Singh won nine times in 2004.
Fred Vuich/SI
Thursday, January 26, 2012

Vijay Singh and Michelle Wie couldn't be more different. He's 44; she's 18. He's a three-time major championship winner; she's still trying to decide which majors she wants to win. He's a native of Fiji living in Florida; she's a native of Hawaii living in California. He went to the school of hard knocks; she is in between semesters at Stanford.

But Singh and Wie have one thing in common: Both are trying to rebuild their golf games after a trying 2007, and both made news Thursday. Singh will be playing in Hawaii next month, defending his title at the season-opening Mercedes Championship, and he participated in a teleconference to hype the tournament.

"I don't know if I've lost any weight, but I've lost some size so I look a lot taller now than I did last year," he said. "That's all positive, and [I'm] just feeling really good about my game."

Wie, presumably, is not as sanguine about her prospects. She will not get a sponsor's exemption into the following week's Sony Open, it was announced Thursday. "The whole deal is to get back on track after the debacle last year," David Leadbetter told the Associated Press, alluding to his pupil's absurdly bad 2007. Hampered by inflammation in her wrists, Wie couldn't break an egg; angered Annika Sorenstam by withdrawing from her tournament due to "injury" (14 over par through 16 holes, she was in danger of breaking an obscure LPGA rule against shooting 88 or worse); and through it all insisted that she had nothing to apologize for.

"She knows she's got to earn people's respect back," Leadbetter continued, in what qualifies as a late entry for understatement of the year.

Speaking for himself to promote the start of the 2008 FedEx Cup, Singh said that despite winning twice in '07, at the Mercedes and then at Bay Hill in mid-March, it was a down year, necessitating change. He was starting to see too many right-to-left shots creeping into his game (he favors a fade), and so in late August began to change his swing from flat/laid off to vastly more upright and on-line at the top.

"I don't like playing six months of the year and not winning a golf tournament," Singh said.

By the time he started to transform his swing, at The Barclays in New York, he had already changed his personal trainer, going from longtime pal Joey Diovisalvi, who left him in July, to German Jeffrey Fronk, who's made his reputation working with professional football players. Both changes were validated, the golfer said, when he won the Asian Tour's Kolon-Hana Bank Korea Open in October.

At almost 45, the age when many players start counting the days until they're eligible for the senior circuit, Singh believes he can still add to his PGA Tour win total of 31. He's been jumping rope, one of several new elements to his fitness routine, including something he called the "300 Workout," supposedly used by the cartoonishly buff cast of the cartoonishly violent "300" movie.

"Fred Funk won [the 2007 Mayakoba Golf Classic] when he was 50," Singh said. "And if you look at Fred Funk's size and mine, there really is no comparison how much bigger I am than he is. I am a lot stronger, and hence I can last a lot longer."

Singh has never stopped believing he can equal or better his 2004 season, when he won nine times, easily taking the money title with $10,905,166. (That's still a Tour record after Tiger Woods came up short in '07 by $38,114, or as these guys call it, pocket change.)

Wie is another matter entirely. If she believes in her ability at this point, she might be the only one.

At this year's Sony Open she shot 78-76 and never even sniffed the cut. To make matters worse, Tadd Fujikawa, another Hawaiian teen-ager, stole the show with a pair of 66s at Waialae Country Club on Friday and Saturday, finishing tied for 20th place.

It was a sign of things to come for the once promising "Big Wiesy," whose laconic swing seemed to vanish along with any remaining good will from her fellow competitors. She played a total of 21 rounds and broke par just twice. Of the nine tournaments she entered she placed in only three, finishing 84th, tied for 69th and, the season highlight, 19th.

While her game was in a death spiral, Wie also saw the departure of her second agent, Greg Nared, in two years, a commentary on her infamously obstructionist parents, Bo and B.J., more than her suddenly pitiful scores.

It seems like more than just four years since Wie, then a flighty teeny-bopper in hoop earrings and black fingernail polish, shot 72-68 and missed the cut by a shot at the Sony. She looked to have so much potential then, but her career arc, a tall, thin wicket, has so far been that of a child actor, not a golfer.

Singh and Wie both peaked in 2004, one at 41, the other at 14. It's a palindrome that in Singh's case seems about right, but in Wie's remains totally, terribly wrong.

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