Monday, May 19, 2003

Vijay won't play with Annika

Singh wins Nelson, drops out of Colonial

The Associated Press

IRVING, Texas - Vijay Singh won't have to worry about Annika Sorenstam next week - not because he's playing great, but because he won't be playing. Moments after winning the Byron Nelson Championship on Sunday, Singh withdrew from the Colonial, where Sorenstam will make history by becoming the first woman in 58 years to play in a PGA Tour event.

It averted what might have been a dicey situation for Singh in the wake of comments he made earlier about Sorenstam having no business playing there.

But Singh insisted he did not withdraw because of that. He was, he said, merely tired.

"It has nothing to do with the controversy," Singh said. "I've played in four straight tournaments, and I need a break."

A contentious week for Singh ended with an unlikely win, considering the media frenzy he found himself caught in after saying that Sorenstam shouldn't be allowed to play in the Colonial, and that if he was paired with her he wouldn't play.

He somehow found enough focus to hold off Nick Price with birdies on the 15th and 16th holes, then made his second startling statement of the week - that he wouldn't play just down the road in Fort Worth.

He acknowledged that the decision had a lot to do with a woman, just not Sorenstam. Singh said he had promised his wife he would take the week off if he won Sunday. But he made no public references to such a scenario during the week, when he led after the second and third rounds.

"It was decision not taken at all this week. It was a two-week affair," Singh said. "You know, I said if I won a tournament, I would take a week off. It just came at the right time, I guess."

Singh said he planned to attend a memorial in New York on Wednesday for Mark McCormack, the agent and manager who founded Cleveland-based IMG. McCormack died Friday after being in a coma for four months. Singh said he also had something to do Thursday, without being specific.

"So it's a good time to take off, I think," Singh said. "And also, the U.S. Open is around the corner."

Without the break, Singh would have played in six straight tournaments. He is expected to play the Memorial Tournament in two weeks, then skip a week before the U.S. Open.

Singh's comments to The Associated Press last Sunday about Sorenstam came after he finished second in North Carolina. He backed off a bit on Tuesday, saying he was sorry if his comments came across as a personal attack. He also said that he hoped she missed the cut if he did, "because I don't want to have a woman beat me."

At the same time, he reiterated his objection to Sorenstam getting one of eight sponsor's exemptions into the Colonial, an invitational with a limited field.

"This is a man's tour," Singh said Tuesday. "There are guys out there trying to make a living. It's not a ladies' tour. If she wants to play, she should - or any other woman for that matter - if they want to play the man's tour, they should qualify and play like everybody else."

Singh rallied on the back nine Sunday after losing his lead to Price. Singh made birdies on the 15th and 16th holes for a 4-under-par 66 and finished at 15-under 265, two strokes ahead of Price.

Robert Allenby, playing for the first time since the Masters, finished at 268 after a 65, which also was Price's final-round score.

Price has said that Sorenstam's appearance "reeks of publicity." He won the Colonial last year, and the defense of his title has been overshadowed by the LPGA star.

"I've answered more questions about Annika than how I am playing going into next week ... how long has she been invited, three months?" Price said Sunday. "She had, what, 41 other tournaments she could have chosen."

Price then said he respects her courage.

"I wish her the best of luck, I really do," Price said. "She has a big heart. I will give her that. I don't think I would be able to do what she is going to be able to do next week. I really don't."

Singh had a 28-foot birdie putt on the 475-yard 15th hole, getting back to 14 under on the same hole that Price had just three-putted for a bogey that made him 13 under.

After his second shot on the 554-yard 16th found the greenside bunker, Singh blasted the shot within 6 feet and made the birdie to cushion his lead.

It was the 13th career victory and second of the season for Singh, who won $1 million to push his season earnings to $2.9 million, fourth on the money list. He's the fifth multiple winner this season on the PGA Tour.

Like he said he would all week, Singh focused on playing.

"It's a tournament we want to play," Singh said. "When I get to a tournament, I totally close out everything that I can. I guess that's why I have been able to play so well all my career. A lot of things went on in my life, and I just focus on what I have to do, and golf is what I need to do."

EUROPEAN TOUR: Tiger Woods failed to mount a final-round comeback at the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open at Alveslohe, Germany, as Padraig Harrington beat Thomas Bjorn on the first hole of a playoff for his seventh career title.

Woods, trying to win the event for the third straight year, was nine strokes back after a 4-under 68 in the final round and finished tied for 29th at 10-under 278, his worst finish in a stroke-play event since placing 29th at the 2001 PGA.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Jay Sigel sank a 9-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a one-stroke victory over a surging Mike McCullough in the Bayer Advantage Celebrity Pro-Am at Parkville, Mo.

Sigel, 59, shot a 7-under 65 in the final round to become the oldest player to win on the Champions Tour this year.

He finished with an 11-under 205 to hold off McCullough, 58, who had pulled into a tie with three straight birdies on the final nine holes.

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