Keeping the faith

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:34 AM ET

Only time will tell, but this could have been the table tennis shot heard round the world.

Golf's ironman, Vijay Singh, withdrew from the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston Tuesday, having pulled a muscle in his back playing ping-pong with his 15-year-old son, Qass at their home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The rare injury couldn't have been more ill-timed.

Singh was the defending champion in Boston, as he will be next week at the Bell Canadian Open in Vancouver, where his presence, both as champion and as the No. 2 player in the world, is desperately required to give legitimacy to a sparse field.

In the opinion of Bell Canadian Open tournament director Bill Paul, Singh will be at Vancouver's Shaughnessy Golf Club to defend the title he won at Glen Abbey last year.

"I talked to Vijay (Tuesday) night," said Paul, from Vancouver where he is knee-deep in preparations. "He told me he was still expecting to play next week.

"He's experiencing back spasms and he was advised to take the week off, get treatment every day and that he'd likely be fine by next week.

"He told me he expected to be on a plane next Tuesday."

Paul also figured that, given Singh's back problem, the unsettled weather forecast for Boston this week may have had some bearing on his decision to withdraw. Cool, wet weather is not exactly conducive to protecting a lower back problem.

Singh also is scheduled to defend another title he won at the Lumber 84 Classic in rural Penn., the week after the Canadian Open.

The injury could have even greater ramifications if it keeps Singh out of the Presidents Cup, scheduled two weeks after the Canadian Open. The International Team already has had to accept the withdrawal of Ernie Els because of a knee injury. To lose Singh would leave the team without its top two performers at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia, against an American team led by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

But, as far as Paul is concerned, that's not likely.

"Vijay was positive in our conversation that he would be ready to play," Paul said. "I think he just needs to be careful this week."

In the world of professional golfers, Singh is a horse. He already has played 24 events this season. Last year he played 29. The year before that, 28. Most of the players in the elite class limit themselves to around 22.

In recent years, Singh has embraced fitness with the same fanaticism he has embraced practice throughout his career. He is relentless, routinely getting up before the sun to work out, spending the rest of the day working on his game, then heading to the gym in the evening.

The seriousness of the situation didn't prevent Paul from ribbing Singh just a bit during their conversation.

"If it was tennis I might be able to see it," Paul said. "But table tennis? I had to give him a couple of jabs about that."

Singh was genuinely disappointed not to be playing in Boston this weekend, especially after the fireworks during last year's tournament when he outduelled rival Woods down the stretch, not only to win the tournament, but to end Woods' reign as the No. 1 player in the world after 264 consecutive weeks.

Woods has since resumed his spot on the throne with a brilliant 2005 season in which he won two major championships. Singh still is stalking him, though Singh's heavy schedule makes it more difficult.

Woods leads Singh with an average of 18.37 points to 12.34, which seems like a commanding lead. But Singh's average is compiled over a staggering 63 events played in the past two years. Woods' average is compiled over just 41 events. If the No. 1 ranking was tallied on total points alone, Singh would still be No. 1 since he leads Woods 777 points to 753.

Singh turned 42 last February and is playing some of the best golf of his life at an age when most players have resigned themselves to the fact that they will have to take a backseat to younger men.

Singh hasn't reached that danger point yet, as long as he keeps that ping-pong paddle out of his hands.


Videos

Photos