmanship. His untimely death in a 1999 plane crash left a void -- not only in the world of golf, but in the line of succession for Ryder Cup captains. What better way for the PGA of America to remember Stewart than to give the job to one of his best friends -- Paul Azinger. No Ryder Cup slouch in his own right, 'Zinger collected 6½ points in 15 career matches spanning three decades and fueled the once-frosty relationship with the Euros. Other potential '06 captains all maintain drawbacks; Tom Lehman (three Cups and five tour wins may not be enough credentials), Mark O'Meara (criticized the PGA of America in 1997 for not paying players to compete), Fred Couples (not enough of an emotional leader) and Corey Pavin (hasn't been involved in Cup play since '95) comprise Azinger's main competition. The U.S. team evidently needs a spark to regain the Cup. Perhaps invoking the memory of Payne Stewart in the form of Azinger will do the trick.
Just hours after the European team clinched their fourth Ryder Cup victory in five years, London bookmakers were setting odds as to who may captain the next Euro squad. Nick Faldo, who's won more points than any other player -- European or American -- in Ryder Cup history, is the favorite, with Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie next in line. Monty is already on the record as saying he wants to explore the option of playing in an eighth straight Cup before angling towards the job of captain. Unlike the PGA of America, the European PGA does not name a captain until one year before the event starts.
According to reports, the European Ryder Cup team partied long into the Michigan night last Sunday. At 2 a.m., at the request of Joey Harrington, Padraig's cousin and the Detroit Lions' starting quarterback, the team left an Irish Pub for a Detroit nightclub, but got turned down at the door.
Perhaps the European Ryder Cuppers partied too hard after their win at Oakland Hills. Or perhaps they were still partying when they arrived at Woburn, England, site of The Heritage. Whatever the reason, the four team members who entered the field didn't fare very well. David Howell had the best result, shooting a 7-under 281 to finish 12 strokes behind winner Henrik Stenson. Padraig Harrington was three strokes worse, while Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter failed to make the cut.
The United States team members, on the other hand, did not have much to celebrate following the Ryder Cup loss. Perhaps feeling more comfortable in a stroke-play event at the 84 Lumber, the three Ryder Cuppers who entered all finished in the top-25. Stewart Cink finished in second place, one stroke behind Singh; DiMarco finished T-3; and David Toms finished T-25.
There's been no sophomore slump for Craig Stadler in his second season on the Champions Tour. After claiming three victories in a limited rookie season on the senior circuit a year ago, Stadler won his fifth tournament of '04 at this week's SAS Championship. The win was the Walrus' third in his last three starts, giving him a Vijay-like grasp on the tour's Player of the Year award.
When the 2005 Champions Tour season begins next year, Stadler won't be joined by fellow 51-year-old Jay Haas -- at least not right away. Haas plans to remain active on the PGA Tour for as long as he feels he can compete, while angling toward a spot on next year's Presidents Cup team. Haas, who will turn 51 in December, owns the luxury of already being exempt on both tours through the end of next season. He was 25th on the PGA Tour money list entering the 84 Lumber (where he did not compete) and 30th on the Champions Tour money list in only three starts. If he remains in those positions, Haas will be eligible to play in the Tour Championship and the senior's version of the event, the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
While Craig Stadler was busy running away with the SAS Championship, his son Kevin was seeking a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour. Already with two Nationwide Tour wins this season, the younger Stadler entered the weekend only two strokes out of first place. But Kevin fell out of contention with a third-round 74, finishing T-21 and meaning he would have to wait at least another week to become a full-fledged PGA Tour member.
Speaking of battlefield promotions, it remains to be seen if any Nationwide member can claim one this year. After the Cox Classic concluded on Aug. 8, there were five players with two wins on the tour -- Stadler, D.A. Points, Jimmy Walker, Daniel Chopra and Charles Warren. There are still five players with two wins as that quintet has been shut out in the last six Nationwide events. (Chopra has been playing almost exclusively PGA Tour events.) There are still five tournaments remaining on the Nationwide schedule and if any of these men can make it to the winner's circle, they'll have a PGA Tour card for 2005.
You may have never heard of Anna Acker-Macosko, but she came within one 30-foot putt of history on Sunday at the Long's Drugs Challenge. Acker-Macosko shot a final-round 60 at the par-71 The Ridge Golf Club, making five birdies on the front side and six on the back without a bogey. She barely missed a downhill 30-foot putt on the 18th hole that would have tied Annika Sorenstam's LPGA Tour record of 59. Mired at 117th on the money list entering this event, Acker-Macosko's previous best score this year was a 68 and her previous best career round was a 64. She finished T-5 at the Long's Drugs.
"I feel like I'm giving these guys a 10-yard head start in a 100-yard dash and they're world class and I'm just an amateur."
--Matt Gogel, on paling in comparison off the tee to long drivers Vijay Singh and Chris DiMarco.
Information from ESPN.com's wire services is included.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.
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