Vijay Singh completed a magnificent victory in the 2000 Masters Tournament when he held off the challenges of Ernie Els, David Duval and Loren Roberts at Augusta National.
Singh captured his second major championship – he won the US PGA Championship in 1998 – with a final round of 69 for a ten under par total of 278 – three ahead of Els (68) and four in front of Duval (70) and Roberts (69).
Even so, Singh, who began the final round three ahead of Duval and four in front of Els had to dog deep to stay focused on a glorious final afternoon when the sun shone following a gruelling third day when strong winds and torrential rain made scoring difficult.
Indeed the leading four players were compelled to return to the course on Sunday moving to complete their third round before setting out to contest the first major of the new millennium from which Singh emerged victorious with the famous green jacket, presented to him by 1999 champion José Maria Olazábal, and a cheque for US$828,000.
He said: “I just can’t believe it and I think it will take some time to sink in. I was focused on what I had to do. This is such a special tournament and having my family with me to see me win means so much.”
It was the 27th worldwide win for the 37-year-old from Fiji who won the Volvo Open (1989), El Bosque Open (1990), Turrespaña Masters (1992), Volvo German Open (1992), Volvo Scandinavian Masters (1994), Trophée Lancôme (1994), South African Open (1997) and World Match Play Championship (1997) on the European Tour International Schedule after graduating for the 1988 Qualifying School.
Els, who was unanimously accorded Honorary Life Membership of the European Tour in January 1999, in recognition of two US Open wins and an unprecedented three successive World Match Play Championships wins (1994-95-96) came within a finger-touch of a third major championship success with a superb fourth round of 68 – the best score on the final day.
Greg Norman, who was officially accorded Honorary Life Membership of the European Tour on the eve of the 2000 Masters, recovered from an opening 80 to score 68-70-70 for a share of 11th place on 288.
Padraig Harrrington, competing in the Masters Tournament for the first time, closed with a 71 to share 19th place with, among others, Colin Montgomerie, who twice scored 69 during the tournament, and Jean Van de Velde, who completed his first Masters with a round of 70. Harrington said: “It’s been brilliant. Overall it was a very good week.” Van de Velde also had good reason to look back on his first Masters with satisfaction. He showed commendable courage in the final day to recover from two early bogeys with five birdies including in at the last hole.
A bogey at the third hole was not the start Singh was seeking to his final round, but he characteristically put that to the back of his mind with birdies at the sixth, eighth and ninth. Duval demonstrated his desire to win a major championship for the first time with four birdies in an outward 32 to Singh’s 34 to be one behind entering the last nine holes.
At that first stage Singh was on nine under with Duval at eight, Roberts at six, following at outward 33, and Tiger Woods at Els, out in 33 and 35 respectively, at four under. Duval missed the green at the tenth to drop a shot as Roberts bogeyed the 11th where Els holed from 18 feet for a birdie three. Singh hit his second shot into the water at the 11th and with Els and Roberts both making birdies at the 13th he was being strongly challenged. Indeed Singh had to get up and down from a bunker at the 12th to remain at eight under – one ahead of David, two in front of Els, three in front of Roberts and four ahead of Woods.
Singh, however, gave himself a commanding three shot lead ahead of Duval, Els and Roberts, who had holed from 20 feet for a birdie at the 14th, when he made a birdie with two good putts at the 13th where Duval found a watery grave with his second shot and took six.
Woods breathed life into his challenge with a 20-foot birdie putt at the 15th but he immediately gave the shot back at the next. Els, however, also holed from 20 feet at the 15th although moments later both Duval and Singh made birdies at that hole. Singh’s three putts at the 16th gave his rivals a glimmer of hope, but he was two shots ahead teeing off at the 18th where he holed from 20 feet for a birdie whereas Duval took five to leave Els, who narrowly missed a birdie putt at the last, in outright second place.