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Singh silent on Player of the Year loss

Vijay Singh, never a man for verbal flights of fancy, imposed a one-man news blackout last week.

The 40-year-old Fijian had ample reason to trumpet his views after controversially losing out to Tiger Woods for the PGA Tour's player of the year prize and plenty spoke up on his behalf.

But from the man himself, there was not a whisper.

The award brings nothing except prestige but since it is decided by the tour players, the trophy is one of the most cherished in the game.

By any standards, Singh had a strong case for claiming it in 2003.

He won four times on the Tour, finished second on five occasions and racked up 18 top-10 finishes. He was the leading PGA Tour money winner with over $7.5 million, nearly a million more than Woods, and climbed from seventh in the world rankings to second.

Woods, a certainty as the Tour's choice player for the past four years, did not have such a bad year himself with five wins in 18 tournaments but by his standards it was poor.

The world number one sets real store only by the number of major championships he stacks up and this year's haul was a fat zero.

No matter how much Woods tells us that 2003 has not been a bad year, he will waste no more than a page or two on it when he writes his autobiography at the end of a glittering career.

So why, after four years of dominance, did the U.S. PGA's finest not bestow one of their greatest honours on one of their own, an honest, admittedly hugely talented, toiler like Singh, rather than golden boy Tiger?

Easy. Big Vijay is, in fact, not one of their own. A succession of overseas players, notably former world number one Greg Norman, have spoken about how long U.S. pros take to accept foreigners and Singh may be one of those who never receive the full welcome.

Secondly, Singh is not renowned for being sociable and in golf, with its fancy etiquette and male-dominated customs, that kind of behaviour wins no popularity contests.

He is a byword for dedication and once memorably warned a caddie that he opened up and closed the practice range, routinely whacking 500 balls in a day.

Not surprisingly, until his current bag carrier Dave Renwick, not many could take the pace.

Singh wastes no time shooting the breeze at the 19th hole and although always courteous on course he is not known for having many close friends on tour.

Additionally, he speaks his mind -- almost to a fault. When Annika Sorenstam played a PGA Tour event, Singh piped up that women did not belong in a men's event, compounding his outspokenness by saying he hoped the Swede missed the cut. It was an unworthy way for one fine champion to speak of another and many told Singh so at the time but the man himself remained typically unrepentant.

There is one final problem that Singh will forever, it seems, struggle to shake off. In 1985 he was accused of altering a scorecard for the better in Indonesia and was banned indefinitely from the Asian Tour.

Singh has always protested his innocence and certainly there has not been a whiff of doubt over his honesty in such matters since his re-emergence on the European Tour three years later.

But mud sticks and such a heinous golfing accusation has not been forgotten. A British tabloid even mentioned it again in July when it looked like he could win the Open Championship at Sandwich.

All in all, then, it would have been amazing if Singh had been voted the PGA Player of the Year.

He probably did not speak about it, however, because he finds such media-fuelled disputes beneath him or possibly because with so much money banked in 2003 he simply did not care.

Or maybe he was just too busy bashing balls on the driving range.

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