Singh Not Intimidated by Woods

Tuesday, July 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Vijay Singh will concede the favorite's role in the British Open to Tiger Woods. It's hard not to, even though Singh owns the same number of major championship titles this year as Woods: one.

He's not conceding anything else, though he says some players will.

``He puts an intimidating factor on every other player,'' Singh said of Woods. ``He is the favorite every week he plays.''

That's especially true this week, where British oddsmakers had Woods a 9-4 choice on Monday, the shortest odds since Jack Nicklaus was 3-1 while dominating in the 1970s. Even that didn't stop a bettor at Ladbrokes from putting 15,000 English pounds ($22,433) on Woods.

Singh, meanwhile, was at 33-1, despite beating Woods at the Masters earlier this year and coming back to the Old Course, where he was in contention the final day the last time the Open was held here in 1995.

``This golf course is set up so anyone can win this tournament,'' Singh said. ``It is playing hard and fast.''

Singh comes into the Open with something no one other than Woods has — a chance to win his second major championship of the year and the confidence that he has already beaten Woods for one major title.

``If you win a major once, you think, you know you probably got lucky,'' said Singh, whose first major win was the 1998 PGA Championship. ``But you win it again and you start thinking it is not so much luck after all. You are more confident and more comfortable.''

Singh got reacquainted with the Old Course in a practice round on Monday, then proclaimed it ripe for the taking by the game's long hitters.

That doesn't just mean Woods, either. Singh is also one of the longer hitters on tour, as he showed in his practice round by almost driving the green with the wind behind him on the 412-yard par-4 sixth.

``Whoever is hitting it long this week has a lot of advantage,'' Singh said. ``The longer hitters are going to be able to hit on to some of the outward greens.''

In ordinary years, a player like Singh would probably be considered among the handful of favorites to win the claret jug that goes to the Open champion.

This, however, is no normal year. Not after Woods destroyed the field at the U.S. Open to win by 15 shots.

``Tiger did play very well, as you all know,'' Singh said. ``He played really good and everybody else played pretty average. That is where you get the vast margin. If the guys had played half decent, it wouldn't have been that bad.''

Singh acknowledged that Woods will intimidate many players, and is such a force that the rest of the field is often looking to see what he is doing.

That's a mistake, said Singh, who managed to tend to his own business to beat Woods to win the Masters earlier this year.

``When you go out there, if you start worrying about what the other players are going to be doing, especially Tiger, you are already in trouble,'' he said. ``We should almost forget about him and just play our own game. But it is hard to do when he is playing so well.''

Singh predicted Woods — or any player — will have trouble running away with this Open because the Old Course will serve up a number of low scores if the wind doesn't howl and players keep out of the 112 bunkers that litter the course.

Birdie opportunities abound on the front nine, but the prevailing winds could raise havoc on the way back to the clubhouse.

The Old Course is indeed playing hard and fast, as always, perhaps harder and faster than ever.

``I was shocked with how firm the greens were and the fairways,'' Singh said. ``And the practice green is almost as hard as concrete. You hurt your hand trying to hit it, but you have to get used to that. If you don't, then you are not going to contend, I guess.''

Singh had some success the last time the Open was held here in 1995, finishing two strokes back of John Daly after four three-putts on the final nine holes. And he said he likes the way his game is right now, particularly his putting.

``I think I'm a much better putter than I've ever been,'' Singh said.