Print and Go Back Golf [Print without images]

Sunday, January 26, 2003
Updated: January 27, 12:50 PM ET
Singh scores another win for international side

By David Lefort

Vijay Singh locked up his second Phoenix Open with a Super Sunday, and gave the PGA Tour's international contingent another trophy for its case to start the 2003 season.

Vijay Singh birdied five of his first six holes Sunday to pull away from the pack.

Dating back to the end of last year, international players have won the last five tour events. Additionally, they occupy five of the top six places on the 2003 money list after three tournaments (Rocco Mediate is the lone American in the top five).

The most dominant golfers over that five-event span haven't been Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, but rather Ernie Els and Singh, who each have two wins dating back to last year's Tour Championship.

Sure, the top American player is still on the shelf and it's a little early to take too much from this trend, but it's something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

More tidbits and analysis from the weekend in golf:

Around the tours

This week:
Phoenix Open
TPC of Scottsdale; Scottsdale, Ariz.
Top finishers:
1 Vijay Singh (-23)
2. John Huston
T3. Robert Gamez
T3. Retief Goosen
T3. Harrison Frazar
T3. Tim Petrovic

This week:
Singapore Masters
Laguna National Golf and Country Club; Singapore
Top finishers:
1. Zhang Lian-Wei (-10)
2. Ernie Els
3. Prayad Marksaeng
T4. Maarten Lafeber
T4. Simon Khan

This week:
ConAgra LPGA Skins Game
Wailea Golf Club; Honolulu
How they finished:
1. Karrie Webb $470K
2. A. Sorenstam $70K
3. Laura Diaz $60K
4. Laura Davies $0

This week:
ConAgra Senior Skins Game
Location: Wailea Golf Club; Honolulu
How they finished:
1. Lee Tevino $240K
2. Hale Irwin $200K
3. Jack Nicklaus $160
4. Arnold Palmer $0

Did you see that?
John HustonJohn Huston got a tough break on the par-3 16th on Sunday at the Phoenix Open. Trailing Singh by two shots, Huston's tee shot hit the flag stick on the fly. But instead of stopping or rolling a few feet away, the ball took a giant bounce backward and rolled off the green and about 20 yards down the hill.

An ace there would have sent the huge crowd into a frenzy and given him a tie for the lead. Instead, he chipped up close to the hole and made par. On the next hole, the short par-4 17th, Huston was forced to try and drive the green and ended up hitting his tee shot into the water.
John DalyAfter hitting the ball all over the course in shooting a first-round 77 in Scottsdale, John Daly bounced back with a respectable 72 Friday in which he made twice the number of birdies and half the number of bogeys as the day before.
''It was a dream start for me. You know, I birdied 1 and 2 and then birdied 4, 5, 6. You do something like that when you're just one or two back to start, and you're definitely going to have good momentum.''
-- Vijay Singh
The number

The number of fans who attended Saturday's third round of the Phoenix Open.

Five observations
1. It was another week of ideal conditions and low scoring on the PGA Tour, where it's no longer and option to play conservatively if you want to be around for the weekend. Some facts and figures from the Phoenix Open:

  • Last year, the lowest one-round score of the week was a 7-under 64. There were seven rounds better than that this week.

  • The final-round scoring average of 69.347 was the second lowest at the TPC of Scottsdale. But the round was the first of the week in which a low cumulative record was not set.

  • Singh's 14-under 128 total over the weekend (rounds of 65 Saturday and 63 Sunday), was the lowest in tournament history. His 23-under 261 was the best 72-hole score of his career and the third-best total in tournament history. Additionally, he tied the tournament record for lowest final-round score, and had the best finish by a PGA Tour winner since Jonathan Byrd's 63 at last year's Buick Challenge.

  • Chris DiMarco won last year's event with a 17-under total. He was only two strokes worse than that this week, but had to settle for a tie for 14th place. However, DiMarco did break the tournament record for nine holes with a 7-under 28 to begin Saturday's third round.

  • The top 16 shot in the 60s on Sunday, and the average total score in relation to par of the top five was 20-under. Last year, the top five averaged 15.8-under.

  • The average score of the top five finishers in the season's first three events is 19.4-under. That score is almost five strokes better than the average of the top five from last year, and is three-and-a-half shots better than that same group from 2001.

    2. Harrison Frazar led after each of the first three rounds, but couldn't go low enough on Sunday to pick up his first career PGA Tour win.

    That's a common theme for the 31-year-old Dallas native, who has held the 54-hole lead in three different events but failed to win any of them. In fact, his third-place finish in Scottsdale (he fired a 69 on Sunday) was his best showing in any of the four events in which he led heading into the final round.

    3. Phil Mickelson had a decent start to his 2003, firing a final-round 64 Sunday to jump from 31st into the top 10. Playing with a similar Titleist driver to the one Els has been using, Mickelson led the field in driving distance, averaging 322.8 yards off the tee.

    4. It turns out Ernie Els is human after all.

    Leading the Singapore Masters with nine holes to play, Els made three bogeys coming in -- including at 18 -- and lost when Zhang Lian-Wei made a three-foot birdie putt on the final hole.

    Should it be troubling that Els faltered on the back nine in his final round? It's too soon to tell what we can take from his stumble. Last week, he rallied from behind to catch Aaron Baddeley on the final day. So was this just a hiccup? A momentary lapse of concentration after an exhausting couple of weeks? Would he have reacted the same if his opponent was, say, Tiger Woods instead of a little-known Chinese golfer?

    Still, Els crushed the ball off the tee again this week and made 17 birdies and an eagle, giving no indication that his quick start to the season is anything but the real deal.

    5. Karrie Webb and Lee Trevino were the big winners at the LPGA and Champions ConAgra Skins Games in Hawaii.

    Webb won the final 10 skins and 12 total to rack up $470,000 in winnings against LPGA rivals Annika Sorenstam, Laura Diaz and Laura Davies. Sorenstam was second with three skins and $70,000.

    In the Champions Skins Game, Trevino made a 10-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole to finish with six skins and $240,000. Hale Irwin was second with $200,000, Jack Nicklaus made $160,000 and Arnold Palmer, the 73-year-old crowd favorite, failed to take a skin for the second consecutive year.

    What it means for ...
    Sergio Garcia
    Sergio Garcia: What's up with Sergio? He finished tied for 61st this week and only has one top-25 showing in the year's first three events. Is this just a dry spell, or is this the start of a frigid season for El Nino?

    Rich Beem: The Beemer missed the cut for the second straight week. Was his big 2002 season just a fluke, or is this slow start just the result of a busy offseason?

    Tim Petrovic: The University of Hartford product has put together solid back-to-back weeks. His third-place tie in Scottsdale comes a week after his tie for 15th at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He had only four top-20 finishes all of last year, he's already got two in his first two events of 2003.

    Coming up next ...
    PGA Tour: Bob Hope Chrysler Classic
    Tiger Woods
    Early indications were that David Duval would make his 2003 debut at the Phoenix Open, but after deciding to sit it out he'll play his first event this week in La Quinta, Calif. Duval is one of the biggest question marks of 2003 after a 2002 season that saw him drop from eighth to 80th on the money list.

    After a strong debut in Scottsdale, Phil Mickelson will defend his title at the Bob Hope, which is held on four different courses. It is one of only two PGA Tour events played over five rounds, and is known for low scores and celebrity sightings.

    Champions Tour: MasterCard Championship
    The Champions Tour kicks off its 2003 season this week in Hawaii. Tom Kite won the event last year.

    European Tour: Heineken Classic
    Ernie Els stays on the European Tour to defend his title at the upcoming Heineken Classic in Victoria, Australia. The Big Easy is really racking up the frequent flier miles, having traveled from South Africa to Hawaii, Hawaii to Singapore, and Singapore to Australia in the last month.

    David Lefort is's golf editor, and can be reached at The Associated Press contributed to this report.