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PGA TOUR Singh soars to five-shot lead



Published: Sat, July 30, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



He started the day one-shot ahead of Woods and quickly pulled away.

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

By the time they walked to the Buick Open's 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 a seven-shot bulge over Woods.

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 matched the tournament record of 7 under on the front nine and closed with a 63, matching the event's 54-hole record of 22-under 194.

If Singh holds onto his five-shot lead he'll be the first three-time champion at the Buick Open, a tournament that started in 1958, and the first to repeat since Tony Lema in 1965.

Has shot at record

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," he said. "I just want to win the golf tournament."

As great as Singh's round was, it could've been better if his putting was more consistent. He missed short putts for birdie at Nos. 7 and 14 and another for par at the 16th. It still was good enough, however, to tie Kenny Perry's 54-hole tournament record set in 2001.

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

Tiger starts poorly

Woods had three straight bogeys -- falling seven strokes behind after four holes -- before finishing 2 under for the round and 14 under for the tournament, eight shots behind Singh. His 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 (65) is at 17 under, alone in second place. Johnson won a tournament last year as a 28-year-old rookie and he's 42nd on the money list this year with three top-10 finishes. He will be paired with Singh this afternoon.

"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."

Chris DiMarco (66) will begin the final round seven shots back.

Started streak a year ago

Singh started the week with three victories, the same total he had entering the 2004 Buick Open. His last victory here started a run of six wins, including the PGA Championship, in eight events en route to player of the year honors.

"You're not really thinking about what the rest of the season is going to be," he said. "I'm a week-to-week player. I'm not thinking about me playing well in this tournament is a great warmup for the PGA. I'm in the present and that's the way I think all the time."




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