GRAND BLANC, Mich. - If Vijay Singh is hoping to change his anti-media persona - and hence his bad-guy image - this wasn't the way to do it.
Singh met the media at the Buick Open on June 6 - well, sort of.
Singh sent a taped message, answering all of the standard questions you'd expect from the defending champion of the Buick Open.
1, What do you like about the golf course, Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Michigan?
2, What would winning the Buick Open again mean to your career?
3, What are the keys to winning?
But what Singh didn't do was answer the questions everybody at the press conference wanted to ask.
1, Why do people have this perception you're not a nice guy?
2, Why have you had some a tough time getting along with your caddies?
3, When do you think you'll shake the perception that you'll always be a cheat, after that incident years ago?
Yes, those are some tough questions. But when you're a multi-millionaire who's a golf superstar, those are the questions you're expected to answer. That's his only curse in what is otherwise a cushy life - playing golf for a living at some of the world's greatest courses.
Singh is the PGA Tour's most misunderstood champion. Some think he's a jerk. Some think he's a work-a-holic who doesn't handle the spotlight well.
Some say he's a great guy - as long as you aren't a member of the media. Just don't ask his former caddie, Dave Renwick, for an opinion.
His famous quote about why he quit working for Singh has made headlines around the world this year.
"My heart just wasn't in it, even at the end of last year when we were winning nearly every week. I just wasn't getting the respect I deserve," said Renwick to The Scotsman. "I never got a 'good morning' from Vijay. or 'good club' after a shot. or 'have a nice night' at the end of a day."
Singh truly is golf's mystery man. He doesn't allow anyone - the media, other tour pros, fans or even his caddy - into his inner circle.
Turns out, the members of the press at the Buick Open aren't the only ones being jilted by Singh. According to one Buick Open official, Singh, the defending champion at nine PGA Tour events, is sending a taped message to the media at each of those tournaments, with the PGA Championship, a major, as the possible exception.
Vijay Singh - Biographical Information
NAME: Vijay Singh
BIRTHDATE: February 22, 1963
BIRTHPLACE: Lautoka, Fiji
RESIDENCE: Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
FAMILY: Wife, Ardena Seth; Qass Seth (6/19/90)
SPECIAL INTERESTS: Snooker, cricket, rugby, soccer
PGA TOUR WINS: 1993 - Buick Classic; 1995-Phoenix Open, Buick Classic; 1997-Memorial Tournament, Buick Open; 1998-PGA Championship, Sprint International; 1999-Honda Classic; 2000-Masters Tournament; 2002-Shell Houston Open, Tour Championship; 2003-Phoenix Open, Byron Nelson Championship, John Deere Classic, FUNAI Classic. 2004-AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Shell Houston Open, HP Classic of New Orleans, Buick Open, PGA Championship, Deutsche Bank Championship, Bell Canadian Open, 84 Lumber Classic, Chrysler Championship; 2005 - Sony Open, Shell Houston Open, Wachovia Championship.
Per PGA Tour rules, the defending champion is supposed to return to the site of his win to relive his championship and help promote the tournament for the coming year. Singh, who is currently holds the world's No. 1 ranking, seems to be above the law.
In 2003, Tour nice guy Kenny Perry drove to the Buick Open media day all the way from his home in Frankfort, Ky. It was a show of good spirit that helped cement Perry's lasting image of one of the Tour's good guys.
The Tiger Rules were in effect in 2004. Woods was allowed to do the interview from Florida via satellite. It might not have been ideal, but hey, at least Tiger gave the tournament press a chance to ask the tough questions about his on-going slump (Did his sponsorship relationship with Buick having something to do with him talking live? Probably).
It's not out of character for Singh to decline to be interviewed. Golf Magazine did a large piece on him in an issue last season. Singh didn't talk then, either.
It's already been a whirlwind season for Singh. He's got three wins - the Sony Open in Hawaii, the Shell Houston Open and the Wachovia Championship - and two memorable near-misses. His short-putt blunder in a playoff with Padraig Harrington and his water ball on No. 18 at Bay Hill would damage the confidence of most golfers, but not Singh.
He also became the youngest member (42) to win election into the World Golf Hall of Fame after a 2004 season where he won a single-season Tour record of $10.9 million. As with anything Vijay's involved in these days, the honor wasn't without controversy.
He was left off the ballot by 44 percent of voters, leaving him short of the 65 percent required for entry. Yet a proviso in the rules allows the highest vote-getter in when nobody hits the required standard.
Of course, Singh's taped interview didn't address the Hall of Fame induction, but it did address his battles to keep the No. 1 ranking in the world as the other four members of the "Big Five" - Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods - give chase.
"You can't win every week, but how you play counts" Singh said. "I don't go home and look at the stats (of where I'm ranked). My son is a computer (user) and he looks it up all the time. I get the information I need. But it's not like I study it. If I win, everything will be OK."
Like him or not, Singh looks like a machine on the course, hitting long drive after long drive. And he's a fierce competitor. That's obvious by his legendary work ethic.
"The competition (for No. 1) makes me play good golf," he said. "I like to work hard and play good golf. I don't want to show up and be a part of the pack."
A smart man might even bet on Singh to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 on June 16-19. Maybe then, with another major under his belt, will the man from Fiji show his soft side.
"I've had a great start this year, better than last," he said. "I'm going to the U.S. Open feeling good. It's an important stretch (to my season)."
June 16, 2005