The big news from the Honda Classic was that muscle-man Camilo Villegas re-established himself as a force on the PGA Tour. But that wasn’t the only news.
It may prove to be just as significant that two other prominent players, Vijay Singh and Justin Rose, aren’t ready to fade into the woodwork.
Singh, plagued by physical problems, was coming off his worst season in more than a decade, and at 47 might have looked washed up. Singh corrected that view when he challenged for the Honda title. His putting remains an issue but his game is still strong, as Dave George wrote in the Palm Beach Post:
Six years ago Vijay Singh was the No. 1 player in the world. That does something to a man. Makes him dangerous, for one thing, even when his ultra-long belly putter is
acting more like a crutch. Singh, 47, was on the edge of winning this tournament. He felt it when a 46-foot birdie putt dropped on No. 5 Sunday, reeling eventual winner Camilo Villegas within two strokes.
“Age doesn’t really matter,” Vijay said later, not letting a
final-round 72 and a tie for fourth place take the wind out of his sails. “I
hit it as far as they do and probably hit it as good as they do, or even
better. I just have to go out there and play and show them one or two tricks
now and then.”
These days Singh is smiling a lot more and finding the positives in every
close call. After a 2009 season that included two surgeries on his right
knee and awkward adjustments in his game that had him “swinging so
badly it was a joke,” finishing seven strokes behind the winner doesn’t
feel so distant.
“Really, that’s a good step toward next week, and Bay Hill and then
coming into the Masters,” Singh said. “I think it’s a great tune-up.”
Make a note for your Masters pool.
Rose, meanwhile, has had an up-and-down career in which he was predicted to do great things, but after 12 years as a pro he still hasn’t won on the U.S. tour. Like Singh, he is on the rebound from a poor year. He was ranked as high as sixth in the world in 2007 and last year fell to 70th. The talk at the Accenture World Match Play in Tucson was about how England is a rising golf power with the likes of Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, Ross Fisher and the rest. Rose’s name was left out of the conversation.
Rose birdied the first four holes Sunday at the Honda Classic, shot 64 and finished third. The revival of Rose began later last year, Ben Volin wrote in the Palm Beach Post:
“He had a tough year where he was kind of working on things he didn’t really agree with, didn’t really buy into,” said Rose’s wife, Kate.
Last year’s U.S. Open, when Rose missed the cut at plus-8,
was the final straw. After the tournament Rose switched to a new coach,
Sean Foley, and also hired a new fitness trainer, which has helped him
regain a positive mindset. It helped Rose earn two top-five finishes toward the end of 2009, and make the cut in five of his six events in 2010.
“I see a really big difference with him mentally now,” Kate Rose said. “He’s
excited about what he’s working on. He’s very positive, and he’s been
playing really well for some time but hasn’t had the putts drop, so
it’s nice to see some putts dropping this week.”
Rose didn’t set the course record, he didn’t qualify for next week’s CA Championship at
Doral… But he’s feeling positive and confident about his game, which he couldn’t say a year ago.
Justin Rose looked at his scorecard and shook his head. “Slow start, huh?” he said.
Rose was kidding–he had started
Sunday’s final round of The Honda Classic with four consecutive birdies
at PGA National. But the phrase “slow start” also applies to Rose’s career. He
has entered 154 PGA Tour events as a professional and has yet to
raise a trophy. Rose, who has won five times on the European
Tour and has an Order of Merit to his credit, admits he’s surprised.
played good enough golf to win out here. I’ve been close a few times,”
said Rose, who has three runner-up finishes in the U.S. “I would have
hoped that one of them would have got in the way by now. Sometimes,
winning just gets in the way without you trying too hard.”
He joined the PGA TOUR in 2004 and has
done everything but win on TOUR. In 2008, he played in his first Ryder
Cup. But now, when golf fans refer to the top English players,
Rose’s name is barely mentioned.
“I’d struggle to make the English Ryder Cup team,” Rose said, smiling. “I
feel like I’m a pretty good player, so that does speaks volumes for how
strong English golf is right now. Obviously, we are a real big golfing
nation. British people love their golf. Even though it’s a small
country, it’s not that surprising to me.”