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Singh set for first PGA Tour players award

Just over 12 months ago, Vijay Singh controversially lost out to Tiger Woods in the battle for the 2003 PGA Tour players' player-of-the-year award.

Woods clinched the prestigious Jack Nicklaus trophy for an unprecedented fifth consecutive season, despite failing to capture any of the four majors for the first time since 1998.

Singh, the game's hottest player over the previous three months with two wins and nothing worse than a tie for sixth in his last eight PGA Tour starts, had to settle for ending 2003 atop the U.S. money list.

This year, however, has been a very different story and should Singh not be named next Monday as the tour's player of the year for 2004, a stewards' inquiry would have to be launched forthwith.

The 41-year-old Fijian has produced one of the greatest season's in PGA Tour history, with nine wins in 29 outings. Woods, going through a revamp of his swing, was a shadow of the player who ruled the golfing world in record-breaking style in 2000.

While Woods, again winless in the majors, failed to clinch a strokeplay title on the U.S. Tour for the first time since turning professional in 1996, the remarkable Singh was virtually unstoppable.

The workaholic Fijian, who ended Woods's five-year reign as world number one in September, became the first player in tour history to earn more than $10 million in a single season.

He sealed his third career major in the U.S. PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and ended his campaign in a tie for ninth at the season-ending Tour Championship, boosting his 2004 earnings to an astonishing $10,905,166.

Overall, he produced 18 top-10 finishes in 29 tour starts, a golden run of form in one of the greatest individual years in the history of the game.

Although Woods, U.S. Masters winner Phil Mickelson and WGC-American Express champion Ernie Els are also in the running, the announcement in a week's time of Singh as PGA Tour player of the year for 2004 should be a formality.

Woods, Mickelson and Els have been mightily impressed by Singh's golden season.

"He's had one of the great years," Woods said. "He's played some just unbelievable golf."

Mickelson added: "His year has been truly sensational, it's been amazing."

Els said: "Vijay has had a great year. he's worked really hard and is deserving every moment of it."

Singh, whose work ethic is unrivalled in the modern game, has already clinched some of the year's most prized accolades.

He secured for the first time the Vardon Trophy with an adjusted stroke average of 68.84, the most accurate barometer of a player's consistency, and last month was named 2004 PGA Player of the Year by the PGA of America.

Most cherished of all, though, is the Jack Nicklaus Trophy which is awarded to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year after balloting of the members.

This accolade is all about peer acknowledgment, being voted the best by the players themselves. No question, Singh will want it even more this year after being narrowly pipped at the post by Woods for 2003 honours.

"This whole year has been great for me," Singh said earlier this month. "You don't really wake up one day and think you're going to be able to play like I did this year.

"There's a build-up to it. You win one and then you win another one. You feel more comfortable and more confident, and it snowballs. You can't wait to get to the next hole and play better. That's how it's been."

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