Who is the most surprising non-winner this season?
They are two of the more accomplished players of the past decade. Vijay Singh and Ernie Els consistently have ranked among the world's top golfers, as each counts three major championship titles to his credit.
Here's one more thing they have in common: In a combined 21 PGA Tour starts this season (12 for Singh; nine for Els), neither has claimed a victory. It is a surprise on both counts, considering they've accounted for 28 total wins since the start of 2000. But whose failure to reach the winner's circle comes as more of a shock? Bob Harig and Ron Sirak debate in this week's edition of Alternate Shot.
Vijay Singh came into this season ranked No. 2 in the world. He won four times last year, nine times the year before and a total of 19 PGA Tour events the past four years. It was an amazing pace, one you could not expect him to keep up, especially considering he just turned 43.
But no victories? That has to be among the surprises of the year on the PGA Tour. The man did not simply lose his skills. He still is among the hardest workers and plays so many tournaments. But other than a playoff loss to Stuart Appleby at the season-opening Mercedes Championships, Singh has been virtually absent on Sundays.
Worse, he has had some final-round disappointments, including a 71 at The Masters, where he tied for eighth, and a 77 at The Players Championship, where he seemed poised to win his hometown event but tied for eighth.
Perhaps more alarming is that Singh has not contended in his past three tournaments, failing to finish among the top 30, including a tie for 48th at the Byron Nelson, his worst result since he missed the cut at the Chrysler Championship this past fall.
Curiously, the part of his game that usually haunts Singh is statistically just fine. He is 19th on the PGA Tour in putting average and a respectable 63rd in putts per round. And he is third in the all-around ranking. He is among the top 10 in four other categories.
But for some reason, Singh has not been a winner yet this year. And that is a big surprise.
-- Bob Harig
Ernie Els, hands down. This is a guy who has gone from being one of the Big Five to being a Big Bust. And the fact is that we have to be extremely unfair to Els here. We are going to hold him to a totally unrealistic standard by which to assess his performance.
Els has won a good deal of money this year -- more than $800,000. He has made the cut in every PGA Tour event he has played, and he has finished in the top 10 three times. Not bad numbers, but a player with the talent of Els has to do better than "not bad."
There always has been some suspicion about how much Els actually wanted to be great, and whether he had the heart and desire to be a great champion. It speaks volumes about Els' talent and his competitive fire to say that even as a three-time major championship winner, he has had a disappointing career.
True, Els is coming off a knee injury that limited him to 11 PGA Tour events last year. But as of right now, this is the longest stretch Ernie has gone winless on the PGA Tour since he won the U.S. Open in 1994.
At only 36, Els is young enough to add to the two U.S. Opens and one British Open he has won. It was realistic to think Els would come back from his injury-shortened season well rested and with a new fire. The fact that hasn't been the case is both surprising and disappointing.
The Big Easy is the Big Surprise of 2006. He should have a win by now.
-- Ron Sirak