HAVING A BLAST
In Houston an amiable Vijay Singh got back on track
Remember Vijay Singh? That international man of mystery who has
won more major championships than Phil Mickelson, David Duval,
Sergio Garcia and Charles Howell combined? Singh resurfaced last
week at the Houston Open after two years of anonymous
effectiveness. Since his last victory in the U.S., at the 2000
Masters, Singh had amassed 22 top 10s on the PGA Tour yet
somehow failed to win. He corrected that oversight in style on
the TPC at The Woodlands, blowing away a strong field with a
tournament-record 22 under par. Singh's 10th Tour victory (to go
with 21 international titles) threw into sharp relief what a
powerhouse he can be when his cranky putter cooperates. "When
he's on his game, he'll lap anyone in the field, just like
Tiger," says Adam Scott, who tied for sixth.
It was nice to be reminded of Singh's virtuosity on the course.
A bigger revelation was his manner away from it. One of the
best-kept secrets in golf has always been that Singh is a cutup
with a biting wit, but after two years out of the spotlight, he
suddenly seems comfortable letting the public in on the joke.
Following a 66 last Saturday, Singh ventured into enemy
territory, the press room, armed with only a crooked grin.
Question: Vijay, you say you left a few out there. Where did you
Answer: The holes that I didn't birdie. (Bah-da-boom!)
On Sunday, following a 68 that closed out his six-stroke victory
over Darren Clarke, Singh got a little misty. "My wife is always
my inspiration," he said. "She always supports me. [Pause.] Thank
God I don't have to face her again after I haven't won."
Said Singh's caddie, Paul Tesori, "He's a pretty jovial fellow
with his family and close friends." How were they going to
celebrate the victory? "I'm sure when we get back on the
[private] plane, we'll have a couple of drinks and deal a few
hands of gin," said Tesori.
Singh is a fearless gambler who played his way out of Fiji by
winning big-money games with fat cats from a local oil refinery.
He hasn't lost his taste for action. On Sunday, at the par-5
13th hole, a muscular drive left him 232 yards, into the wind,
to an island green. Singh stepped up and stuck a five-wood to
five feet. (He missed the putt, but still.) "That shot was the
same as the one he hit at number 15 when he won the Masters,"
said Jose Maria Olazabal, Singh's Sunday playing partner in
Houston. "He took the risk, even though he didn't need to, and
pulled it off."
Said a sardonic Singh, "I could've laid up and chunked it in the
water, and you guys [reporters] would have had a ball."
In truth, it was the kind of brassy play that will serve him well
at Augusta National, where Singh made a reconnaissance mission a
few weeks ago. (He reportedly shot a 63.) "I like the changes to
the course," he says. "If I drive the ball long and straight, I'm
going to have a good chance at winning that tournament."
Long and straight works well pretty much anywhere, but let's not
quibble. This renewed Singh is a fun character, and we don't want
to scare him off.
Next week's Masters will be one of the most intriguing ever,
thanks to a supersized course, unprecedented front-nine TV
coverage, a local boy who could make good in Charles Howell and,
oh yeah, Tiger Woods defending his title.
Vijay Singh and Annika Sorenstam don't radiate charisma, but
their Hoganesque work ethic has made them big winners
by Darrell Kestner
Vijay Singh (above) and Annika Sorenstam might seem boring, but
what they really are is relentlessly efficient, which is the
ultimate goal in golf. Ben Hogan would've been thrilled by their
respective victories last week at the Houston Open and the Kraft
Nabisco Championship. Like Hogan, Singh and Sorenstam are
brilliant technicians who have studied the game like a science.
Contrary to what their stoicism on the course seems to indicate,
Singh and Sorenstam have as many thoughts running through their
heads--club selection, wind direction, Did I leave the stove
on?--as everyone else, but years of meticulous preparation have
taught them to zoom in on the task at hand.
FORESIGHT On the 72nd tee of the Nabisco, Sorenstam showed her
ability to think clearly in the heat of battle. Leading her
playing partner, Liselotte Neumann, by only a stroke, she
eschewed the driver in favor of a two-iron. A 526-yard par-5,
the 18th is a three-shot hole anyway, and using a shorter club
expanded the landing area, which is surrounded by danger.
Sorenstam's strategy was sound: When Neumann could only match
her routine par, Annika was the tournament's first back-to-back
MASTER PLANNERS Singh and Sorenstam devote as much time and
energy to planning practice as they do to actually practicing.
Sorenstam tracks every shot she takes in every event, enters the
data into her computer and generates spreadsheets that help her
determine what she needs to work on. Singh is similarly
methodical. On the range he beats truckloads of balls, but he
does so with amazing precision, making symmetrical lines of
divots that look like a giant typewriter keyboard.
AMATEUR HOUR To concentrate on the course, you must be
disciplined away from it. I learned that the hard way 20 years
ago when I lost my PGA Tour card. As a fledgling pro, I never
worked out, ate poorly and rarely got enough sleep. In 1983 I
drove 15 hours, from my home in Welch, W.Va., to the Memphis
Classic only to learn that I wasn't in the field because I had
forgotten to commit. That's the kind of scatterbrained error I
don't think Vijay or Annika would make.
Darrell Kestner is the head pro at Deepdale Golf Club in
Manhasset, N.Y., and one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers.
The best way to uncover your strengths and weaknesses is to
track every shot during a round. I do this on my scorecard,
noting details like whether I hit a green in regulation, how
many putts I take on each hole, successful sand saves and the
results of each drive. After the round I analyze the data and
scoring patterns, and I make comments on the card about what I
did well and what I need to work on. I ask myself questions like
Did I lose focus at the halfway house? Did I rebound after
disappointing holes? and Did I one-put more often for birdie or
for par? Above is a scorecard from a hypothetical round on my
home track, Deepdale. You can keep more detailed data from your
rounds, like many tour pros do, but there's enough information
here to help you monitor the meat and potatoes of your game.
by Sal Johnson
Of Vijay Singh's 10 career Tour victories, three, including
Houston, have come in his first appearance following a missed
cut.... Singh was 14 under on the par 4s (Darren Clarke, the
next best, was seven under) and needed only 101 putts, his
lowest total since 1997.... Annika Sorenstam's win at the
Nabisco marked the second time she has successfully defended her
title at a major (1995 and '96 U.S. Opens). Mickey Wright and
Patty Berg are the only other LPGA players with a major double
double.... With two rounds of 65, Dave Eichelberger won the
Senior Emerald Coast Classic, the 39th rain-shortened event in
tour history. Eichelberger made a hole in one in the first
round, on the 190-yard 8th hole. The last Senior to make an ace
and go on to win was Bruce Lietzke, at last year's 3M
Colin Montgomerie's mostly sunny disposition during his return
to Houston, his old college stomping grounds, was due to a very
familiar face on hand, but it wasn't the mug of a former Houston
Baptist teammate. Montgomerie (below) imported from England his
longtime sports psychologist, Hugh Mantle, for a rare U.S.
appearance, and they got together for skull sessions every night
in Montgomerie's hotel room. On Sunday morning the therapy moved
to the parking lot of the TPC at The Woodlands, where
Montgomerie and Mantle spent 40 minutes chatting in a courtesy
car before Monty's 71, which left him mired in 56th place.
The Pinnacle Distance Challenge roared into Houston last
Saturday night, attracting hundreds of sluggers dreaming of the
$10,000 prize that comes with outdriving a member of Pinnacle's
distance team. (Team member John Daly was a no-show after
missing the cut at the Houston Open.) After surviving a series
of qualifying rounds, Jeremy West, a 22-year-old grocery store
bookkeeper from Abilene, Texas, added the $10,000 to his ledger
with a 283-yard bunt. Pinnacle's Mike Moulton was the goat,
failing to keep any of his four drives inbounds in his matchup
From April 4 to 14, the Tiger Woods Foundation will auction on
eBay a round of golf with its eponymous founder. The minimum bid
will be $100,000 and will increase in $25,000 increments. All
proceeds will go to the foundation; the expectation is that
bidding will reach seven figures. "There are Saudi princes with
a billion dollars who are big golf fans," says Earl Woods, the
foundation's president. The round will be played on an
unspecified date at Isleworth Country Club, in Windermere, Fla.
The winning bidder will be allowed to bring along a three-person
Annika Sorenstam and family notwithstanding, the happiest people
at the Kraft Nabisco Championship were the caddies, who were
welcomed back to the player hospitality tent after an eight-year
ban, enacted when a couple of loopers availed themselves of too
much free alcohol. The tent also features famously fantastic
milkshakes and elaborate food. To guarantee that the coveted
privilege would not be revoked again, Jerry Woodard, Beth
Daniel's bagman and a member of the LPGA's caddie committee,
posted a note in the caddie yard that read, "Anyone screw up and
you will be banned from the tour for life."
Vote at golfonline.com
Will Tiger Woods repeat as Masters champion?
LAST WEEK: Will Phil Mickelson ever win a major?
--Based on 8,651 responses to our informal survey.
Mama mia! Silvia Cavalleri on her Italian mother-caddie
Silvia Cavalleri (left) is the only LPGA player who employs her
mother as a full-time caddie--in this case 62-year-old Victoria
Cavalleri of Verona, Italy.
SI: Why your mom?
SC: I turned pro in 1997 and came to live in the U.S. I was a
long way from Verona and without my mom. I was lonely.
SI: Did she have to apply for the job?
SI: Have you ever threatened to fire her?
SI: Has she ever threatened to leave you for another player?
SC: No, no, no. She wouldn't do it as a real job. I do all the
technical stuff like reading greens and figuring out yardages.
She just likes being with me.
SI: What's the going rate for a caddie these days?
SC: I hear it's normally $500 to $700 a week, but I don't pay my
mom. She does it for fun.
SI: Fun? Carrying a tour bag up and down hills without pay
doesn't sound like fun.
SC: Well, she carries a light bag. When it rains, I try to carry
the umbrella and protect her as well.
SI: She's pretty sprightly for her age. Does she work out?
SC: No, she relaxes by the pool.
SI: Do you room together?
SC: Yes, of course. We try to stay in a hotel room with a kitchen
so we can cook. She makes a lot of pasta, naturally. She says the
ingredients aren't the same over here, but we make do.
SI: Do you have your own social life?
SC: That's not happening much when I'm on tour. I am dating an
Australasian tour player, Robin Byrd. When he visits me on the
road, we all go out to dinner, and my mother goes back to the
hotel by herself.
SI: Do you ever run out of things to talk about?
SC: Sometimes we don't talk on the course. There's only so much
to say about the weather.
SI: Does she ever drive you crazy?
SC: Yes, of course. When you spend so much time together.... We
try not to bring the bad feelings to the course, or we try not to
talk about it. Eventually, it goes away.
SI: What does your dad think about your mom's being on the road
SC: At first he was concerned because he is by himself and he has
to cook, but now he's O.K. with it because my mom enjoys being
out here. We try to go home every three or four weeks to see him.
SI: When your mom goes back to Italy, does she freeze ready-made
dinners for your dad?
SC: Oh, no, she doesn't do that. Her job is taking care of me.
COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL TRUE GRIT Singh set a tournament record in his first Tour victory in two years.
COLOR PHOTO: HUY NGUYEN
COLOR PHOTO: HUY NGUYEN (LEFT)
COLOR PHOTO: PAUL F. GERO/SABA