Singh ups the ante with Disney win

Originally Published: October 27, 2003
By David Lefort | ESPN.com

Don't look now, but Tiger Woods is no longer at the wheel.

Vijay Singh and Mickey Mouse
Even Mickey Mouse recognizes how big this win was for Vijay Singh.

Vijay Singh put himself squarely in the driver's seat Sunday, wrestling the money-list lead away from Woods by winning the Funai Classic at Disney. Woods finished four shots back, tied for second.

Singh has a better chance than anyone in the last four years of ending Woods' money-list reign, sitting $250,094 ahead of him with just two events remaining. More significant is that Vijay is playing in both tournaments while Woods is entered in just one.

Singh was the most confident player at Disney on Sunday, turning a four-way tie for the lead on the first hole into a four-stroke ho-hum victory on the 18th. He carded a 5-under 67 for his round, building a healthy lead with five birdies on his first 12 holes.

"I hope I don't wake up from this dream," Singh said after his fourth victory of the season.

At age 40, Singh is playing the best golf of his career. In his last 10 tournaments, he has two wins, three runner-up finishes (including one in a major) and four other top-10s. He'll be No. 2 in the world -- his highest position ever -- when the new rankings come out Monday.

The win also made Singh a serious contender for Player of the Year. He trails only Tiger in number of victories, and he leads the tour in top-10 finishes with 16 in 25 events (including two at majors). The way he's been playing, another win wouldn't be a stretch for Vijay -- particularly because he'll be the defending champion at the Tour Championship.

Some facts and figures from Singh's victory:

  • He ranked 150th in driving accuracy before Disney but hit 68 percent of the fairways this week, often confidently breaking out the driver when other long bombers opted for fairway woods or long irons.

  • He averaged just 26.5 putts per round (third best in the field) and 1.59 putts per green in regulation (second), and, remarkably, drained more than 30 percent of his putts beyond 25 feet (4 of 13).

    Around the tours ...

    Funai Classic at Walt Disney World
    Site:
    Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
    Course:
    Walt Disney World Resort
    Magnolia Course
    (7,190 yards, par 72)
    Palm Course
    (6,957 yards, par 72)
    Top finishers:
    1 Vijay Singh (-23)
    T2 Tiger Woods
    T2 Scott Verplank
    T2 Stewart Cink
    T5 Davis Love III
    T5 John Rollins
    T7 Michael Clark II
    T7 Bob Estes
    T9 Bob Tway
    T9 Rocco Mediate
    T9 Geoff Ogilvy


    Charles Schwab Cup Championship
    Site:
    Sonoma, Calif.
    Course:
    Sonoma Golf Club
    (7,013 yards, par 72)
    Top finishers:
    1 Jim Thorpe (-20)
    2 Tom Watson
    3 Tom Kite
    T4 Gil Morgan
    T4 Hale Irwin
    T4 Tom Jenkins
    T7 Tom Purtzer
    T7 Larry Nelson
    9 Craig Stadler
    T10 David Eger
    T10 Bruce Fleisher


    2004 Qualifying Tournament
    Site:
    Daytona Beach, Fla.
    Course:
    Legends Course at LPGA Insternational


    Madrid Open
    Site:
    Madrid, Spain
    Course:
    Club de Campo
    (6,957 yards, par 71)
    Winner:
    Ricardo Gonzalez (-14)


    This week:
    Miccosukee Championship
    Site:
    Miami
    Course:
    Miccosukee Golf and Country Club
    (6,700 yards, par 72)
    Television:
    None
    Winner:
    Craig Bowden (-14)

  • He played the par 5s at 12-under, second best in the field, and was tops in birdies for the week, with 26.

    Five observations

    1.
      Woods tied Byron Nelson's cut-streak record at Disney, making the weekend for his 113th straight event. He's set to break the mark at the Tour Championship, a limited-field event that -- ironically -- doesn't have a cut.

    Ernie Els is second on the active cut-streak list with 26 -- a whopping 87 events behind Tiger.

    Woods said he was proud of matching Nelson's long-held record, but it's obvious another historic achievement isn't as high on his priority list.

    Tiger can become the first player in history to win five straight money titles, but he fell behind Singh on the money list Sunday. Singh, who already has played in eight more events than Tiger, will make that nine when he tees it up in Tampa this week.

    So why isn't Woods adding the Chrysler Championship -- the final full-field event of the season -- to his schedule in an attempt to regain the lead from Vijay?

    "It's important, but it's not that important," Woods said Sunday of winning the money title. "If [Singh] has it wrapped up, so be it. Anybody would rather have Player of the Year than the money title."

    Singh can put the title away for good with a victory in Tampa, but that's a risk Tiger is willing to take. He said he'd rather prepare for the Tour Championship in two weeks.

    2.
      Tom Watson and ailing caddie Bruce Edwards stole the hearts of golf fans everywhere this summer with their magical run at the U.S. Open, but it turns out they were saving their most heartwarming gesture for last.

    Watson finished runner-up at the Champions Tour's season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship on Sunday, securing the season-long points race -- and the $1 million prize. After hoisting the Cup on Sunday afternoon in Sonoma, Watson announced that he'd be donating the $1 million to help fight ALS, which Edwards -- who has been Watson's caddie for 30 years -- suffers from.

    Edwards, whose speech has been slurred by the disease and who is unsure whether he'll be toting the bag for Watson again next year, smiled broadly as his boss accepted the Cup.

    Jim Thorpe won the event (thanks in part to a 67-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole Sunday), but Watson remained No. 1 on the money list by a mere $23,000. The first season on the Champions Tour has to be considered a success, with 25 different winners and an invigorated roster of players.

    3.
      Se Ri Pak became the first woman to make the two-round cut in a men's event in 58 years, finishing 10th in a Korean tournament this weekend.

    Pak was the sixth woman to tee it up against the guys this season. Annika Sorenstam (PGA Tour), Suzy Whaley (PGA Tour), Michelle Wie (Nationwide, Canadian tours), Laura Davies (Asian PGA Tour) and Jan Stephenson (Champions Tour) came before her, and only Stephenson made the weekend -- and that was only because there was no cut (she finished tied for last).

    Pak, meanwhile, did much more than earn playing privileges for Saturday and Sunday; she posted a top-10 finish in a field of 126. However, her accomplishment can't exactly be put on par with Sorenstam's performance at the Colonial, where she missed the cut by four strokes.

    Sorenstam did it on a tough layout against the best players in the world, while Pak competed at an event (SBS Super Tournament) that's not sanctioned by one of the six circuits that make up the worldwide federation of tours.

    Shin Yong-jin, the money leader on the Korean tour, said the 7,052-yard course was set up to benefit Pak.

    "I think the course was made to have Se Ri Pak make the cut," Shin told The Associated Press. "I knew she would make the cut even before coming into the game."

    Pak, who sits second on the money list behind Sorenstam, said Sunday that she'd relish the chance to compete in a PGA Tour event.

    4.
      The Funai Classic at Disney was the second-to-last opportunity of the year for players to make a move on the money list. Here are some notables:

  • Phil Mickelson tied for 30th, and currently sits 37th on the money list. He'll need a top-3 finish in Tampa this week for any chance to avoid missing the Tour Championship (top 30) for the first time since joining the PGA Tour full-time.

  • Scott Verplank erased any doubt about his status for the Tour Championship with his runner-up finish, moving from 27th to 18th on the money list.

  • Stewart Cink gave himself at least a chance at making the Tour Championship with his runner-up finish. He improved from 41st to 34th on the money list and will need another strong showing in Tampa to sneak his way in the back door.

  • The same goes for Bob Estes, whose tie for seventh left him 33rd on the list. He, too, is in Tampa this week.

  • PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel began the week 30th on the money list but ended it on the outside looking in. A 50th-place showing left him 31st, and he'll be in Tampa looking to fight his way back.

  • Fred Couples is also on the outside, actually dropping from 31st to 32nd after a 12th-place finish. He's looking to play in his first Tour Championship since 1998.

  • K.J. Choi missed the cut at Disney, and he sits perilously close to the breaking point at 29th on the money list. Rocco Mediate sits 30th on the list.

    5.
      Seventeen-year-old Aree Song was one of 28 players to earn their 2004 LPGA Tour cards this week at the final stage of Qualifying School.

    Song, who was given special permission to become a member before her 18th birthday should she qualify, finished tied for fifth. LPGA rules stipulate that players must be at least 18 to become members unless they show they can handle professional and financial responsibilities.

    Song has made the cut in all six major championships she has played since 2000, including fifth place in the U.S. Women's Open at Pumpkin Ridge. She finished two strokes out of a playoff won by Hilary Lunke.

    "Aree has demonstrated the ability to compete at the highest level in LPGA events as an amateur during the past four years," commissioner Ty Votaw said in August. "For that reason and more, if she is able to qualify for the tour ... I will permit Aree to play."

    Song will turn 18 on May 1.

    David Lefort is ESPN.com's golf editor, and he can be reached at david.m.lefort@espn3.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

  • ALSO SEE