Golf Tidbits: Back woes getting the best of Singh
Kevin Currie, Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
A few years ago, Vijay Singh achieved his goal of taking over the No. 1 spot in the world golf rankings.
In the 2003-04 seasons, Singh visited the winner's circle 13 times, and supplanted Tiger Woods at the top. .
Hard to believe it has been nearly six full years since Singh beat Woods to win the Deutsche Bank Championship and claim the No. 1 ranking on Labor Day 2004.
Fast-forward to the start of the 2010 season, and Singh started the campaign ranked 26th in the world. Since then, he has fallen precipitously down the rankings. So much so, that he dipped outside the top 50 this week (No. 51) for the first time since 1992. The most dubious part of the ranking is that the top 50 in the world qualify for the U.S. Open after this weekend's events.
Singh is slated to compete at the Byron Nelson Championship this week in hopes of a high finish and gaining enough points to return to the top 50.
For many years, Singh has had a balky back and that old nemesis has been acting up again. Singh's back started bothering him again in March and his results verify those problems.
The Fijian pulled out after nine holes of the Houston Open and missed the cut in his next three starts, including at The Masters, where he won in 2000.
Things looked to be turning around for Singh last week when he made the cut on the number at the Texas Open. However, Friday's play was washed out and the second round was moved to Saturday.
Because of the weather problems, the final 36 holes were played on Sunday. The field was cut to the top 60 players and ties, instead of the normal 70 and ties.
Singh was credited with a made cut, but didn't play the final two rounds, therefore costing him a chance at improving his finish and, in turn, earning points for his standing in the world ranking.
The 2003 Byron Nelson champion will need a top-four finish this week in order to gain the points necessary to return to the world top 50. If he is unable to do that, Singh's streak in the majors will come to an end.
Singh currently owns the longest streak of majors played at 63. If Singh cannot get the points this week to return to the top 50 and can't qualify for the U.S. Open, it would mark the third straight year in which the player with the longest active streak saw that run come to an end.
Davis Love III had played 70 consecutive majors until failing to qualify for the 2008 Masters. Phil Mickelson's streak reached 61 majors in a row before he skipped the British Open last year, due to his wife's and mothers' recent breast cancer diagnosis.
If Singh's run in the majors ends, Mike Weir will take over as the active leader in consecutive majors played at 44.
As for Singh, his back problems are showing up in a high-visibility way. He has never been the most accurate player off the tee, but he is hitting just over 56% of his fairways this year, which ranks him a distance 153rd on tour.
Not helping matters is Singh's long-standing struggles with the putter. He currently ranks 98th in putting average and just 159th in putts per round.
Singh not only needs to find a putter that works, and stick with it, but he also needs to get his back in shape to stem his slide in the world rankings. If he can correct both maladies, that would go a long way to helping Singh reclaim his spot among the top 50 players in the world.
BYRON NELSON'S TOURNAMENT IS STRUGGLING
Byron Nelson was the first player to have his name attached to a tournament, back in 1968, and the event still bears the moniker of the legend, who died in 2006.
Prior to his death, a personal phone call or note from Nelson was all it took to get the top players to come play in his tournament. Without that personal touch, the event has been struggling to bring in the big names.
This week, just six of the top-30 players in the world rankings are in the field and the highest ranked player is Hunter Mahan, who is No. 17.
One span during the 1990s shows how Nelson used to lure the top players. In a three-year stretch, the winners of Nelson's tournament were Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. They were all at top of their games and were ranked inside the top 11 in the world.
Since then however, the two biggest winners have been Vijay Singh (2003) and Sergio Garcia (2004). Adam Scott seemed to be on his way to stardom when he won in 2008, but Scott has scuffled badly since, He may have snapped out of his funk en route to winning the Texas Open last week.
Nelson's wife, Peggy, remains a staple behind the 18th green. It would be great for the tournament if she had the same touch with inviting players as the Lord Byron had.
- Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington has joined the list of walking wounded. He revealed this week that he tore cartilage in his right knee in December and will have surgery on the knee next week. He hopes to return in time for the U.S. Open in June.
- Chi Chi Rodriguez and Soren Hansen were in the police blotter this week for far different reasons. Rodriguez had nearly $500,000 in cash jewelry stolen from his home in a robbery. Meanwhile, Hansen was charged in his native Denmark for evading taxes. He was fined nearly $1.1 million for tax evasion between 2002-06.