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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Tuesday, April 11, 2000

Singh is first to
qualify for Poipu Bay

WELL, so much for Tiger Woods making a grand slam sweep of golf's four majors this year.

Vijay Singh became the first winner of a major in 2000 with a three-stroke victory in the Masters. He also became the first invitee to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf at the Poipu Bay Resort on Kauai Nov. 21-22.

The million-dollar event is open to only the winners of the four majors. That leaves the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship still up for grabs.

And, not surprisingly, Tiger rates as the favorite each time they tee it up in the remaining three majors.

Singh? Well, he showed that he can play with the best of them at the Augusta National. And he certainly has the credentials.

Do you realize he has as many victories in the majors as Woods? Two. Both now have won the Masters and the PGA Championship.

Of course, the PGA of America hopes that Woods can win at least one of the three remaining majors so that he can qualify for its Grand Slam event and win it for an unprecedented third year in a row.

No offense to Singh, whose personality can be dull as a divot. But without Tiger, the PGA Grand Slam just won't be as attractive a fare on television.

Even the Masters.

CBS' ratings for the Masters on Sunday showed a slight decline from last year, undoubtedly because Tiger wasn't really in the hunt. It had increased for Saturday's third round when Woods shot a 68 to make a slight run at Singh.

"Obviously, whenever Tiger is in contention and in your coverage, the ratings normally show an up-tick," said CBS.

So the PGA of America and the Poipu Bay Resort officials, including director of golf Michael Castillo, can't help but pull for Woods to join Singh in November.

This will be Singh's second appearance in the Grand Slam. He lost to Woods, 2 up, in the 1998 championship final when the event was conducted under a match-play format for the first time.

Woods had qualified for the Grand Slam as the top alternate when his good friend, Mark O'Meara, won two majors - the Masters and the British Open.

Castillo remembers Singh enjoying the Grand Slam experience.

"He enjoyed the golf course and the resort," Castillo said. "He and his family stayed a little longer afterwards."

The wind was brutal that year.

"It was a three-club wind, but he managed it well," Castillo said. But Singh told Castillo, "If I grew up playing in this kind of wind, I would never have played golf."

IT'S hard to imagine with his game, which has literally and figuratively come a long way since the 37-year-old Fiji native toiled as a working stiff at low-profile golf courses in Borneo after he had been accused of cheating in an Asian Tour event.

Now, he's on top of the world in golf as the reigning Masters' champion. Besides a green jacket, Singh also earned a lot of greenbacks ($828,000) with his V.J. Day at Augusta.

Meanwhile, Castillo likes Tiger's chances in the U.S. Open and the British Open.

"Both courses (Pebble Beach and St. Andrews) couldn't be a better fit for him, his game," Castillo said.

As at Augusta, Poipu Bay is trying to "Tiger-proof" its course as well in anticipation of Woods' return.

They're planning to lengthen the par-4 eighth and 10th holes -- both into the prevailing wind -- by 40 yards each. And possibly the 12th hole, another par 4, as well.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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