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Victorious Vijay Singh [The Fiji Times, 23 April 2000]

22/03/2012

 InVijay Singh,Fiji has produced a real winner.  A professional golfing winner we can all be proud of.  A winner who brings  enormous credit and attention to a small group of countries in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a most unlikely place to be breeding a world champion in golf.

Let us look at where he is now.  The toughest and most important circuit for golf professionals, is the US PGA Tour.  Where the best golfers in the world, battle it out, with the biggest financial rewards, the most lucrative prizes and commercial endorsements.

For this year, Vijay Singh is third on the PGA Tour Money Leaders’ list, with earnings to date of more than US$1.6 millions, or more than three million Fijian dollars.  Two thirds of this tour is yet to be played.

Vijay is eleventh on the All-time PGA Tour money leaders, having already earned more than US$10 millions (or more than $20 millions Fijian).

Given that Vijay is likely to continue winning for the next few years, while many above him on that list have stopped winning, Vijay may move up close to two or three, behind the undisputed king, Tiger Woods.

Look at Vijay’s wins on the PGA Tour.

 

 

   Vijay Singh’s PGA Tour Victories             

Year       PGA Event Won         Win (F$)

1993    Buick Classic                        360,000

1995     PhoenixOpen                       468,000

1995      Buick Classic                        432,000

1997      Memorial Tournament         684,000

1997      Buick Open                           540,000

1998      PGA Championship          1,080,000

1998      Sprint International               720,000

1999      Honda Classic                        936,000

2000      Augusta Masters               1,656,000

 

Vijay Singh has also won other titles inSweden,South Africa,Spain,Germany,Zimbabwe,Morocco,Nigeria,France,Malaysia, andEngland.

The world of professional golf now acclaims him as one of the “great” players in the history of golf, because he has now won two of the four Majors, the ultimate test recognised by all professional golfers.

Vijay’s first Major was the 1998 Players’ Championship.  His second was the 2000 Masters a few weeks ago, set in the gorgeous surroundings ofAugusta,Georgia, watched by hundreds of millions of people, in 170 countries.

Very good golfers like David Duval, Phil Mickelson, and Greg Norman, despite all their other victories, still feel deficient in not having won a single Major, which remains their most important target, year after year.

Sal Johnson, wrote in his golf column for GOLFonline, (see box).

 

 

“Vijay Singh just entered the great player category this week.  Vijay, welcome to the club”

  – Sal Johnson, Contributing Editor, GOLFonline

 

Johnson mused at the end of the Augusta Masters: “Vijay could be the most under-rated player in golf today.  Vijay has a way of surprising you because you never figure him to win a tournament and then before you know it he is on top of the leaderboard“.

But the statistics do not lie.  Vijay Singh’s performance over the last eight years has been extremely consistent.

Look at the data in the Box.   Vijay  annually plays in far more events than most of his colleagues.  He has “made the cut” in 90 percent of all the events he has entered (for the non-golfers, the “cut” eliminates roughly eliminates two thirds all the poorly performing players for third day of a four four-day tournament).

Vijay Singh’s Playing Record on the PGA Tour

Events   Cuts       Top 10     Aver.   Winnings

Year       Played   Made     Finishes   Score        (F$)   

1992        5            5            1            70.6         158,000

1993      15          13            6            70.6     1,328,000

1994      21          16            3            71.3         692,000

1995      22          17            9            70.8     2,038,000

1996      24          24            9            70.5     2,118,000

1997      21          21            4            71.2     2,118,000

1998      26          23            7            70.6     4,478,000

1999      29          26          11           70.7     4,566,000

2000      12          12            4            70.3     3,136,000

 

Vijay has had 54 “top ten” finishes.    Most interesting of all is his “scoring average”, which has been around 70.5 for eight of the last ten years, and is now down to an all-time low of 70.3.

Vijay Singh is ranked fifth on the 2000 PGA Championship Points system, and also fifth on the World Golf Rankings.  He is also the current leader of the International Team (which battles the US Team) for the US President’s Cup.

Vijay Singh is still capable of another quantum jump in improvement because he suffers from a significant weakness.  He is known to be one of the worst putters on the tour.

While most Augusta Masters champions take below 113 putts for the four rounds, Vijay took 124, effectively throwing away 11 strokes during the tournament.  Yet he still won, as he has won so many other tournaments, because of his other strengths.

Should Vijay improve his putting  to the level of Ernie Els, David Duval or Tiger Woods, he will significantly improve his success rate.

Vijay’s victories are praiseworthy because of another factor:   One of the burdens he carries is that of being a black golfer from a third world country, competing on courses where blacks are not usually seen, except as caddies.

Tiger Woods, just two years ago, was being disparaged by golf writers, experts and even some colleagues, who claimed that all the media attention was due to his ethnic origins (black/Asian), not his golfing prowess.  Not any more.

But read the recent accounts of Vijay Singh’s Augusta Masters victory.  There are some international writers claiming that the 2000 Masters was a boring event, especially the last nine holes.

Goodness, me, how wrong can they be?

The incredibly exciting Masters

If you were just listening to the official Masters commentators, you knew this was an incredibly exciting finish, with uncertainty to the end.

World champion Tiger Woods, who had been written off after the first round, made a menacing charge in the third round.

David Duval, arguably the second best golfer in the world today, was breathing down Vijay’s neck, only 2 strokes behind.  Until a few holes from the end, he made just one mistake of judgement.  Close to the green, he chose to attack the dangerously placed pin, instead of going for safety, and went into water.  It could have been otherwise.

Ernie Els, putting for eagles and birdies all over the place, made a last minute charge and came within two strokes as well.  Three medium range putts went slightly astray.  It could have been otherwise.

For both Duval and Els, a birdie (-1) at the end while Vijay made a bogey (+1), would neutralised the 2 stroke gap, and forced a playoff, as the commentators kept reminding the world.  There was little doubt that the commentators felt that Duval and Els would be worthy champions.

And Vijay did stumble.   While our hearts rose into our mouths, Vijay went into water, but scraped by with a bogey.  The next hole he ploughed into sand, but stoically salvaged a par.

And then came Vijay’s drive on a par five.  Trees blocked a direct flight to the tiny postage stamp green, some 220 yards away, grimly  protected by water, bunkers and gullies, waiting with open jaws for the foolhardy.

The commentators thought that being in the lead, Vijay would safely lay up and go for a par.  But no.

Vijay gazed through the trees; pulled out his three wood, took his life into his hands, and blasted a dangerous draw, almost a hook, right around the trees, and across the gaping pits of disaster.  And miraculously on to the green.

The commentators were speechless for a moment. Then they burst into praise.   The “shot of the tournament” they acclaimed.

But it could have been otherwise.  With disaster lurking everywhere along that 220 yards, one double bogey then, and Vijay could have forgotten the Green Jacket.

In tournaments everywhere, leads of 3 strokes have been chucked away at the last hole, with just one nervous, reckless or  careless stroke.  Or even a good stroke going astray because of a bad lie or a capricious wind (ask Tiger Woods and Duval).

Yet some commentators had the cheek to claim that the 2000 Masters was boring!  Was this because the wrong guy won?

Vijay and Tiger also battling racism 

Golfers like Vijay Singh (and Tiger Woods) are not only battling golf courses which are being deliberately toughened up against the long hitters, but they are also braving it out against media who fail to show the same kinds of generosity and appreciation as when their usual favorites are winning.

Sal Johnson (GOLFonline thinks that Vijay Singh now has to be one of the favorites to make the Grand Slam, by winning the other two Majors.  Gary Van Sickle (Sports Illustrated) thinks that Vijay may have a chance, although it would be an “impossibly long shot”.

What should not be a long shot, is for Fiji to invite Vijay Singh back to his home country; pay him a small sum of money to feature in international advertisements for Fiji’s tourist industry; give him a national distinction that is our equivalent of the knighthood; and have national rejoicement at the international glory brought to us by one of our great sporting heroes.

Are we up to it?

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