Singh plans new regime to stay on top
Thursday 07 October 2004
While Tiger Woods was getting married beside the waters of the Caribbean, beside the slightly chillier waters of the North Sea here the two best golfers in the world will be contesting the Dunhill Links Championship. As magnificent as the West Beach is, it is not the time of year to be tying the knot on the sand that once provided the opening scenes for Chariots Of Fire.
Fortunately, that is not the concern of either Vijay Singh, the newly appointed world No 1, or Ernie Els, the winner of last week's World Championship event in Ireland.
This is their first meeting since Singh took over from Woods as the best player in the world. However swimmingly things are going for Tiger at the moment, off the course, at least, life has been pretty perfect for Singh while he has been winning. The Fijian has won the two tournaments he has played in since inheriting Tiger's mantle, and five of the last six in all, including the USPGA Championship, his third major. "It was kind of strange to be announced as the world No 1," Singh said.
"It was in Canada and it was exciting. A sudden adrenaline ran right through me as if to say, 'hey, you are who you are and that's how they announce you'. On top of that, I hit the driver straight down the middle, which was a good start, and I won the tournament, which made it even more special.
"Everything has happened in such a short space of time that it is hard to comprehend," he continued. "I'm surprised I've played so well but it's thrilling. It's brought out a side you never thought you had. You think you can't stop winning. Right now I feel I can win anything that I play in."
Next year, there will be no let up for the 41-year-old. "My trainer has already told me that we are going to bump it up next year. I said I'm dying already doing two workouts a day. But he said we'll be doing different stuff to make me stronger and help my core. I wish I could play for another five or six years but unless I keep up the exercise regime it will not be possible."
Singh thinks Tiger's problems may be to do with not matching up his swing with his changing body. "Your body does not stay the same and you have to keep adjusting your swing," he said. "When Tiger first came on the scene he was extremely strong. I'm not saying he isn't strong, but you do slow down a bit. I have adjusted accordingly and for the better but I don't think he has yet. I'm sure once he figures that one out he'll be fine."
In this pro-am style tournament, he is playing with Teddy Forstmann, a friend and sponsor who has just acquired the International Management Group, the company founded by the late Mark McCormack.
Singh, Els and 10 members of the victorious Ryder Cup team, including defending champion Lee Westwood, will be playing at Kingsbarns today, on the Old Course tomorrow and at Carnoustie on Saturday. The final round will be on the Old Course on Sunday.
Given the rounds can stretch up to six hours, some of the leading players have familiar partners. Els is again playing with his father, Neels, Westwood with his manager, Andrew "Chubby" Chandler, and the former Open champion Ben Curtis with his wife Candace. Colin Montgomerie appears to have been perked up by being drawn with model Jodie Kidd. Matthew Pinsent and Michael Vaughan will be among the band of celebrities hiding under waterproofs and woolly hats.
There is considerable motivation in the form of a first prize of £445,000. Westwood held off Els and Darren Clarke on the final day last year and then followed it up by finishing fourth in the Open at Royal Troon. Not bad for someone who had his eyes opened to the subtleties of links golf by Dave Musgrove, Sandy Lyle's old caddie who worked for Westwood in this event two years ago. "I owe a lot of my fondness for the Old Course to Dave," Westwood said. "He changed my mind about links golf."
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