Finally, Vijay Singh got a lecture from his

By Tim Dahlberg Associated Press Published:

Finally, Vijay Singh got a lecture from his caddie.

Nothing, it seems, comes easy for Singh. It was no different in the PGA Championship.

The major championship win he had long coveted was finally Singh's on Sunday, though not without a struggle. But Singh has always taken the difficult route anyway, in a career that stretched from the sand greens of Nigeria to the jungles of Malaysia, with many a driving range in between.

It all came together under the canopy of trees framing Sahalee Country Club, where golf's hardest worker walked up the 18th fairway to an ovation unlike he had ever gotten in his golfing career _ and the Wanamaker trophy that goes to the PGA champion.

"To win one of these things is like a dream," Singh said.

Putting cross-handed after a tip from his wife, Singh capped a brilliant tournament on the greens with a 15-foot par save on the 17th hole, then confidently parred the 18th to win by two shots over Steve Stricker.

The years spent meticulously honing his swing for hours at a time in remote corners of driving ranges around the world, putting and chipping on motel room carpets and grinding, grinding away, finally paid off.

But no amount of practice will win a major championship without a few breaks. And Singh got his just when he needed them.

A ball that popped out of a huge maple tree onto the green on the 11th hole kept him in the lead, and he somehow found an opening in the trees on the 14th hole. Then he got a lecture from caddie Dave Fenwick when things started going bad.

The combination produced quite an oddity _ a PGA champion from, of all places, Fiji.

"I hope I'm a hero now in Fiji," Singh said. "I haven't been back in a long time, but I hope everyone saw this."

They didn't, because there was no television coverage of the event in the country of 800,000. His wife and 8-year-old son, Qass, however, were there in person to follow him around to victory.

It was the 10th time in the last 11 years that the PGA winner was winning a major for the first time. It came on a day when morning rains softened Sahalee enough for a few contenders to try making a run at Singh and Stricker, who shared a three-stroke lead coming into the final round.

Mark O'Meara, vying for a third major this year and a slice of history, tried to make it interesting with an early eagle and birdie that got him within two strokes of the lead before three straight bogeys did him in.

Nick Price got hot, but he was just too far back. Steve Elkington made a late run but ran out of holes.

By the back nine, it was basically match play, Singh against Stricker, with both shooting for their first major title. No amount of hitting balls on the range could prepare Singh for the pressures of the final holes of a major.

"I was pretty nervous," Singh admitted. "I was calm, but I was aware of what was going on. I was talking to my caddie a lot, and I was playing good golf, which made it a little bit easier."

The talk between Singh and his caddie wasn't just of golf. It was of horse racing and funny stories and anything else Fenwick could think of talking about to keep Singh relaxed.

But by the time Singh hit his driver into the trees of the 14th hole _ which he followed with a miracle shot through the trees and onto the green _ the talk had turned serious once again.

"You can't do this," Fenwick told Singh. "You can't win a golf tournament hitting bad shots like this."

He didn't, hooding a wedge and hooking it through the trees to the green on his next shot. Singh was still a stroke ahead, where he stayed until both he and Stricker hit their tee shots into bunkers guarding the green on the par-3 17th hole.

Singh blasted out to about 15 feet. Stricker hit his a bit closer. Then Singh, using the cross-handed grip that his wife had suggested he go back to at the Western Open, made his putt and Stricker missed.

The lead was two shots and, barring disaster, the tournament was his.

"That was the turning point right there," Stricker said. "I was fighting my swing. I'm not going to lie."

For Stricker, whose wife and former caddie, Nicki, was home in Edgerton, Wis., watching on television because she is expected to have a baby in two weeks, just to be in contention on the final day was almost good enough

After winning twice in 1996 and thought to be one of the rising young stars on the PGA Tour, the 31-year-old Stricker changed clubs and it changed his game. He finished 130th last year, had one top 10 finish and won only $167,000.

His paycheck Sunday, by comparison, was $324,000.

"I was proud of the way I fought," he said. "I played hard and I put some pressure on Vijay. It was down to match play there at the end. We both made birdies on No. 15. But I pulled a 5-iron in the bunker on 17 and that hurt."

Singh was proud, too. Proud both of where he came from and how far he has come.

"I was a club pro in Malaysia and I was out there in the jungle and hitting balls and practicing in 100-degree heat and trying to think about what I'm going to do next," Singh recalled. "That was the lowest point. I never thought about coming to America, let alone winning a golf tournament over here."

Elkington, his friend on the tour, summed it up.

"He has had an enormously difficult road to pick up that trophy," Elkington said. "He will be a great champion."

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