© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2002
ATLANTA -- Vijay Singh was in familiar territory Saturday.
With an 80-foot eagle putt that made him laugh, Singh blew past Tiger Woods and the other challengers to build a three-stroke lead at the Tour Championship.
It was the third time Singh held at least a share of the 54-hole lead at East Lake, and this time he has some breathing room.
"It's a lot better than going out with a one-shot lead," Singh said after 5-under 65 moved him past second-round leader Charles Howell III.
Singh can thank No. 15 for that.
Clinging to a one-stroke lead over Woods, Singh reached the 495-yard uphill par 5 with a 5-iron that stopped 80 feet beyond the flag.
"It was weird, because where my ball was, that's where the pin was yesterday," he said. "And where the pin was, my ball was there yesterday."
Singh three-putted for par Friday. On Saturday he rolled the long putt over a knob and into the cup.
"I knew the line," he said, laughing. "I was glad to see it go in."
Singh was at 9-under 201 and hopes his third chance at winning the season-ending Tour Championship is more successful than the previous two. He had a one-stroke lead in 1998 but lost in a playoff to Hal Sutton. He was tied with Woods two years ago, and Phil Mickelson beat them both.
This time the most likely challenge figures to come from Howell, who stayed in the hunt with birdie on No. 17 for 69, making him the only player in the 30-man field to break par in each round. Howell is making his debut in the season-ending tournament for the top 30 players on the money list.
Woods' round included birdie from an adjacent fairway and a left-handed shot from leaves to save par before bogeys on two of his last three holes. He finished with 67, five behind, and is paired with Mickelson (67) in the today's final round.
Woods almost came unglued after the turn.
His tee shot was left on the par-5 ninth and he punched out to the adjacent fairway. His caddie, Steve Williams, had to step off the 151 yards to the green, and it turned out to be a perfect number. Woods hit a 9-iron over the trees, and the ball stopped 18 inches from the cup for birdie.
His drive on the 10th was even worse, landing in a pile of leaves against a chain-link fence. Woods turned over his wedge and hit left-handed to the fairway, then hit a right-handed wedge to 2 feet to save par.
"I fought all day, really gutted it out," Woods said. "To finish a round like that is pitiful."
WORLD LADIES MATCH PLAY: Carin Koch had a spectacular bunker shot to set up birdie on the 17th hole and beat Michele Redmen 2 and 1 to advance to the semifinals in Narita, Japan.
"I don't know if I've had a bunker shot like that before," said Koch, who is expecting her second child in April. "I made some good birdies and some tough putts."
After the sand blast, she ended the match with a short birdie putt.
Koch, a European Solheim Cup star coming off consecutive second-place finishes, faces Grace Park in the semifinals.
Park is a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour. Park beat Yuri Fudoh 6 and 5 on the Narita Golf Club course.
"I didn't make any mistakes," Park said. "I made four birdies, and Yuri didn't play that well, so I was lucky."
In the other quarterfinals, Hee-Won Han beat Rosie Jones 5 and 4 and Midori Yoneyama beat Kelly Robbins 4 and 3. Yoneyama was the only one of the 16 Japan LPGA players in the 32-woman field to advance to the semis.
The final is today after the semis.
SOUTHERN FARM BUREAU CLASSIC: Rookie Luke Donald birdied three of the last four holes for 5-under 67 and a one-stroke lead at Madison, Miss. The former NCAA champion from Northwestern, four strokes behind Brad Elder midway through the round, was at 15-under 201 for his first 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour. Elder, the second-round leader, fell to third at 13-under 203 after his 71 that included four bogeys. Deane Pappas (68) was second at 202.
ITALIAN OPEN: First-round leader Ian Poulter made his third hole-in-one and shot 5-under 67 for a one-shot lead in the rain-shortened European PGA Tour event in Rome. Poulter, the 2000 champion, moved to 16-under 128. Paul Lawrie, who had nine birdies and 63, was second.