Major looks a two-horse race with on-song Singh chasing Tiger's tail

There were a few reasons for shamelessly scratching off the chances of 154 proud professionals and reducing this USPGA Championship to a two-horse race, and not simply the weighty evidence of the form book which screams that the world Nos 1 and 2 are a distance clear of the rest and not merely a short-head and shoulder.

The booming necessity of the Lower Course's 7,400 yards also makes the pin stick on two names and two names only, as indeed does the need for a high ball-flight, the nerve to take on the ankle-deep rough and yes, the iron grip to get out of it.

But together with the quite hypnotic confidence of Tiger Woods which has reminded all of the phenomenon of 2000 - the year he first matched Ben Hogan's record of scooping up three of the four majors - it was the attitude of his greatest rival, rather than purely his sporting altitude, that did most to stop you from bothering to look elsewhere. Vijay Singh was belligerence personified as he first announced that "I respect Tiger" and then outlined the truths why he should not ever fear him. But then, nothing must seem beyond a golfer who has amassed more than $40m (£22.6m) in earnings after growing up on a course that also, on occasion, doubled as an airport runway in one of the world's poorest capitals, not even that wholly unique sporting practice of saying exactly what he thinks.

"I'm a player. I'm an athlete. I go out there to win tournaments and I speak my mind," he said. "I'm not a fake like many of the guys out there."

Almost as those words left his mouth he realised how they would be construed, that they would once again doubtless be seen as an offensive against the Phil Mickelson perma-smile, and he pleaded for them "not to be mixed over". But by then a thousand headlines had already been written and when he thought about it he did not care much how they would appear anyway.

"I have to worry what I feel and not what other people might feel," the 42-year-old said. "And all I know is that I feel great about my game at the moment and what I have done in golf. Just look back and see where I've come from and you'll see that there's a big difference out there."

Where he has got to, of course, includes being the defending champion here after his second Wanamaker Trophy at Whistling Straits last year, a victory he expected to start redressing the imbalance between tournaments won (50) and majors won (three). But despite finishing in the top 10 at Augusta, Pinehurst and St Andrews this term, he has yet to be close enough to Tiger's tail to give it any more than the flimsiest of tugs.

In fact, Singh has finished an aggregate of 19 shots behind Woods in these three majors, as the golfer he concedes "is the greatest in the game right now" has compiled figures that read 1-2-1 and have led the 29-year-old to the brink of the finest major season ever. In the glaring light of those statistics, therefore, Singh's task seems as thankless as all the others who were struggling yesterday to come to terms with the 500-yard par-fours and two finishing par-fives that characterise Baltusrol, but that was to ignore what happened in Michigan a fortnight ago.

At the Buick Open, Singh put on a show Tiger-like in its peerlessness as he inexorably powered to a four-shot win that was made all the sweeter by the fact that Woods was one of the unfortunates rendered helpless in his wake.

A new putter gave him the edge he had been missing and the effect has similarly sharpened his competitor's instinct. "I'm playing the best I've ever played," he said. "I've been playing pretty decent for a while but once the ball starts finding the hole... well, you know."

Baltusrol knows all right, as does Woods and the rest who are suddenly cowering in a shadow that has been made ever larger by the lanky Fijian's ominous resurgence. Of the Europeans, perhaps only Colin Montgomerie, and his second place at last month's Open, has the chutzpah to fancy his chances, but the Scot admitted yesterday that he will know if these are realistic or not when he first visits the rough and tries out his injured hand. At least Montgomerie has a ready-made excuse and that might prove a blessed luxury come Sunday night.

"Doh!" as they say in Springfield.

Suggested Topics
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine