It's a little curious how we are treating Vijay Singh's spectacular year.
Most of the stories coming out of newspapers, magazines and television properly hail Singh's season in which he finally overtook Tiger Woods as the No. 1 player in the world.
Yes, Singh has had a great year ... but then the comparisons against Woods' 2000 season inevitably start.
Now, maybe it's just for comparison's sake, to help put his performance in perspective. But you can't help but wonder if it's a small way to take a little luster off Singh's remarkable run.
If this had been a U.S. golfing native, say Phil Mickelson, would we be hammering the comparisons so hard?
I don't think so.
Is there a touch of jingoism here? Yes.
Woods' 2000 season is the modern landmark for professional golfers. He won nine times, including the final three majors. He set or tied 27 records.
Even Singh acknowledges the enormity of that achievement.
"Tiger won three majors in 2000," Singh told reporters. "You can't beat three majors. It's so much more difficult to win major events than normal tournaments."
This season, Singh won only the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits by taking advantage of Justin Leonard's nosedive on the final day. Singh eventually won a three-hole playoff when he made his only birdie of the day.
Woods, on the other hand, strafed the field at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2000, winning by an unheard-of 15 strokes. He won the British Open by eight. Of his non-major wins, Woods won the NEC Invitational by eight.
Woods had a great year in 1999, but 2000 was the year he was deified.
Singh's most dominant win this year was by three strokes at Pebble Beach.
Then there is the implied criticism of the quality of the fields in the tournaments Singh has won. Because Singh plays more tournaments than Woods, some of his wins will inevitably come against lesser fields.
Singh is a grinder. He plays every tournament he can, sidelined only by natural calamities, like hurricanes. He has one of the hardest work ethics on tour.
Singh won more money than Woods did in his landmark year, but - it is always pointed out - the purses are higher now than they were in 2000.
Woods had a lower adjusted scoring average in 2000 and had a better percentage of top-10 finishes.
All true. But, it is almost as if Woods' 2000 season is being held up to denigrate Singh's 2004 performance. There may never be another year like Woods had in 2000.
Will his 2000 year be held up to all future golfers who have years like Singh's? Is this now the standard to which all No. 1 players will be compared?
Are all Super Bowl champions held up to the Miami Dolphins' undefeated 1972 season? Are all heavyweight champions compared to Muhammad Ali?
Is it really fair to compare Woods in 2000 - a season as aberrant as it was spectacular - to Singh in 2004?
Singh is now in the elite of golf history. Only Singh, Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer and Woods have won eight tournaments in one year since 1960. Not a bad club to join.
Woods' story is a remarkable one, but so is Singh's. Here's a guy who was once a club pro in Borneo, for heaven's sake. He's battled as much, if not more, racial prejudice as Woods.
Singh isn't particularly well liked in the U.S. His ill-timed comments against Annika Sorenstam didn't exactly bring him a lot of admirers, at least publicly.
But if you compare his behavior and demeanor to Woods, who has more than a touch of arrogance and aloofness, to Singh's, the native Fijian comes off pretty well.
Here's another comparison. Woods will be 29 in December. Singh is 41.
Don't hear that much about that comparison, do we?
October 1, 2004
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