Vijay Singh: Hard working and hated?

There’s been plenty of talk on the Web about Vijay Singh and his [photopress:VIJAY.jpg,full,alignright]onrunning battle with the press following his win at Bay Hill on the weekend.

Most stories pick up the same seemingly ridiculous incident to raise their points — that Singh parked in the media parking despite there being lots of spots for players. I guess it was an issue of “he could, so he did.”

Anyway, the Daily Mail’s Derek Lawrenson picks it up from here:

Singh was at it again on Sunday morning at Bay Hill. Pulling into the parking lot, he would have seen acres of spots reserved for players alongside half a dozen reserved for the press. Guess where Vijay parked?

When his female companion was politely asked if the car could be parked in a correct spot, the attendant was left to reflect in no uncertain terms that this was Vijay Singh’s vehicle and it could be parked wherever he liked.

But if a parking incident wasn’t enough, there’s more, including a nasty incident after the Masters:

“Kiss my ass, everybody,” was Singh’s pay-off line as he left the gates of Augusta National after claiming the Masters in 2000. Woe betide if you don’t.

Singh still doesn’t talk to Doug Ferguson, the highly-respected golf writer for the Associated Press, owing to the fact he once quoted him accurately.

“I hope she misses the cut,” said Singh when asked about Annika Sorenstam’s participation in the 2003 Colonial Invitational.

According to Lawrenson, most of Singh’s distrust apparently stems from the cheating incident that Jim Rutledge called him on more than a decade ago:

Singh bemoans the fact that journalists still refer to a murky, unproven allegation of cheating in Indonesia in the mid-1980s. He is right about that. The statute of limitations has long passed.

The statute may have passed, but writers still bring it up. It is a testament to the fact that cheating is probably the most serious thing you can do in pro golf. It is also a testament to the fact Singh isn’t pleasant to deal with in media terms and therefore the media — as a way of getting back at him — continue to bring up the incident.

That’s Palm Beach Post writer Craig Dolch’s point:

But Singhs story doesnt resonate like it should for two main reasons: 1) Singh doesnt trust the media (no doubt a result of the cheating charge and subsequent negative publicity) and rarely gives reporters true insight into his life and past; 2) Singhs sometimes hostile approach to the media turns off many reporters.

Dolch also raises the issue of parking-gate again:

Another tale, albeit a minor one, occurred last weekend at Bay Hill. For some reason, Singh kept parking his car in a media parking spot instead of where the players park. Why? Who knows? A parking attendant told me Saturday morning how he and several of his fellow volunteers had gotten into a heated argument with Singh because after he was told he couldnt park his car there, but he did so, anyway.

Dolch concludes it is hard not to admire Singh’s notorious work ethic, but at the same time it is awfully challenging to see much positive about the man himself.

All of this contrasts with the fact Singh is generally well liked by his peers on tour and pro-am partners find him friendly and affable. He might bring some of the issues with the press upon himself, but the players don’t care. Here’s an example from Lorne Rubenstein’s column in the Globe:

He also helps other players. Mike Weir once asked Singh to show him how to play a shot of about 30 yards to the green. Singh rotated his body back and through so that the grip end of the club seemed stuck in his navel. There wasn’t any excess movement. The shot became a staple of Weir’s short game and helped him win the 2003 Masters.

I’ve actually never had a issue with Singh, though he consistently comes to the Canadian Open, unlike most others of his stature. In 2004, when he rallied in rain soaked conditions on Friday at the tournament, shooting a remarkable 28 on the front nine and eventually taking the title from Mike Weir, there were suggestions he wouldn’t bother to talk to the press. In fact, the PGA Tour media handler asked him following his second round about whether he would scrum with the media or come to the tent. Singh said he’d come to the tent, but the media person didn’t actually believe him, thinking instead that he said that as a way of avoiding the media altogether. He came to the tent, flopped into the couch and answered a handful of question before departing. Of course, he didn’t have anything much to say — but that isn’t the point.

Of course, in my mind this is coloured by a first hand account of an encounter with Singh that was told to me by someone working at the Canadian Open in the late 1990s when the event was at the Abbey. Singh, a tireless range hound, was hitting balls into the early evening. One of the assistant pros working at the event for ClubLink was in charge of dealing with the range. With Singh looking low on balls, the pro grabbed a bag of Singh’s brand and walked over quietly, depositing them near where Singh and his caddy were working and began to walk away.

Suddenly Singh turned and snapped: “What the f**k do you think you’re doing?”

The pro was a bit stunned, thinking he was doing Singh and his caddy a favour.

“Get those balls and get the f**k out of here,” Singh said and the pro sheepishly grabbed the bag and departed.

Now maybe Singh was having a tough day. Sure the pro probably shouldn’t have approached him. But all things being equal, it might have been easier to have simply said, “Sorry, I don’t need those at the moment.”

Which leads me to believe, like many golf pros, Singh now lives in a world of prestige and wealth. He’s worked hard to achieve it, but along the way he appears to have lost touch with where he came from.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I agree with the media that brings up his supposed cheating incident of the 1980s. Cheating is such a grave issue (especially in golf). In order for people to forgive a golfer, there needs to be serious and honest regret and a commitment to a different behaviour. Being pleasant and available also goes a long way toward helping the public (and the media) change their opinion. Vijay does not understand this.

    I never liked Vijay based on the “cheating” allegations but if there is no truth to the story, then I am being unfair and would be the first to change my opinion if the overwhelming evidence suggests that he did not cheat. Reading about his behaviour as outlined in RT’s post does not help in changing my opinion.

  • You know what the whole problem is?
    You folks have your heads so far up Tiger Woods backside you have to idea how to compliment anyone else even if you wanted to.
    Vijay has done more for golf than Woods or anyone else ever has. Even when he was number one he travelled to tournaments all over north america no one else would and let many thousands of people have a chance to watch a top player.
    Why don’t you try being more positive towards other players like other sports? Everyone can be a jerk sometimes (even you) so stop writing all this crap as in the end it is only you who looks bad as a writer.
    Are you writers honestly trying to say your friend Tiger doesn’t use the “f” word towards people? Besides, you have no proof Vijay cheated. Why is it several people involved in that tournament have said it was the fault of some score keeper misreading Vijays card? You writers just don’t want to believe that and if it were Tiger you would all be down kissing his feet justifying the error.
    Wake up and give Vijay the credit he deserves.
    D. L. Aitken

  • Arrogance, egoism will be the down fall of a person. I am a fan of Vijay and am sadden by his display of this qualities. We should have respect for fellow humans. Especially sports persons who should set good examples for the future generations.

    As for his honesty only he knows???? KARMA will catch up, leave it to that. Don”t forget that incident in Indonesia has cost Vijay 2 years of his prime playing years, is this KARMA catching up with him.

    What ever said or done I for one know he is a really Great Golfer and do not have any concrete evidence of his dishonesty. Vijay please be humble and you will see your clubs speak for you. Fore !

  • Vijay plays golf. He’s out there at most every event during the spring, summer and fall. I respect him for that. Tiger sits at home most of the year.

  • I was an Official at a major tournament in Malaysia in the early 90’s. Spoke to a group of pros having drinks after the first day and the subject of Vijay “cheating” came up. At 22, he was a struggling club pro in Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia on the island of Borneo earning USD 250/month and before that he was a Teaching Pro at a Club in Sabah, Malaysia, North Borneo, earning USD200/month and living in a room at the club office that you would not even let your pets live in. He moved to Borneo to earn some money to live on after being cast out of the System, because of the alleged cheating which happened in Jakarta when he was barely 20. One of the Pros’ answer to my question about the cheating accusation was that ” we knew the kid was too good and we wanted to get him out of the way….” In fact the alleged incident happened when he was 19 years old. A kid, yes, just a kid with tremendous talent, who could out-drive and outplay the mediocre Asian pros anytime.

    One more thing. Racism is not an exclusive domain of the West. It is alive and well and living in Asia too.

  • Vijay is an a$$hole and he probably always will be. I personally am happy as hell when he loses, like he did this year at BMW after being tied for the lead … screw him.

  • Vijay Singh is a rude, arrogant, sexist clod who thinks he’s special, when, in fact, there are hundreds of professional golfers in the PGA who have better records than he does and don’t act like they’re better than everyone else. The sooner the PGA no longer has to see his face again, the better.

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