Monday, June 6, 2011
Vijay Singh Teaches Us All Who He Really Is
I have no soapbox here. I don't stand on things yelling certainties about golfers or people. To be honest, I don't really care about who some of these golfers are, or what they do when the ball isn't in the air. I don't really know what type of professional I'd be if given the chance to putt a little better or hit my driver a little straighter.
But the one thing I know is no matter what, golf is a game you must respect if you truly want to appreciate it. I spent the night with some friends who were talking about a playing partner this week that considered himself an 8-handicap, but never once counted a shot he hit out of bounds. That, my friends, isn't an 8-handicap, that is someone that "plays" golf, but doesn't enjoy it.
And so here we are with Vijay Singh, the 48-year-old Fijian who has won more times on the PGA Tour than Lee Trevino and Gary Player, and has more major victories than Ben Crenshaw and Greg Norman. Vijay reinvented his golf game the older he got, and actually proved that no matter how bad you putt, if you hit the ball perfectly for 18 holes, you can score.
I remember my dad telling me a story of a gentleman he used to play with back in his day that seemed to never miss a shot. He told me that this guy would have six five-footers for birdie a round, and make three. He'd hit all the par-5s in two, and he'd shoot five-under just about every round. He told me that if this guy could putt, he would have been out there with the legends, surveying Augusta National like an EA Sports game consultant.
I feel that way about Vijay. This is a man that once was last in the field in fairways hit at a British Open and first in that same field in greens in regulation.
But when we talk about Vijay, we must talk about the other side of Vijay. The dark side. The side that let his caddie wear a "Tiger Who?" hat during the Presidents Cup, and a guy that scolded Annika Sorenstam for attempting to qualify for a PGA Tour event. This was a man that seemed to spend his entire career doing whatever he could to be disliked; a modern day Rory Sabbatini.
And now we have the story of Singh deciding not to show up on Monday for U.S. Open qualifying. No call, no withdrawal, no nothing. Singh just decided not to show, like a woman deciding all together not to even bother with the window jump from her dressing room before the wedding and staying home in the first place.
There is nothing right about what Singh did. Nothing. It's an act of complete and utter disrespect. "To whom," you might ask? To the USGA and their crown jewel, the U.S. Open. To the committee that decided a year ago to give Singh a special exemption into the tournament to keep his streak of major championship starts in tact. To everyone that has ever cheered for Singh, and most importantly, to any golfer that has ever wished to play a stage like this, but never had the chance.
Singh is disrespecting it all, and without even picking up the phone. This brings up a story I once heard about Singh at Augusta National, but never felt the need to share until now. Once, during the week of the Masters, Singh was practicing in the short game area on the other side of Magnolia Lane from the driving range, and decided to start hitting full shots over the road into the full range. One Augusta member came over and politely asked him to stop. Singh told him he would, but kept doing it. A second member showed up and asked him again to stop doing this, because it could cause a safety issue with drivers on the road. He again said he'd quit, but didn't. That brought then-chairman Hootie Johnson out, in a golf cart, to Singh's location. Johnson kindly, in his southern twang, asked Singh if he planned on playing in the invitational tournament this week. Singh, shocked, answered "Of course" to the chairman's request, with Johnson quickly replying, "Well, it is an invitational." Singh quickly stopped hitting shots across the road.
I never felt like that story had a place until now. It makes total sense now, as Singh didn't even have the respect to tell the USGA he wouldn't be showing up to his tee time. It's a shame that a Hall of Famer would have such disrespect for the game of golf, and the people that run it.