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Singh in driver's seat

By Associated Press
Published July 31, 2005

GRAND BLANC, Mich. - When the world's top golfers were introduced on the first tee at the Buick Open, a packed gallery politely clapped for Vijay Singh and roared for Tiger Woods.

By the time they walked to the fifth tee, fired-up fans expecting to catch a glimpse of a showdown gasped as the standard bearer showed Singh's one-stroke lead had turned into seven.

Singh birdied the first three holes Saturday while Woods bogeyed Nos.2-4.

"It was noisy out there, but they kind of quieted down after two, three holes," Singh said.

Singh tied the tournament record of 7 under on the front nine and closed with 63, matching the event's 54-hole record of 22-under 194, set by Kenny Perry in 2001.

If Singh holds onto his five-shot lead, he will be the first three-time champion at the tournament that started in 1958.

Also, if Singh shoots 67 or better today - for the sixth straight time at Warwick Hills - he will break Robert Wrenn's tournament mark of 26 under, set in 1987.

"If I break the record, that would be great. If I don't, I don't care," Singh said. "I just want to win the golf tournament."

As great as Singh's round was, it could've been better. He missed short putts for birdie at Nos.7 and 14 and another for par at the 16th.

"I missed those two short ones and I made nine long ones," said Singh, who made two putts from at least 20 feet. "I'm thinking about how good I've played and how many good putts I've made."

Woods is the world's top-ranked player, and Singh is No.2. They have alternated positions atop the ranking for nearly a year.

Woods had three straight bogeys before finishing 2 under for the round and 14 under for the tournament, eight shots behind Singh. Woods' 22-foot par putt at the 18th spun around the cup, giving him a fourth bogey.

"I had a terrible start, but I pieced it back together until 18," he said. "That last hole seemed to sum up the whole day."

Zach Johnson, who won a tournament last year as a 28-year-old rookie and is 42nd on the money list, shot 65 and is 17 under. He will be paired with Singh.

"It's difficult, but it's also a situation that I want," Johnson said. "That's the reason we play the game, competing against the big boys. I think it's going to be an incredible experience for me."

Woods opened with 71 - snapping a tournament-record tying streak of eight straight rounds in the 60s - then vaulted into contention Friday with 11 under, his best round in relation to par.

"The hardest thing in golf is to follow up a great round," he said. "I'm going to have to shoot something like I did (Friday) - 61 or 60 or 62 - and hope that Vijay doesn't go low."

[Last modified July 31, 2005, 01:32:21]


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