Singh shows Ryder Cup losers what they missed

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The Independent Online

In the wake of America's crushing defeat in the Ryder Cup there were calls for the annexation of the Pacific island of Fiji. Having the world No 1 on their team might or might not have helped the US at Oakland Hills. Instead, what it gave Vijay Singh was a week off, and that was bad news for everyone else on the US Tour.

Singh returned to action at Mystic Rock, promptly claiming his fifth victory in six starts. Stewart Cink, the Ryder Cup player, made five birdies in a row at one point but that was only good enough for second place.

"It's ridiculous the way he's playing right now," said Chris DiMarco, another member of the US team who tied for third place. Tiger Woods had pulled out citing exhaustion. The last time he played in a tour event, three weeks ago, he lost his position as the world's best golfer to Singh.

Victory - which is what "Vijay" means in Hindi - at the 84 Lumber Classic on Sunday was Singh's eighth of the season. He also surpassed Tiger's single-season earnings record, with his 2004 account now standing at just under $9.5m (£5.25m).

With Singh due to play in three more events on the US Tour - he has been prevented from travelling to Kilkenny for the AmEx World Championship by Hurricane Jeanne - he should become the first to earn over $10m in a year. The USPGA champion will also be playing in the Dunhill Links and the HSBC World Match Play in the next two weeks, although they will not count towards the US Tour.

Singh, 41, is simply getting better with age and, unlike Woods, thrives on competition. He has played in half as many events again as Woods. His attitude is that if he plays 35 events a year, it still gives him 17 weeks of holiday.

Woods, of course, has more off-course money-earning activities to attend to. But since when did the world rankings factor in charisma? Singh's profile may be low but it depends where you are looking. This is a man who has closed more driving ranges than he has had hot dinners, mainly because he was still at the former when the latter was on the table. When he is at home, there is rarely a day when he cannot be found on the practice range at the TPC of Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. One young professional who asked to practise with Singh during the winter was asked on Boxing Day why he had not been there the previous day.

Singh has also spent more time in the gym, making him one of the most powerful players in what was meant to have become a young man's sport. "I am stronger than I've ever felt because I've been working out every morning for the last three years," he said. "What I have been doing has helped prevent injuries. There are parts of the body that have to be built up because I swing the club so many times. I'm not stopping here, not until I quit, and I don't know when that will be."

Singh has had run-ins with the media, particularly over Annika Sorenstam playing on the men's circuit, but he can call all the leading players friends. It has been a remarkable journey for a player who was taught the game by his father, an airplane technician, and who was once a teaching professional in the wilds of Borneo and, briefly, a nightclub bouncer in Edinburgh. He has won 45 times, including three majors, in 17 countries and in every season since 1988, barring '96. Hard work really does pay off.