2005: Leonard’s fade at finish lets Singh’s strength prevail

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Haven, Wis.

Vijay Singh won the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits Golf Club with a potent combination of skill, luck and the misfortune of another player.

At the end, nobody was discounting the misfortune part of the equation.

“Justin (Leonard) let me off (the hook) there on the last hole and a few other holes before that,” Singh said.

Observed Leonard: “If I just had putted (in the final round) the way I putted the rest of the week, I think we’d have a different outcome.”

The skill part of Singh’s victory was evident on the first playoff hole, as he bombed a drive of 330 yards into the throat of the fairway on the tight 361-yard 10th hole. At that point, Singh was at least 50 yards closer to the flagstick than his two opponents, Leonard and Chris DiMarco. He made a relatively simple birdie.

Thus the most pivotal shot of the day for Singh probably was his tee shot on that first playoff hole. That shot enabled him to take a lead he never surrendered.

The most amazing statistic about Singh’s final round was that he made no birdies in 18 holes of regulation play. The only other player in the entire field not to make a birdie in the last round was Nick Faldo, who shot 74 and finished 10 strokes back at 290.

As might be expected, Singh hit a lot of greens in regulation for the week (54 of 72, which ranked second) and recorded a large number of two-putt pars (tying for a dismal 43rd in putting, with an average of 29.5 per round).

Remarkably, Singh won this major championship despite tying for 46th in driving accuracy. Hitting fairways would seem to be crucial in any major, but Singh hit only 55 percent of the fairways in four rounds.

By contrast, Leonard led the field by hitting 79 percent of the fairways. DiMarco hit 64 percent.

How did Singh compensate for this lack of accuracy? By using his superior strength. Singh is a marvelous iron player, whether hitting the ball from the fairway or rough.

The most disappointing statistical category for Leonard was greens in regulation. Despite leading the field in driving accuracy, he tied for 49th in greens hit (45 of 72).

Many times he hit his ball through the green and into the surrounding rough. Leonard tied for 11th in putting with an average of 27.5 putts per round. DiMarco tied for third in greens hit (52 of 72) but could do no better than a tie for 36th in putting (29.25 average).

Whistling Straits was the longest course (7,514 yards) ever played in a major championship, so it figured that a long hitter might win. Singh was third in driving distance with an average of 311.9 yards.

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