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Happy Warrior As he battles toward No. 1, Singh has never had more fun

Feb. 16, 2004
Feb. 16, 2004

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Feb. 16, 2004

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Happy Warrior As he battles toward No. 1, Singh has never had more fun

During last week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am there was as
much talk about who didn't show up as who did. Favorite son Bill
Murray was in Italy filming a movie, while Tiger Woods had cited
the tournament's "bumpy" greens as a reason for not playing,
which put him in Dirty Harry's line of fire. Tournament host
Clint Eastwood told the San Francisco Chronicle, "We have great
players here this week, so we're not going to worry about one or
two guys having a bug up their ass."

This is an article from the Feb. 16, 2004 issue

Vijay Singh, meanwhile, couldn't have cared less who was in the
field, and after three days of solid play he wasted no time
taking control of the tournament on Sunday, birdieing the first
three holes to open a three-stroke lead. From there he cruised to
his 16th Tour victory and 12th consecutive top 10 finish, moving
him close to Jack Nicklaus's 1977 record of 14 straight. During
this streak Singh has three wins and more than $5 million in
earnings.

What's Singh doing right? "He's got the best swing on Tour," says
Peter Jacobsen. "He's the best conditioned athlete--I think he's
surpassed Tiger--and he seems to want it the most. The guy's
relentless."

Last week Singh also had a good-luck charm in Teddy Forstmann,
his amateur partner. They met 11 years ago when paired at the
Pro-Am and have become so close that Singh wears Forstmann's
company logo over his heart. Forstmann is a leveraged-buyout
maven with a personal fortune estimated at $725 million and a
reputation as an international playboy. He and Singh are quite
the odd couple, but Forstmann kept his partner loose throughout
the Pro-Am's six-hour rounds. "Everyone says they've never seen
Vijay smile and laugh as much as he has this week, but he's like
that every time I'm with him," Forstmann said on Sunday as Singh
was receiving the champion's crystal. "Vijay is a very humble man
who's uncomfortable in the spotlight, which has led to some of
his problems with the press."

To that end Forstmann recently arranged a dinner for Singh with
Mike McCurry, the press secretary to President Clinton. Forstmann
paid close attention as Singh addressed the gallery and gave a
heartfelt speech about how he had always dreamed of winning at
Pebble Beach. Singh drew a rousing cheer when he added how
special it was to receive the trophy from "one of my heroes,"
Eastwood.

"Attaboy," Forstmann said, beaming.

Afterward Singh couldn't hide his intensity when probed by
reporters about his streak. "You keep talking about top 10s, and
all I'm thinking about is winning," he said. He also reiterated
his goal of ascending to No. 1 in the World Ranking. To do that
he'll have to win a couple more majors. A good candidate is the
U.S. Open. Among Forstmann's homes is a spread in the Hamptons,
near Shinnecock Hills. "I'll make sure Vijay is comfortable and
ready to play," Forstmann said with a twinkle in his eye.
--Alan Shipnuck

COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN (SINGH) HIGH PRIORITIES Singh only cares about winning, not his top 10 streak.

TRUST ME

The court decision allowing Maurice Clarett to enter this year's
NFL draft was noted in the Wie household, as it was by the PGA
and LPGA tours, which have age limits of 18.