Vijay Singh?(born 22 February 1963) is a professional golfer who was number one in the Official World Golf Rankings for 32 weeks in 2004 and 2005. A Fijian of Indian, Sikhancestry, he was born in Lautoka, Fiji and grew up in Nadi. His name means?Victorious Lion. He has won three major championships (one Masters in 2000 and two PGA Championships in 1998 and 2004) and was the leading PGA Tour money winner in 2003 and 2004. Singh is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Singh, a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, is the son of Mohan Singh, an airplane technician who also taught golf. Growing up, he admired the swing of Tom Weiskopf, using it as an early model for his own. Singh is known for his meticulous preparation, often staying at the range hours before and after his tournament rounds working on his game.
Singh is married to Ardena Seth, who is Malaysian. They have a son, Qass Seth, born on 16 June 1990.
Growing up in a modest household, Singh's family could not afford to supply him with golf balls. At one point, he recollected to reporters: "When we were kids we couldn't afford golf balls so we had to make do with coconuts. My father used to say, 'Little Vijay, golf balls don't fall off trees you know,' so I found some that did!"Growing up, Singh played?snooker,?cricket,?soccer, and also the island's most popular sport,?rugby.
Two years after turning professional, in 1984, Singh won the Malaysian PGA Championship. However, his career was plunged into crisis after he was suspended from the?Asian Tour?in 1985 over allegations he doctored his scorecard. It was alleged that he lowered his score from one over to one under in order to make the cut, but Singh denies this, saying that in any case, it should only have resulted in disqualification from the event rather than a ban. Signing a wrong scorecard and being disqualified is not rare in golf, it is usually viewed as an honest mistake. Notable golfers to whom this has happened include?Nick Faldo?(twice),?Greg Norman,?Nick Price,?Davis Love,Jeff Sluman,?Lee Janzen, and?Michelle Wie.
He felt he had been more harshly treated because the marker was "the son of a VIP in the Indonesian PGA." Singh then took a job at the Keningau Club in Sabah, Malaysia, whose members consisted mostly of?Shell Oilexecutives. While this was a period of hardship for Singh, he continued to gain experience.?He saved the money he needed to resurrect his career and began to re-enter tournaments. Singh won the Nigerian Open in 1988, and at the end of that year he entered the?European Tour?Qualifying school?for the second consecutive year, and was successful on this occasion. In 1989 Singh won his first European Tour title at the?Volvo Open Championshipin Italy and finished 24th on the European Tour Order of Merit, putting his early stuggles firmly behind him. He won on the European Tour again in 1990 and did so twice in 1992. He also won several tournaments in Asia and Africa in this period.
Singh entered the?PGA Tour?in 1993, winning his first PGA Tour event, the?Buick Classic?in a playoff over?Mark Wiebe. That victory led to Singh being named the 1993 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. After being hampered with back and neck problems in 1994, he came back to win the Buick Classic again in 1995 as well as the?Phoenix Open. After playing well in 1996 (but with no victories), he won both the?Memorial Tournament?and the?Buick Open?in 1997.
In 1998, Singh was victorious at the?PGA Championship?at?Sahalee?in?Sammamish, Washington, playing a 70?66?67?68 over the four days (the 66 tied a course record) and earning him his first Major title. He followed this up by winning The Masters in 2000, with a three-stroke victory over?Ernie Els.
Singh did not win on the PGA Tour in 2001, but finished the year with a Tour-best 14 top-10 finishes and was fourth on the money list with $3,440,829 for the year. In 2002, he won at the?Shell Houston Open?at?TPC at The Woodlands, setting a new 72-hole scoring record with a 65, and at the?Tour Championship, winning by two strokes over?Charles Howell III.
2003 proved to be a very successful year for Singh. He won four tournaments, had 18 top-10 finishes and was the PGA Tour's money leader (and had the second highest single-season total in PGA Tour history) with $7,573,907, beating?Tiger Woods?by $900,494, though Singh played 27 tournaments compared to Woods' 18 tournaments. His victories came at the?Phoenix Open, the?EDS Byron Nelson Championship, the?John Deere Classic?and the?FUNAI Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort. He narrowly lost the vote for the?PGA of America's?Player of the Year?to Tiger Woods.
However, the 2003 season was also spotted with controversy involving Singh surrounding the year's event at the?Bank of America Colonial.?LPGA?star?Annika S?renstam?became the first woman to play at a PGA Tour event sinceBabe Zaharias?at the 1945?Los Angeles Open. Surrounding this fervor, Singh was misquoted as having said that S?renstam "didn't belong" on the men's tour and that he would not play if he were paired with her. What he actually said is that he would not be paired with her because his playing partner was being selected from the past champion's pool. Singh later clarified, "There are guys out there trying to make a living. It's not a ladies' tour. If she wants to play, she should?or any other woman for that matter?if they want to play the man's tour, they should qualify and play like everybody else."
Continuing his torrid pace Singh began 2004 by winning the?AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am?at -16 and winning $954,000 in prize money. This was his first win on tour in 2004 and his 16th all-time on the PGA Tour. It was his 12th consecutive top-10 finish, which is two shy of?Jack Nicklaus' all-time record.
Singh won the final major of 2004, winning the?PGA Championship, his third major, in a three-hole playoff over?Justin Leonard?and?Chris DiMarco. Singh was the leader by one shot over Leonard going into the final round, but made no birdies in the final round, finishing regulation at 67?68?69?76=280. His final round of 76 was the highest winning score by a major champion since 1955. The playoff was a tense affair, and Vijay's birdie on the first playoff hole, his first birdie of the day, proved to be the difference.
On?September 6,?2004?(Labor Day), Singh won the?Deutsche Bank Championship?in?Norton, Massachusetts. With the win, Singh overtook Tiger Woods at the top of the?Official World Golf Rankings, ending Woods' streak of 264 weeks at the top of the golf world.
He finished the 2004 season with a career-best nine victories, 18 top-10s, and a record $10,905,166 in earnings and was named the PGA Tour's and?PGA of America's Player of the Year. The latter award is decided by a vote of active PGA players.
Despite picking up a win early in 2005, Singh lost his world number 1 ranking when Tiger Woods won the?Ford Championship at Doral?on?6 March, but just two weeks later he took it back again after notching up top three finishes in three consecutive weeks. Followings Woods' win at the 2005?Masters, Singh once again lost his place as World No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings and finished tied for fifth place. In April, he became the youngest living person elected to the?World Golf Hall of Fame, garnering 56% of the ballot. Thirty-year-old?Karrie Webb?was inducted into the Hall of Fame in October 2005, but Singh remained the youngest living electee, as Webb qualified for the Hall without an election process. (The 19th century great?Tom Morris, Jr., who was elected in 1975, died at age 24.) Singh deferred his induction for a year, and it took place in October 2006.
In 2006 Singh played enough European Tour events to be listed on the European Tour Order of Merit title for the first time since 1995.
Currently, Vijay shares the honor with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson as the only multiple winners in the 2007 PGA Tour season, having won the season opening?Mercedes-Benz Championship?and recently theArnold Palmer Invitational.
He has won 19 times since turning 40 ? beating?Sam Snead's record by two. This record-setting win came at the first event of the 2007 PGA Tour season, the?Mercedes-Benz Championship. He also became the second man to reach $50 million in PGA Tour career earnings that week, after Tiger Woods. His 31 career victories are the most on the PGA Tour by a non-American player, tied with?Harry "Lighthorse" Cooper.
Relations with the media
Singh has always felt that the world views him as an outsider, and he is quick to take umbrage. His interviews are sparse and he is seen as being unfriendly to reporters and fans. Partly it is his penchant for making controversial statements, such as when he said of?Annika S?renstam, playing at?Bank of America Colonial?in 2003, "I hope she misses the cut ... because she doesn't belong out here." He later said that the substance of his interview to an?Associated Press?reporter was that she would be displacing some other struggling male player, for whom he had his sympathies. However, the media focused on this statement,?Golf Digest?writing that Singh had become "pro golf's bad guy". Others called him a "sexist oaf", a "big, whiny, whimpering baby" and "Vijay the Villain".Both fans and the media tend to overlook Singh. In 2004, when he was number one in the world rankings and also the highest money earner, the media coverage focused more on?Phil Mickelson