Singh avoids Colonial, but his victory is bigger story


If you think the biggest news out of the Byron NelsonChampionship on Sunday was Vijay Singh using his victory to get himself out of the Colonial, you're not seeing the big picture.

The story was Singh's victory itself, as it establishes him as the new hottest golfer on the PGA Tour and one of the players to beat at next month's U.S. Open.

Since a missed cut at the Players Championship in March -- his second tournament back from a rib injury that kept him out five weeks -- Singh has been on fire, finishing in the top 11 in his last four events before Sunday's win.

Singh's second victory of 2003 puts him in company with Tiger Woods, Mike Weir, Davis Love III and Ernie Els, who also have multiple wins this season. In addition, it puts him in great shape for the U.S. Open, where he's finished in the top 10 three of the last four years.

Singh's break this week, while conveniently helping him avoid the media maelstrom at the Colonial, also comes at a perfect time strategically. The Byron Nelson was Singh's fourth straight event, and he also plans to play the Memorial in two weeks. If he had stuck to his original schedule, he would have played six of the seven weeks leading up to the U.S. Open. That's a tough stretch even for a workhorse like Singh.

By withdrawing from the Colonial, he not only saves himself a headache, but he also gets that all-important extra week off before ramping up to the year's second major. Now, he'll go into the Memorial -- another event he's had success at in the past -- with fresh legs, a clear head and all the momentum in the world.

Some facts and figures from Singh's victory this week:

  • He led the field in greens in regulation and was third in driving distance.

  • He made 21 birdies, tops in the field.

  • After losing his lead to Nick Price late Sunday, a poised Singh drained a 28-foot birdie putt on the 15th -- the second-hardest hole on the course statistically. Before Singh's clutch putt, Price bogeyed that same hole to drop a shot. The two-stroke swing put Singh in the lead for good.

    Five observations
    1. Tiger Woods couldn't get anything going this week at the Deutsche Bank Open, his first event since The Masters.

    In fact, his 29th-place showing was his worst since the 2001 PGA Championship. Woods now has three straight finishes out of the top 10, the first time that's happened since the end of 2001.

    Despite the mini-slump, Woods isn't worried.

    ''I only had three bogeys the entire week,'' said Woods, who was nine strokes back of winner Padraig Harrington. ''I hit good putts, but they just didn't go in. Overall, I'm pleased with the way I played.''

    Tiger will play in the Memorial in two weeks as his final tune-up before defending his U.S. Open title.

    2. The Irishman Harrington will go into the U.S. Open as Europe's top hope to take the trophy across the Atlantic for the first time since 1970.

    The hard-working Harrington beat Thomas Bjorn on the first playoff hole Sunday to win the Deutsche Bank Open, rolling in a 12-footer on the 18th to force the extra hole. It was his second European tour victory this season, and the second straight week he's been in the top two. He also jumped ahead of Ernie Els into the top spot on the order of merit.

    Earlier this year, Harrington tied for second at the Players Championship, and he has five top-10 finishes in major championships in his career. He was tied for eighth at the U.S. Open at Bethpage last year, and was fifth at Pebble Beach in 2000.

    3. Price also falls into the category of players rounding into form at just the right time.

    For the second straight event, Price was in position to make a run on a Sunday afternoon. And unlike last week in Charlotte, Price was up to the challenge at the Byron Nelson. Starting the day three strokes behind Singh, Price birdied four of his first seven holes and took the lead after another birdie on 11.

    However, a bogey on 15 dropped him from the top spot, and he had to settle for a runner-up finish. Still, it was his second straight top-5, and he has to be the favorite for this week's Colonial, where he's the defending champion.

    4. David Duval's struggles continued at the Byron Nelson this week, where he missed his seventh straight cut after a 77-69 start.

    His first two rounds included three double bogeys, five bogeys and just three birdies. His first-round 77 was his seventh score of 76 or worse in his last 14 rounds. He hit less than 25 percent of the fairways (he hit just 7 percent in the first round) and missed more than half of the greens in regulation. On the bright side, his 1-under 69 on Friday was his first round under par since February.

    5. Jay Sigel put his back problems behind him this week and became the 12th winner in 12 events on the Champions Tour in 2003.

    Sigel held off a charging Mike McCullough with a course-record-tying 7-under 65 on Sunday. Hale Irwin, who leads the Champions Tour money list, made an early charge Sunday but settled for fourth place.

    Up next ...
    PGA Tour: The Colonial
    The Annika show is finally here. Annika Sorenstam becomes the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event in 58 years this week, but Singh -- highly critical of Sorenstam's inclusion in the event -- won't be on hand. He pulled out of the tournament after winning the Byron Nelson on Sunday. Including Singh, the top five on the money list won't be in Fort Worth, Texas, and Phil Mickelson (No. 4 in the World Ranking) is the top-ranked player in the field.

    European tour: Volvo PGA Championship
    It looks like Ernie Els' wrist injury won't prevent him from playing in the flagship event on the European tour. Els, who missed last week's Deutsche Bank Open with a sore wrist, said he'll likely play this week against a field that includes Colin Montgomerie, Retief Goosen, Nick Faldo and Jose Maria Olazabal.

    LPGA Tour: Corning Classic
    While Annika's on the PGA Tour, the LPGA Tour gets back to work this week after a short break. Karrie Webb heads the field, which will be without money leader Se Ri Pak.

    Champions Tour: Columbus Southern Open
    The 50-and-over crew heads to Georgia for the second time this year.

    Nationwide Tour: SAS Carolina Classic

    David Lefort is ESPN.com's golf editor, and can be reached at david.m.lefort@espn3.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.