Vijay Singh elected to World Golf Hall of Fame
Vijay Singh's arduous journey from Fiji reached another unimaginable destination Wednesday when he was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame with the lowest percentage of votes and help from a clause in criteria.
Singh was the only player elected from the PGA Tour ballot, receiving 56 percent of the vote.
``Coming from where I am, trying to make a living and never thinking about player of the year or the Hall of Fame, this was never in my wildest dreams,'' Singh said from the Houston Open, where he is the defending champion. ``This is what hard work does. It pays off.''
Few have worked harder than Singh, 42, a self-taught player from tiny Fiji who toiled on tours around the world until his career took off in America. He has 25 victories on the PGA Tour, won three major championships and late last year reached No. 1 in the world ranking.
But his election to the Hall of Fame was a close call.
Players from the PGA Tour and International ballot require 65 percent of the vote for election. Hall of Fame officials two years ago added a stipulation that if no one gets 65 percent, the players with the most votes will be elected provided he is on at least 50 percent of the ballots.
It was the second time the Hall of Fame changed its criteria, lowering the standard from 75 percent to 65 percent in 2001 after no one from the PGA Tour was elected.
Larry Nelson, who won 10 times and three major championships, finished second in the voting with 55 percent.
Curtis Strange, the dominant American of his generation with 17 victories and the back-to-back U.S. Open titles, received 50 percent of the vote. Two-time major winners Henry Picard (49 percent) and Craig Woods (41 percent) rounded out the top five.
The World Golf Hall of Fame refused to say how many ballots were returned or how many votes Singh, Nelson and other candidates received; it only released percentages.
The induction ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 14 at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., although it was not immediately clearly when Singh would be inducted.
Officials noted at the end of the announcement that players have a right to defer their induction if the ceremony conflicts with their playing schedule, noting that Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer each waited one year.
Karrie Webb from the LPGA Tour needs only to play 15 tournaments this year to be eligible for induction. Other inductees could come through the Veteran's Category or through Lifetime Achievement.
Singh was elected after turning in one of the best years in golf.
He became only the sixth player to win at least nine times on the PGA Tour, and shattered the single-season earnings record with nearly $11 million. Along the way, he picked up his third major by winning the PGA Championship in a playoff, and ended Tiger Woods' five-year reign at No. 1 in the world.
Woods recently returned to No. 1 by winning the Masters.
None of this seemed probable when Singh was sprinting across an airport runway in Fiji to get to the golf course, where he was one of the few kids in his country who owned a full set of clubs.
He spent 30 years refining his swing, often studying pictures of Tom Weiskopf in magazines, and continues to work endlessly on the practice range.
``There were only 500 guys that played golf in Fiji,'' Singh said. ``To be where I am is really incredible. It's hard to even think about it. When you look at where I grew up, how I practiced, where I went from there ... you can't explain it in a few words.''
Singh was suspended from the Asian Tour in 1985 over allegations he doctored his scorecard, then worked as a club pro in Borneo trying to save his money to resurrect his career. He won the 1988 Nigerian Open, qualified for the European tour and finally made it to the PGA Tour in 1993, winning the rookie of the year.
He has gotten better with age.
Singh has won 13 times since turning 40 -- second only to Sam Snead's 17 wins after 40 -- and his 25 career victories tied him with Tommy Armour of Scotland as the most by an international player.
``This is amazing,'' Singh said. ``It's an honor to be part of an incredible group that is in the Hall of Fame. There's no words to describe it. I'd like to thank everyone who helped me along the way. It's been a long, long journey; a hard journey. I never thought I'd get to where I am now.''
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