SONY HAWAII OPEN GOLF
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Defending Sony Open in Hawaii champion Vijay Singh smiled yesterday after making a few putts on Waialae's practice green. Singh comes to the event off a playoff loss at the Mercedes Championships on Maui. The world's No. 2 golfer calls the Sony "one of the great ways to start the year" because the weather in Hawaii is so much better than it is on the mainland at this time of year.
Singh's still swinging
The world's No. 2 has put a rare playoff loss behind him this week
Late yesterday afternoon, Vijay Singh relegated himself to the far edge of the practice putting green.
He took out four tees, stuck them lightly on the surface in a rectangle that was a little wider than his putter. The idea is to bring the putter through the area without striking the four tees to keep your stroke straight.
The hole he was eyeing was about 9 feet away. It was the same distance he had on the first playoff hole at Sunday's Mercedes Championships. In a span of 30 seconds, he knocked three right into the hole, bringing a wry smile to his face.
He shared a laugh with his caddy, as if to ask where that stroke was when it counted. He picked up the four tees and moved on to a new location. They won't let him use those later today in the first round of the $5.1 million Sony Open in Hawaii. But if the defending champion plays as he did last week, he won't need them.
"Golf is a lot different than last week," Singh said after yesterday's pro-am. "The wind is not as strong today. I think it was a lot stronger yesterday as well. I'm playing well, I'm feeling good and looking forward to the event. Hopefully, I can do what I did last year."
Last year, Singh came off a disappointing finish at the Mercedes to hold off South African Ernie Els to win by a single shot. It was his first win in the island chain, although he has managed six top-five finishes on Maui since the winners-only event moved there in 1999.
He came close to securing his first Mercedes win in 10 tries, but a missed birdie putt cleared the way for Stuart Appleby to win his third in a row.
"If you had given me a 66 before the start of the day, I would have been really happy," Singh said of his 7-under final round. "But then, the way it finished out, I was pretty disappointed. Nobody likes losing in a playoff. I was probably more disappointed last week than I would have been if I was one or two
shots back and finished second.
"But the way I played the last day, the amount of shots that I wasted throughout the week, and then not making a birdie on the playoff hole was disappointing. It kind of stayed with me all night and then I forgot about it the next morning. So, I'm OK now."
Which might spell trouble for the other 143 golfers in the first full-field event on the PGA Tour. When the world's No. 2 starts feeling it, as he obviously did in the final round Sunday, it means you better bring your sticks to the yard.
Singh also spent the offseason looking for a little more intensity, which is scary when you consider just how much he works each day on his game. But after missing two cuts in a row late last year, Singh took it upon himself to work even harder.
"I just intensified a little bit more," Singh said. "I worked a lot more on my golf swing as well. I started to do things that I had not done with my golf swing that I was doing, five, six, seven years ago. One reason was injuries.
"I had gone ahead and done something and didn't worry about it and went ahead and did it. Hence, I got a lot more aches and pains here and there. But you play through it. I'm feeling good, a lot stronger now and I think I'm hitting the ball farther. I love the driver I'm hitting. It's going the way I want it to go and it tested good, so I'm happy with it."
He's also happy about playing in Hawaii. Despite a late commitment to the Sony Open, Singh always planned to play here. He loves the weather and can't understand why more of the game's top players don't add it to their list of events.
"It's one of the great ways to start the year," Singh said. "It's cold back home, cold everywhere in America, so this is paradise. I'm just surprised that the field is not as strong as it should be. I just love playing here."
PGA Tour on fewer channels in '07
HONOLULU » There won't be as much channel-surfing to find the PGA Tour next year, the start of a six-year deal that includes only two major networks and gives The Golf Channel exclusive cable rights for 15 years.
The deal was a boon for The Golf Channel, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2005.
It will televise the first three events of the season -- winners-only event at Kapalua, the Sony Open and the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, before CBS takes over through most of the West Coast swing.
The announcement yesterday culminates a major shake-up in the structure of the PGA Tour, which also revamped its schedule to create a season-long points race and a blockbluster finish designed to get Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and other stars to play together more often.
And while financial terms with CBS Sports and NBC Sports were not disclosed, commissioner Tim Finchem conceded that prize money that was escalating at a bullish rate will flatten over the next six years.
"I think it's fair to say that the purse level increases year-to-year will not be as steep in the next six years," Finchem said in a conference call that was short on specifics.
It was the most taxing negotiations since Woods joined the PGA Tour in 1996, became an instant star and allowed the tour to negotiate TV deals that sent the total purse from $96 million to $255 million in eight years.
ABC Sports walked away from negotiations late last month, and cable partner ESPN followed. That keeps the PGA Tour away from the biggest sports brand on cable, relegating all Thursday and Friday rounds -- along with three tournaments at the start of 2007 -- to a cable channel that still doesn't reach every market.
Except for the four policy board members, players weren't aware of the deal until the tour's press release was posted in the locker room at Waialae Country Club.
TOMORROW'S TEE TIMES
7:15 a.m.: Jerry Kelly, Pat Perez, Hidemichi Tanaka
7:24: Charles Howell III, Jay Haas, Michael Allen
7:34: Tom Pernice Jr., Steve Lowery, James Driscoll
7:43: K.J. Choi, Jason Bohn, Steve Jones
7:53: Lucas Glover, Wes Short Jr., Ryan Palmer
8:02: Fred Funk, Carlos Franco, Billy Mayfair
8:12: Joe Durant, Paul Goydos, Ryuji Imada
8:21: Dudley Hart, Justin Rose, Thomas Levet
8:31: David McKenzie, Jason Schultz, Shiv Kapur
8:40: Steven Bowditch, Robert Garrigus, Tadahiro Takayama
8:50: Hunter Mahan, Eric Axley, Kaname Yokoo
8:59: Nicholas Thompson, Jeff Overton, Yusaku Miyazato
11:45: Joe Ogilvie, Greg Chalmers, Patrick Sheehan
11:54: Tom Byrum, Alex Cejka, Arjun Atwal
12:04 p.m.: John Cook, Jeff Maggert, Brett Quigley
12:13: Kenny Perry, Todd Hamilton, Chad Campbell
12:23: Heath Slocum, Sean O'Hair, Tom Lehman
12:32: Peter Lonard, Loren Roberts, Rich Beem
12:42: Jason Gore, Jim Furyk, Mike Weir
12:51: John Huston, Daniel Chopra, Ryan Moore
1:01: Roger Tambellini, Nathan Green, Parker McLachlin
1:10: Chris Couch, Camilo Villegas, Michelle Wie
1:20: Bill Haas, Bubba Watson, Brad Elder
1:29: Nick Watney, David Branshaw, Brandan Kop
7:15 a.m.: Jesper Parnevik, Corey Pavin, Richard S. Johnson
7:24: Todd Fischer, Dean Wilson, John Riegger
7:34 p.m.: Aaron Baddeley, Mathew Goggin, Jerry Smith
7:43: Stuart Appleby, Vijay Singh, Jonathan Kaye
7:53: Mark Calcavecchia, Peter Jacobsen, Craig Perks
8:02: Bart Bryant, Vaughn Taylor, Adam Scott
8:12: Tommy Armour III, Chris Riley, D.J. Trahan
8:21: Shigeki Maruyama, Charles Warren, Troy Matteson
8:31: Jeff Gove, D.A. Points, David Ishii
8:40: Ron Whittaker, John Engler Jr., Jeremy Tucker
8:50: Jimmy Walker, Charley Hoffman, Charlie Wi
8:59: Shane Bertsch, J.B. Holmes, Kiyoshi Miyazato
11:45: Rory Sabbatini, Frank Lickliter II, Arron Oberholser
11:54: Paul Azinger, Craig Barlow, Bo Van Pelt
12:04 p.m.: Craig Stadler, Harrison Frazar, Joey Snyder III
12:13: Robert Gamez, Woody Austin, Jeff Sluman
12:23: Brad Faxon, David Toms, David Duval
12:32: Carl Pettersson, Olin Browne, Tim Petrovic
12:42: Brent Geiberger, Stewart Cink, Shaun Micheel
12:51: Jeff Brehaut, Stephen Leaney, Tag Ridings
1:01: Will MacKenzie, Vance Veazey, Thaworn Wiratchant
1:10: Henrik Bjornstad, Daisuke Maruyama, Kevin Hayashi
1:20: Kris Cox, Bubba Dickerson, Steve Schneiter
1:29: Jon Mills, Alex Aragon, Beau Yokomoto