Saturday, October 04, 2008

Why Vijay Singh is not king in the USA

Such have been Vijay Singh's amazing achievements,
especially after turning 40, he certainly deserves more respect.

I have personally been witness to one of Vijay's biggest faux pas – in Malaysia where he was playing the national open some years back. Having spent his formative years there, a local journalist asked him if he had any plans to give something back to Malaysian golf, like setting up an academy.

There was nothing controversial about Vijay Singh winning the FedEx Cup this year, and the whopping bonus cheque of $10 million (Dh36.7m) that comes along with it, but trust the American media to invent something ludicrous even in a performance which deserves nothing but plaudits.

This time, they chose to pan the big Fijian for not talking to the media after his final round at the BMW Championship, the third of the four playoff events of the FedEx Cup.After winning the first two playoff tournaments, Vijay did not have the best of finish at BMW, and with a couple of players in with a chance to deny him a cakewalk that he finally had at the Tour Championship, he was packing his bags and ready to leave the venue.

Nothing wrong in that, you would say. Only the winners of tournaments on the PGA Tour are required to give mandatory press conferences on Sundays. But that's not the way American media, or quite a few among them, thinks.

So, Vijay Singh was branded everything from being "classless", to "insufferable", to "shameless".

If he is all that, it is only because he is a non-American, who is beating most American golfers most of the time.

And Vijay is not an isolated case of the American media's total apathy to foreign stars on their soil. Take Roger Federer for instance. For more than five years of whipping everyone who is anyone in tennis, and after winning five US Open titles in as many years, all he has to show is one lousy cover of Sports Illustrated, regarded by many as the final word in sports magazines. That cover actually came after this year's Wimbledon, hides half his face, and it is more a tribute to his epic final against Rafael Nadal, rather than to the man himself.

Or, take South African Rory Sabatini. He became the "Bad Boy" for the American media after he decided not to wait for American Ben Crane, one of the slowest players ever to play the Royal & Ancient game, and walked off to the next tee! Considering that most Tour players, and the media, have often pointed out to pace of play being one of the biggest problems on the PGA Tour, Rory should have been made a hero that day.

But then, Rory did something far worse. He actually had the temerity to say in public that Tiger Woods was beatable. This was much before he walked off from Tiger's Target World Challenge in 2007 without finishing and without even informing his host – an act that deserved criticism.

But for saying that Woods is beatable, he was ripped apart by the American media. To be honest, I am yet to come across a professional golfer, who does not believe he can beat Woods in a tournament, or a tennis player who doesn't think he can take on Nadal on clay, or a bowler who has admitted he can never get through Sachin Tendulkar's defences. If you don't believe you can beat your rivals and win, why bother to play?

Coming back to Vijay, his biggest problems are that he is extremely strong-willed, not very diplomatic, brutally frank, and he wears his heart on his sleeve.

He desperately needs someone who can give him a thorough course in public relations – much in the same way as his personal trainer Jeffrey Fronk has ensured regular workouts to infuse the physique of a 25-year-old in the body of a 45-year-old.

I have personally been witness to one of Vijay's biggest faux pas – in Malaysia where he was playing the national open some years back. Having spent his formative years there, a local journalist asked him if he had any plans to give something back to Malaysian golf, like setting up an academy.

Anybody else in Vijay's place would have said something in the line of: "Yes. That's a distinct possibility in future". Not Vijay. He said: "Not really. I have not thought about it. I am only concentrating on my golf at the moment.

"Thankfully, the tournament was not in America, and he was not facing American journalists.

Is Vijay insufferable? I have met numerous Asian golfers who just can't stop praising him for how he makes them feel comfortable when they head out to tournaments in the US. He seeks them out for practice rounds, and imparts the knowledge of the courses he has gained with years of hard work.

And I am sure the various charities he supports, like the St Jude Hospital for Children, have a similar opinion.Is Vijay a bad role model? Someone who grew up poor – and that too in a country like Fiji, where the average rich man's annual income is perhaps less than the average poor man in America – and went on to become what he is today, can hardly be called a bad role model.

And the only magic formula that helped him to the top is his legendary work ethics, which includes more than 10 hours of hard work at the gym and driving range on his off days. And Vijay is definitely not a bad golfer.

He is the only player to have won the Order of Merit on the PGA Tour ahead of Tiger Woods – not once, but twice, and even a third time this year, even though Woods hardly played a full season – since 1998. He has now won 22 titles after turning 40, and has three majors to show against his name.

The American media got their Superman in the form of Woods. Now they needed a villain like Lex Luthor. Vijay Singh happened to be the softest target for them.

By Joy Chakravarty

1 comment:

george k said...

Greetings Fudsail,

Vijay(Fijian Indian) was ignored by Kiwis in his early days of his career....badly.

His parents still lives in NZ.

I agree with you, M'sian gave him the opportunities to excel, Vijay at least should repay back something to academy of sort.

Vijay, we know of your past bad treatments in NZ, please remember the M'sians, they did you GOOD