Fiji, February 22, 1963: A star is born. And a scrappy one at that. To a family so poor that they can’t afford golf balls, so young Vijay uses coconuts instead. “My father used to say, “‘Little Vijay, golf balls don’t fall off trees, you know,’” Singh recalled later. “So I found some that did.”
2 of 15Fred Vuich/SI, Bob Thomas/Getty Images
Without ready access to formal instruction, a self-sufficient Singh finds guidance in a photo spread of Tom Weiskopf’s swing, which becomes an inspiration for his own.
3 of 15Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
At 19, Singh takes his budding talents to Australia, where he earns his card but senses ugly currents of discrimination. Denied access to some top facilities, the story goes, he bangs balls on rugby and soccer fields instead.
4 of 15Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
Singh wins the 1984 Malaysian PGA Championship. But his rags-to-riches ascent hits turbulence the next year when Singh is suspended from the Asian Tour over allegations of scorecard-doctoring at the Indonesian Open. Singh denies wrongdoing, but after an official investigation, the suspension becomes a lifetime ban.
5 of 15AP/Chris O'Meara
The past is past. Or is it? In the wake of Singh’s 2000 Masters win, a reporter dredges up bad memories by asking about the Jakarta Open incident. “This is not a murdery mystery, where you go an dig up all the facts and investigate it,” Singh is quoted as saying. “That part of my life is disappointing and heart-breaking, and I just want to leave it alone.”
6 of 15REUTERS/Shaun Best
Who’s afraid of the world’s number one? Not Vijay Singh, who pairs with Retief Goosen to beat Tiger Woods and Notah Begay III in Saturday four-balls at the 2000 Presidents Cup.
7 of 15Harry How/Getty Imagaes
Who else isn’t afraid? Vijay’s caddie, Paul Tesori, who shows up for Singh’s singles match against Woods wearing a cap that reads in back: “Tiger Who?” Woods win the head-to-head 2 and 1.
8 of 15Jim Gund/SI
So there’s testiness with Tiger. And Annika Sorenstam too. In 2003, when the LPGA star earns an exemption into the Bank of America Colonial, Singh voices his displeasure. “I hope she misses the cut,” he says. “Why? Because she doesn’t belong here.”
9 of 15Fred Vuich /SI
Ornery. Cantankerous. That’s Singh’s reputation, and he burnishes it at the 2005 Masters, where he confronts Phil Mickelson in the locker room, griping to Lefty that his spikes roughed up the greens. The exchange reportedly grows so heated that the two men have to be separated by onlookers.
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Oh, deer. In a 2013 Sports Illustrated article, Singh discusses having taken an exotic-sounding substance. The PGA Tour suspends him for 90 days. Why all the hubbub? Google searches soar for “deer antler spray,” which is believed to contain the banned substance IGF-I. Singh appeals the suspension.
11 of 15McClatchy-Tribune
Never mind. Deer antler spray isn’t a problem, after all, the World Anti Doping Agency declares. The Tour, in turn, drops its case against Singh.
12 of 15Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
The deer beef is over, right? Wrong. A day before the 2013 Players Championship, Singh sues the Tour, saying the deer antler spray investigation put him through “public humiliation and ridicule.”
13 of 15Gary Bogdon/SI
The suit also alleges that Singh was subjected to “disparate treatment” from other players who were also connected to deer antler spray, including Mark Calcavecchia, who was reportedly told by the Tour in 2011 to stop using the stuff.
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14. A Sports Illustrated anonymous poll of Tour players reveals that 64 percent of Tour players feel Singh should have been suspended. Singh’s attorney, Peter Ginsberg, has a different take: “If that’s an accurate assessment of how the players feel, I think it’s a reflection of the PGA Tour’s media and PR machine.”
15 of 15Al Tielemans/SI
The suit has broader implications, threatening to shed light on the PGA Tour’s opaque drug-testing program. And despite a recent setback in his legal fight, Singh shows no sign of relenting. Discovery in the case continues, and a trial looms at the end of 2015.
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