News came last week about two-time major champion, Vijay Singh’s return to competitive Golf in Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews. For Singh, it was three years, since he last played in any tournament on the European circuit. Well, the tournament is over. Vijay Singh couldn’t make the grade and David Howell of England won the Championship two days ago. But it was good for Vijay Singh’s morale, which plummeted after a rough ordeal forcing him away from Golf Courses for long.
Golf is an unusual sport, invented for the elite. It has its roots in the Scottish history, from where it spread to Europe and America. For long, it was a pastime for royals and the super-rich. Even now, Golf is linked to the corporate culture, politicians, diplomats, Hollywood stars, rich players from other sports, and members of famous club houses. Golf is especially popular in the United States, a country with more than 17000 Golf courses. This is half the number of Golf courses in the whole world. The advent of Professional Golfers Association, PGA, ensured that, under its circuit, there are tournaments all-round the year. And commoners can take to Golf, as full time occupation. Unfortunately, the nature of Golf’s format precludes it from becoming a spectator sport, except on TV channels. You can’t have a Golf stadium for obvious reasons! Despite all this, Golf has captured great media attention and tremendous popularity in recent times.
This article began with Vijay Singh; once considered as world’s best golfer. Singh had his best time from mid-nineties until 2004, which was his top winning season. But Vijay Singh and many other Golfers were seriously challenged, as Tiger Woods arrived on the Golf scene. Woods was barely 21, when he first played a major tournament and acquired tremendous fame in too short a time.
Vijay Singh is a Fijian, who turned professional in 1982 and joined the PGA Tour in 1993. He has 58 tournament titles to his name, of which 34 were won on PGA Tour alone. Singh’s three major championships victories are; the Masters in 2000 and the PGA Championships in 1998 and 2004. He kept the number 1 spot in Official World Golf Rankings for 32 weeks during 2004 and 2005. He was admitted to World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003, 2004 and 2008. At one time, he was the leading earner from professional golf and named as the Player of the Year by both PGA Tour and PGA of America. He also won the FedEx Cup in 2008. But Singh’s career and his life struck a bad patch, when his name was dragged in mud for doping. It was an ugly media exposure leading to public humiliation and ridicule. Singh was charged for using a banned substance by World Anti-Doping Agency or WADA, who thought Singh had used a spray, extracted from deer antlers. This item figured briefly on WADA’s list of banned-substances. With PGA gunning for him, overzealously, Vijay Singh lost his reputation and his form. His earnings during investigation were held in escrow, as he faced suspension by PGA. But once WADA delisted the spray as a banned item, PGA also dropped its investigation and Singh was free to play. However, the damage was done and his tournament appearances dropped. For a while, Singh went into his shell.
Tiger Woods, who turned pro in 1996, is the most successful golfers of all time. After Woods won the 1997 masters with a breathtaking performance, no golf course in the world was too intimidating for him. So complete was Woods’ dominance that for more than 10 years, he held the number one spot; first between August 1999 and September 2004 and again from June 2005 to October 2010. Woods became an incomparable and phenomenal golfing icon, who everyone liked to emulate.
Then, like Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, too fell victim to a human error that brought about the loss of his form. From December 2009 to April 2010, media splashed juicy stories of his illicit relations with several women, which literally broke his marriage. In November 2011, Woods slipped to no. 58 in the world. However, Woods had a tough resolve, as he snapped a winless streak of 107 weeks to capture Chevron World Challenge in December 2011 and after winning Arnold Palmer Invitation tournament in March 2013, he regained the No.1 Ranking once again.