Friday, June 13

Singh is loudest without words

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- After Vijay Singh nominated himself for Male Chauvinist of the Year with his comments last month about Annika Sorenstam, he indicated he would let his golf do his talking for him. So just call his 7-under 63 Friday at Olympia Fields Country Club one of the great speeches in U.S. Open history.

Vijay SIngh
A fearless Vijay Singh tore apart Olympia Fields to the tune of an Open-record-tying 63 Friday.

Singh has a dream today, and if he continues to play as he did Friday, he will win the third leg of the career Grand Slam. The champion of the 1998 PGA and 2000 Masters would have set the record for lowest round ever in a major championship if he had made a 10-foot birdie putt at No. 17, or chipped in from the front apron of the 18th green.

Instead, he tied the record held by many -- including himself, at the 1993 PGA -- and his cumulative score of 7-under 133 tied the Open record set about five hours earlier by Jim Furyk.

They hold a two-stroke advantage over Stephen Leaney of Australia and Jonathan Byrd, the 2002 PGA Rookie of the Year, who also had a top-10 finish at The Masters. Five golfers stand at 136, including Tiger Woods, Justin Leonard and Nick Price, who have a dozen major victories among them. On a day when Olympia Fields gave away low rounds like a bank giving out toasters, first-round leaders Tom Watson (72-137) and Brett Quigley (74-139) drifted back.

Ask not what golf has done for Vijay. Ask what Vijay has done for golf. "Awesome," described Pete Bender, the veteran caddie, who witnessed the round while on the bag for Rocco Mediate in Singh's threesome. "Power, focus, putted well. The guy is playing with a lot of confidence."

Singh, even-par on Thursday, opened by chipping in for eagle at the first hole, made the turn 2-under, then birdied five of the next six holes. He made long putts, at No. 10 (30 feet) and No. 15 (the 22-footer that tied him for the lead). He made short putts, digging a sand wedge out of the rough at No. 13 within 10 feet, and then tucking an 8-iron within four feet of a hidden pin at No. 14.

The two-time winner this year drove the ball without fear. From the elevated tee at the 451-yard 16th, Singh hit driver and sent the ball into the crosswalk 345 yards away. "He hit driver on holes where the other guys were laying up," Bender said.

The course's 88 bunkers "restrict you from hitting drivers on most of the holes," Singh said. " But today I felt comfortable with the driver in my hand and took the bunkers on." He hit 10 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens.

The only thing Singh has to fear is fear itself -- and the occasional heckler. On the whole the crowd on the back nine cheered for Singh far more than it jeered him. However, as Chicago fans have proven at White Sox games, it only takes one idiot to create an incident. When Singh approached the 14th green, an overweight spectator with a foghorn for a voice yelled out, "Hey, Vijay, I think Annika could have put it in."

The other spectators in the gallery booed. Dave Renwick, Singh's caddie, replied to the heckler to "shut his big mouth," said Bender. Renwick is a veteran looper and a feisty Scot. He caddied for Singh when he won his two previous majors, and Singh put him back on the bag this week because he likes Renwick's attitude.

"He's a lot more positive in clubbing me," Singh said. "He's a lot more sure when I'm over the ball in what he is going to say."

The heckler motioned toward Renwick, suggesting he come to the stands to settle it. Bender mouthed an expletive at the heckler, and he made the same motion to Bender. Renwick, Bender later said, told the heckler, "Come on down. I'll take you out right now."

None of this escaped the attention of the marshals, the two Cook County sheriffs walking with the threesome, or Joe Diovisalvi, Singh's personal security man. Diovisalvi, judging by his musculature, is not a man to be trifled with. He quietly entered the bleachers and sat down a couple of rows behind the heckler.

Diovisalvi said he was concerned for Singh's safety. "Yeah, it was a possible situation," he said. "I didn't want to have something interrupt Vijay's round. The guy had no respect for any of the players. It was a breach of security."

Had Diovisalvi gotten involved, the heckler would have had his face breached. Getting thrown out may have been the luckiest thing that happened to him Friday. Some in the crowd yelled, "Out! Out!" Others pointed him out, yelling "Black cap!"

As the marshals and the uniformed officer led the heckler away and the other spectators voiced their approval, Singh watched with a smirk on his face. Singh waved his putter to acknowledge the crowd's cheers, although after the round, he denied that he noticed the heckler. He said he had waved his putter at Renwick.

It was a clumsy attempt to defuse what had happened, which is curious, because Singh was the wronged party here. Otherwise, Singh made it through the press conference without incident. That he showed up at all might have been the offer of an olive branch to the media. More likely, Singh misunderstood the rules.

Singh said before the Open that he would speak to the media only if he led the tournament, and only because that is PGA Tour policy. However, the Open isn't a PGA Tour event. It's run by the United States Golf Association. USGA media official Marty Parkes said the game's ruling body has no policy that demands a media appearance by any competitor.

There's nothing that Singh said, or could have said, that would have matched his eloquence on the course Friday. His 63 was a speech for the history books.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer at He can be reached at

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