[FOUNTAIN]The lion prevails over the tigerIn 2003’s American Express Championship, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh, the top two players of the last round, were paired to play. At the first hole, Woods said, “Good luck!” After looking straight at him for a while without a word, Singh replied, “Titleist No. 2.”
It is a custom among professional golfers to declare what kind of balls they are using to other players at the beginning of the game. At Woods’ well wishing, Singh snarled that they should get into the game.
The rivalry between the two is well known. Singh is largely responsible for the mutual animosity, as he had repeatedly provoked Woods. In the past, Singh’s caddy wore a hat with “Tiger Who?” written on it when the two were playing together. Singh has no particular reason to despise Woods. He is just too determined to become No. 1 in the rankings. After all, Vijay means victory and Singh means a lion.
Singh’s determination is a product of his struggles and adversities. Born to a poor Indian family on the South Pacific island of Fiji, Singh was introduced to golf as he caddied for his golf-loving father. He taught himself golf through Bobby Jones’s books. Well-known for diligence, Singh turned pro in 1982 at age 19 and joined the Asian Tour.
He is almost vindictive about rising to the top because he had experienced an unusual setback in his early pro years. In 1985, a year after his first victory, he was banned from playing in the tour for two years for having manipulated his score to get past the qualifying round. He claimed that the person in charge of keeping his score reduced it by one stroke by mistake. But it left a permanent stain in his career.
Singh had to make a living by working as a teaching pro at a country club in Borneo. Because the monthly salary of $160 wasn’t enough to make a decent living, he had to earn extra cash by making bets with other players.
Finally, Singh won the PGA Deutsche Bank Championship early this week and replaced Woods in top place. Woods has left a remarkable record in the history of golf by holding first place in the professional ranking for 264 weeks straight. Woods is 13 years younger than Singh. The competition between a hardworking lion and a prodigy tiger is an exciting show for the rest of the world.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.