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Singh extends PGA charge at Pro-Am

Associated Press
Published February 9, 2004

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - Vijay Singh stood on the 18th green with the crystal in his hands, a trophy he has wanted since he first set foot on Pebble Beach.

It might not be long before he has the prize he really wants - replacing Tiger Woods at No.1 in the world.

Singh blew away the field Sunday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, making birdies on the first three holes, hitting a 4-iron into the most daunting green on the course and spending the rest of the day soaking up the sunshine.

It was his third victory in his past nine PGA Tour events and 12th straight finish in the top 10, the best record of anyone in the past six months. Does it make him the best player?

"My ranking doesn't say that," Singh said. "I'm No.2. I'm playing the best I can. I want to be No.1 before I finish. But it's a hard feat to take Tiger off the top because he's playing well.

"If I keep playing like I'm doing now, I have a shot - maybe not this year, but in a year or two."

Singh closed with 3-under 69, avoiding a misstep on the 17th when he almost blasted over the green and into the ocean while trying to win the pro-am portion of the tournament with investment tycoon Teddy Forstmann.

Despite bumpy greens that kept Woods away, Singh had 25 birdies for the week. He finished 16-under 262, three ahead of Jeff Maggert. Maggert (69) overcame double bogey on No.16 with birdies on his last two holes.

Phil Mickelson also shot 69 and finished third, his third top 10 in as many starts this year.

That's nothing compared with Singh, who ran his streak to 12 straight finishes in the top 10 dating to August's NEC Invitational. He is two from the modern record set by Jack Nicklaus in 1977.

"It kind of reminds me of the streak Tiger was on a few years ago when he won the four majors in a row," Maggert said. "It was like all he had to do was show up and he was going to shoot 5 or 6 under."

Singh, who notched his 16th career victory, is firmly entrenched at No.2 in the world. But the gap keeps shrinking.

Singh ended Woods' four-year reign of the PGA Tour money title last year and has shown no signs of letting up. Next up is the Buick Invitational, where Woods is the defending champion.

"I'm going to go out there (this) week and start all over," Singh said. "It doesn't matter who is playing in the field. If I play my game, everything will be cool."

WIE FINISHES 11 BACK: Michelle Wie closed with par 72 at the Pearl Open in Aiea, Hawaii, to tie for 38th at 2-under 214. Playing in her second men's tournament of the year, Wie was the only woman in the field of 192. Defending champion Greg Meyer, a Japanese tour player, shot 67 for a winning 13-under 203.

Last year, Wie finished 8-over 224 and tied for 43rd. In 2002, she missed the cut by three strokes in her first tournament against men.

"I improved from last year," the 14-year-old said. "I hope I can just reach another level next year."

The field included 62 U.S. pros and 70 pros from the Japanese tour. Wie came in second among amateurs, behind Kauai's Jonathan Ota, 42, who qualified last month for the PGA Tour's Sony Open.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Bruce Fleisher made a short birdie on the final hole to win the Royal Caribbean Classic in Key Biscayne by one. With winds of up to 20 mph, Fleisher shot 1-under 71 to finish 6-under 210 and win the tour's first full-field event of the year.

Fleisher, who ran off eight straight pars on the back nine before dropping a 6-footer for birdie on the 18th, finished one ahead of hard-charging Dana Quigley. Fleisher, a Miami resident, also won in 1999 and 2000.

Quigley was not in contention for most of the final round, starting the back nine seven behind. But he posted 4-under 33 on the last nine to close with 68. John Bland (73) and Gil Morgan (70) finished two back at 4 under. Fleisher's 54-hole total was the highest winning score in the tournament's history.

EUROPEAN PGA: Ernie Els blew an eight-stroke lead in Melbourne, Australia, but held off Adam Scott on the back nine for a one-stroke win in the Heineken Classic. It was the third straight victory in the event for Els, who played the front nine 6 over and finished 2-over 74.

He opened the tournament with a course-record 60 and had rounds of 66 and 68 to finish 20-under 268. Scott (67) moved into a tie for the lead with birdie at No.9, but Els rebounded with four birdies in a five-hole stretch.

NATIONWIDE TOUR: Jimmy Walker won his first tour title, closing with 1-under 69 for a five-stroke win in the season-opening Panama Championship. The former Baylor player secured exempt status on the tour through the 2005 season.

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