Vijay on top of world

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

Normally when the first week in November rolls around, there are still some golf accounts to be settled, bragging rights to be declared.

The game's best and richest are assembled this week at Atlanta's Eastlake Country Club to dispute The Tour Championship, a meeting of the top 30 wage-earners of the season.

The tournament itself is the only thing left to dispute. The year in golf, without question, belongs to Vijay Singh in much the same way that the year 2000 belonged exclusively to Tiger Woods.

It can be argued that Singh's nine tournament victories trumps Tiger's eight in his dream season but the fact that Woods won three majors that year to Singh's one, probably tips the scales in Woods' direction.

Still, Singh's accomplishment is one for the ages. In the absence of any real global drama that can emerge from this tournament, the preamble has become a time for reflection.

Woods arrived in Atlanta this week, still wobbly-legged from three weeks at sea with his new bride, Elin, having taken one of the longest sabatticals of his life away from the game. It allowed him to get a new perspective.

For one, he's willing now to call Hank Haney his coach. The two have been working together all summer and yesterday Woods made it official.

"I've been working with him," said Woods. "I really enjoy his ideas about the golf swing. It's been an eye-oping experience. I've taken lessons from just about everybody and certainly his approach has been very different."

For another, Woods admitted that, having taken so much time off, he almost decided to take a pass on this week's tournament. But, while cruising on the open sea he spent a lot of time thinking about the game in general and his game in particular. He came to a conclusion that will sound quite familiar to anyone who has listened to Woods talk about his swing all year.

"I just decided that I felt like my game was so close to coming together. My practice sessions were so good before I left for the American Express tournament."

That was in Ireland, just before he got married. During the plane ride overseas, Woods slept wrong on the aircraft and injured a rib, yet still managed to finish ninth.

Ernie Els, who has moved well past Woods to become No. 2 in the world, behind Singh, spent his first day in Atlanta mending fences with the PGA Tour. After a meeting yesterday morning, the Tour has backed away from its earlier demand that Els spend less time abroad and more in the USA.

"They know where I'm coming from and I heard where they're coming from. They're not going to interfere with my schedule. That's great news for the Tour and it's really good news for me."

Els has been laying low since he won the HSBC World Matchplay Championship at Wentworth three weeks ago.

Singh, on the other hand, has not broken stride. He refuses to take time off, maintaining the same demanding schedule week in and week out.He admits to being a bit weary but his opponents shouldn't confuse that with weakness.

TIRED

"It gets tiring," he said. "Especially when you're in the thick of it every week. I'm feeling the strain a little bit. I need to go to bed earlier than in the middle of the season. Come 10 o'clock, 10:30, I'm done. I'm glad this is the last tournament."

Sam Snead won 11 PGA events in 1950 but nobody has reached double figures since then. Singh has that chance this weekend.

"It would be an incredible thing to accomplish," said Singh. "Being on the same page with Snead and Hogan (Bantam Ben won 10 in 1948) and just to be mentioned with them, I just don't have words to describe the feeling."

When the weekend is over, win or lose, Singh will finally be able to stand on the mountain top and survey all he has accomplished.

"I guess I've got really very little to do after this week," he said. And was that a tinge of sadness that crept into his voice, ever so briefly?

"I'm going to be in Hawaii for the Grand Slam (November 15-21).

"I think I'll have a party there. You are all invited."

And with that, Singh's evolution is complete. At 41, with the world at his feet, he's finally discovered a sense of humour.


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