It has been some kind of year of golf for Vijay Singh, all right, his fifth since ditching his glasses after undergoing laser eye surgery. Not only have his results been amazing, Singh's vision is better, and what he sees isn't exactly causing eyestrain.
He won his third major title last Sunday, despite making zero birdies in a closing 76 at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis., the highest final round to win the PGA Championship and the worst final round by the winner of a major in 66 years.
This is a clear signal that business is good.
Sure, Singh switched from a long putter to a conventional putter three weeks ago at the Buick Open and won that one too, but he's leaving the distinct impression now that he could walk out on the green, putt with a tin can taped to a stick and still see his way into the winner's circle somehow.
So is Singh lucky, good or just stubborn? He won the Buick when John Daly bogeyed the 72nd hole. He eventually won at Whistling Straits with a 76, but also after every player who had a chance to beat him messed up at the 72nd hole.
What all this means is clear to many, who say Singh has wrapped up the player-of-the-year award. He has a major championship to add to his four other tournament victories -- three more than any other player -- so he's sure to break Tiger Woods's five-year run at the top as the player of the year.
Here's another view: Let's put the coronation ceremony on hold, at least for a while.
Unless somebody has burned the calendar, the year's not over yet. In fact, one of the huge-money, big-clout tournaments is this weekend at venerable Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio -- the $7-million NEC Invitational.
There's still the $7-million American Express Championship at Mount Juliet Estate in Ireland in October, plus the $6-million Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta a few weeks later.
There's no opportunity for Woods to influence any votes, not with the majors completed this year, but there's clearly a chance for somebody else to catch Singh and beat him to the finish line for player of the year.
Remember Phil Mickelson? With one round to go at Whistling Straits, Mickelson was figuring he could wrap up player of the year with a victory. He wound up missing by two shots the three-way playoff where Singh prevailed, but there's still a way for Mickelson to finish fast and finish first.
Sure, Singh leads the money list over Mickelson, but he has played five more times than Mickelson, nine more times than third-place Ernie Els and seven more times than fourth-place Woods. Mickelson averages more money a start than Singh, with three fewer victories.
And though Singh leads Mickelson in victories, 5-2, the game's still on.
Mickelson leads the PGA Tour in scoring average -- Singh is third -- and he's also No. 1 in the all-around ranking, which is a compilation of all the statistical rankings.
Plus, Mickelson has more top 10s than Singh and a better record in the four majors -- a second, a third and a sixth to go with his victory at the Masters.
There are two player-of-the-year awards, one given by the PGA of America that is based on a mathematical formula that weighs victories, earnings and scoring average, and another by the PGA Tour that is based on balloting of the players. Woods has won them both the last five years.
This may be one Tiger "slump" that's really serious.
When the PGA Tour coaxed a four-year, $850 million contract out of the networks and cable to televise its events, the deal was not only a 33 percent increase, it also was regarded as a major victory for Tim Finchem, the tour commissioner.
The deal ends after 2006, but when negotiations pick up in 2005 to come up with another agreement, chances are the discussions aren't going to be quite as rosy for the tour this time around.
It all coincides with Woods's well-publicized troubled swing that has kept him winless in his last 10 majors.
The weekend ratings this year have been generally flat, which is disappointing enough, but it's doubly troubling when even the presence of Woods can't always perk them up.
Woods has played 15 tournaments this year, or 30 weekend rounds. The ratings are down from a year ago in 17 of those 30 rounds.
Woods remains the barometer for golf ratings, and he's still capable of pulling big numbers -- the Wachovia in early May was up 63.6 percent on CBS with Woods in the field -- but the big picture is sort of fuzzy now and needs some fine-tuning before the contract talks start again.
Battle for No. 1
He has been ranked No. 1 for a record 332 weeks -- 262 in a row -- but Woods's days at the top may be numbered. Either Singh or Els may replace Woods this week, depending on the outcome of the NEC Invitational.
Singh is within 0.10 of a point of Woods and can become No. 1 if he finishes ahead of Woods if they're both in the top 10, or he could tie Woods for No. 1 if they are outside the top 10.
Els could become No. 1 if he wins and Woods isn't second by himself; or if Els is second and Woods does not finish in a two-way tie for fourth while Singh is not in a two-way tie for third; or if Els is third and Woods is worse than 15th and Singh is worse than 19th.