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Countdown to SHO
Vijay Singh - April 20, 2005
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Good afternoon to those of you in attendance and those of you joining us via teleconference. I'm Joel Schuchmann, a media official for the PGA Tour, and we'd like to welcome to you the Shell Houston Open media center where this afternoon we have a very special announcement from the World Golf Hall of Fame, followed by a press conference for the defending champion. I'd like to introduce Jack Peter, chief operating officer for the World Golf Hall of Fame.
JACK PETER: Thank you, Joel. On behalf of the 104 members of the World Golf Hall of Fame, our volunteers and our staff, I'd like to welcome you with us today at the Shell Houston Open, and those members of the media that have joined us on the teleconference. Thank you for being with us today.
We are here today to announce the results of the 2005 PGA Tour/Champions Tour ballot.
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: Thank you, Jack, and good afternoon, everyone. Let me first of all echo Jack in welcoming Carol Mann and Jackie Burke, Hall of Famers to today's announcement.
I'd also like to reference Shell's tremendous commitment to the game over the years, and going way back to the old Wide World of Golf and Wonderful World of Golf; and more recently in the last 12 years, Shell's commitment to this tournament has resulted in a huge increase in charitable giving here in Houston by the Shell Houston Open and has been a major contributor to our ability now to be poised to see that $1 billion mark reached hopefully here by the end of the season, it now looks like even.
What Shell has done in partnership with the PGA Tour is a symbol for what can happen when the right people get together with a good sponsor and PGA Tour to really commit. But in this case, frankly, it was the Shell Oil Company that was the impetus behind really taking the charitable giving to this PGA Tour event to a very high echelon of charitable giving, and our thanks, Kevin for that, for everything Shell has done behind the World Golf Foundation and the Hall of Fame and the other involvements.
Also, before I make this announcement, I just want to compliment and thank Jack Peter for his commitment by him and his staff to the Hall of Fame itself. Those of you who may not have seen the Hall of Fame in the last six or eight months, you have a very special experience awaiting you and it has really been revolutionized, exhibitory has been totally redone. The Arnold Palmer Exhibit and the Bobby Jones Exhibit that are on display now are exceptional, and I encourage you to go and take a look even before induction later this fall.
We have a very special announcement to make. Each year we have the PGA Tour/Champions Tour ballot for admission to the Hall of Fame, one of three tracks for the Hall of Fame during the course of the year from a competition standpoint; the other two, between the international ballot and the LPGA ballot.
The player we are going to recognize today, having now been elected to the Hall of Fame comes off a tremendous year last year of nine victories, a record nearly $11 million in prize money, happens to be the defending champion of the Shell Houston Open, Vijay Singh.
And before I go further, I'd like to invite Vijay to come in and have a seat up front here. Vijay, welcome. Just come on up, Vijay, and have a seat right up here.
Vijay was elected on this year's ballot. This is a great story, a story about a player who came from a fairly humble start to rise to the pinnacle of this sport and now has been he selected to the Hall of Fame. Just to mention a few things today: 25 victories on this Tour, tying the all-time number at this point in time of Gary Player for the most victories won by a player from someplace other than the United States; three major championships, the major championships being the PGA Championship in '98 and '04, and of course the 2000 Masters. In addition to the wins on the PGA Tour here in the U.S., 22 additional international titles at the PGA Tour level. Vijay has participated in all five Presidents Cup matches and has a winning record; in '03 and again in '04 won the Arnold Palmer Award for leading money winner. In '04 he won Player of the Year honors. Late in '04, he became the No. 1 player in the world in the World Rankings, and now he has been elected to the Hall of Fame.
Before I ask Vijay to say a few words, I want to mention a couple of other things. I think most people around the country, around the world know Vijay is a great competitor at the top of his sport. What most don't know or recognize, there are a couple of things about him personally. One, his tremendous work ethic. I think those of us, and I mentioned this when Vijay was recognized as Player of the Year last fall,  those of us that lives in Ponte Vedra who have an opportunity to see Vijay up close and know about his work ethic and see his work ethic understand it, but unless you actually see it and watch it, it's really hard to comprehend the extent to which this man has worked to achieve where he has gone in the sport and continues to work to maintain his position and get better.
The second thing is, Vijay's charitable orientation. Last year he created his own foundation which is focused on looking after and creating benefits for children and young people who are the victims of domestic abuse. Vijay has donated over $150,000 to the Red Cross in Florida to those injured and damaged by our hurricane season last year. Again, those of us who live in the Ponte Vedra area with Vijay and Ardena and his family, recognize that he has that kind of commitment.
So it's not only special that Vijay has worked so hard to get where he is and now he is being recognized with admission to the Hall of Fame, it's also special that this kind of person not only deserves this kind of attribute, but it is a good lesson for our young people, which is what the PGA Tour is all about.
I'm delighted to call up Vijay Singh who at 42 years old becomes the youngest male member to be elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame, an impressive distinction that is now added to his list of accomplishments. Vijay, congratulations. Come up and tell us what it means to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
VIJAY SINGH: Wow, where can I start? This is amazing. It's an amazing honor to be considered and to be part of an incredible group that is in the Hall of Fame and I just -- there's no words to describe it. I'm honored, and this is something that I'd like to thank everyone that helped me along the way. It's been a long, long journey, a hard journey, and there were people out there who were helping me out and who never even thought that I would get to where I am now.
It's just something that I recognize, I remember those people, my family, my wife, everybody, and this is for everybody out there that helped me out, and it's going to be hard to swallow for a few weeks and then I think I'll be all right. But again, this is an honor for me to be part of this beautiful -- to be part of this group of people that -- coming from where I am, making a living, working and trying to make a living, you never really think about, you know, being Player of the Year or even Hall of Fame was never really in my wildest dreams.
Q.: When did you actually find out, and what was your reaction when you did find out?
VIJAY SINGH: Maybe a week ago, two weeks ago, when Tim called me. It's something that you don't really -- it's hard to get excited about. It just doesn't sink in. You just say, wow, I'm a Hall of Famer, and then what? But in time, I guess, you think about it more and more and people start talking about it, and it's just something that it's going to go on the record books. When I'm long gone, it's still going to be there.
So if you look at it in that perspective, it's a huge thing. All of my family and, you know, Qass and his kids, it's going to be in there for the whole family. I'm just honored that this has happened.
Q.: Were Qass [your son] and Ardena [your wife] more excited than you were?
VIJAY SINGH: Like I said, it's very hard to really comprehend what this really means straight offhand. It's going to take time. I guess once you get inducted, it's just like the Player of the Year Award. You just don't really understand it until you look back. But this is so much more bigger than that and it's going to take time. Like I said, it's an amazing honor.
Q.: Tim eluded earlier to humble beginnings for you. Can you help us maybe understand better how amazing it is for somebody to grow up on the side of an airline runway to be here right now?
VIJAY SINGH: You can't even find Fiji on a map if you try to look for it, you know. (Laughter). There's only, what,500 people that play golf in Fiji. To be where I am, it's just very incredible. It's very hard to even think about it. You know, you good back to Fiji, you really realize, this is where I've come from. I'm sitting over here talking about where I come from. There's nothing here, as amazing as it is, when you go back, to actually look and see where I grew up and how I, you know, used to practice and where I went from there. It really is more than just talking about it. You can't really explain it in a few words.
Q.: If you go back a year ago, I think you had one win coming to the Shell Open and you started your magnificent run. Are there any parallels to where you are at now?
VIJAY SINGH: Well, you know, I feel like I'm in better position right now than I was last year sitting over here. Obviously I won and I had a lot of good finishes this year and I think my game is a lot better than it was last year. I'm not going to say I'm going to go ahead and win another eight Tournaments, but I'm going to try. It's out there and I'm able to do that.
I feel very comfortable with my game. I'll try to do what I did last year, but I'm very confident in what I'm doing right now. I'm feeling good about my game and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
Q.: I'm curious, just hearing the stories as a kid about where they came from, just wondering, do you have a favorite story that you like to tell Qass about where you came from? He's obviously grown up and seen a pretty good life.
VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, but I do talk about it to him. He doesn't necessarily want to listen to it, you know. (Laughter). I mean, I've tried to bring it up, as humble as possible, and I think my wife, Ardena, has done a great job as well. I think she has brought him up more than I have because I've been away from home so much. He knows the meaning of respect and respect your elders and a lot of things. It's a different lifestyle. You cannot really take him back in time and say, hey, you've got to do this; or this is what I did, you should do the same. He knows, we talk about where I came from and how I used to go to school and where I used to practice, but I still can't get him on the golf course to practice. More and more I want to take him back there and show him where I grew up and all that.
Q.: First of all, congratulations. I'd like to know when you were by that runway and hitting balls hour after hour, what was going on inside of you? Why did you keep doing that?
VIJAY SINGH: Hmmm, that's a good one. I don't know. I loved the game. I played every other sport that I ever could play and golf is what I always wanted to play. My dad played really good golf and my brothers were all golfers. So it was, you know, playing against them and I just enjoyed hitting balls. I enjoyed playing the game.
I had a full set of clubs when I was 13 or 14, so I was in a better position than most kids out there. So my dad said, "You have a set of clubs, you'd better go use it now," so that's what I did. And I enjoyed it. It was a pleasure going out there and hitting balls and playing. And in a day, we'd see 20 people on the golf course, which was crowded, because nobody ever played golf. The golf course was all to yourself and you just played wherever you wanted to play.
Q.: I'm just curious, we can all list your stats and all that, but what are you proudest about of your career, and what is the happiest winning a Tournament has made you? What Tournament was the most --
VIJAY SINGH: Hawaii this year, I guess. (Laughing). No, it's a different experience every time. Sometimes you don't win golf Tournaments and you feel good that week as well. I'm just more proud that at the age of 42 I'm at the top of my game. Normally guys at my age, they are at the end of their run or they are kind of over the hill. My wife was saying, "You should enjoy your life now. It's gone to where you want it to go."
I said, "But yeah, this is the peak of my career." And guys that are at 30 or 32 or reach their peak at 35, by the time they get 40, they are done. This is where we all want to be. This is where I want to be. You know, every golfer out there wants to be in the position that I am right now. So I cannot slack off. I have to work even further to maintain this level I'm playing.
So this is where I want to be right now and this is the most comfortable I've been, and I enjoy my position and I'm thrilled about going out there and knowing that, you know, guys are looking out for me. This is my life and I love it right now.
Q.: What motivated you in the beginning of your career and what motivates you now?
VIJAY SINGH: Beginning part of my career was money and just the technique. I grew up playing golf learning technique as I was playing professional golf. It was a long process to get to where I felt comfortable with my golf game. You go back ten years and look at my golf game, it's a completely different golf swing, but I worked and got it to where I am very comfortable with it right now. It just took a long time and it was a journey that probably I would do it again. I've learned a lot about life. It was a great experience and it was something that I'm proud of.
Q.: You mentioned earlier how comfortable you are with your game. How comfortable are you on this golf course?
VIJAY SINGH: I wasn't very comfortable today. (Laughter). I don't know why, but I found the mistake on the last hole so I'm okay. It's a driver's golf course. You need to hit drivers over here and I love hitting drivers. If you get in a good position, you can attack the flag. It's a tough golf course, it's a long golf course, so you need to hit the driver straight and long. That's a part of the game that I'm enjoying right now. The greens are in great shape and they are holding up. Should be scoring this week and I'm looking forward to this.
Q.: I wanted to know from Vijay, who was the very first person he thought of when he got the phone call from Commissioner Finchem? Did you think of like your father or your wife?
VIJAY SINGH: My family. My son and my wife, just to let them know what happened. And you kind of look towards your friends, your close ones; Joey, my trainer, he's very close to me. So it's kind of a feeling amongst my family and Joey and people that are close to me.
JACK PETER: I would like to thank all of you being in attendance. Before we conclude I want to remind you of a couple things. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for November 14 at the World Golf Village and that Vijay has been elected to the class of 2005. We have a policy in place whereby an inductee can choose to be inducted in the year they are elected or defer it for a year. This policy exists because the balloting process overlaps the Tournament season, and we recognize that there may be scheduling conflicts along the way. Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros exercised this option when they were inducted. We will work with Vijay on his schedule and let you know which one he will attend.
Congratulations, Vijay, and welcome to the World Golf Hall of Fame. I'm going to turn this over to Joel to moderate the rest of the program. Thank you all.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We'll touch on some questions for this week's Shell Houston Open. As you know Vijay, has won this event twice and is the defending champion. Vijay, if you want to start with a few opening comments coming back to Huston to defend your title.
VIJAY SINGH: Yeah, like I said, the golf course is in great shape. There's a lot more rough this year than there was last. It's playing long. The greens, I think they have a lot of rain yesterday, there's a lot of growth.
But I'm playing well. I'm looking forward to this place. I've won twice at this event and I'm waiting for another kick start. Hopefully this is a week to get me going again.
Q.: Can you talk about defending on a different course ... ?
VIJAY SINGH: I don't know, it's difficult for me to answer that one.
Q.: Do you feel paranoid?
VIJAY SINGH: If you can win at one, you should be able to win at another. It's like winning this event two years ago, winning at Woodlands, you come back over here. If you play better than everybody else it doesn't matter which golf course you play. I think I'm capable of adjusting myself and switch to any golf course there is out there.