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Singh wins Houston Open

Posted: Tuesday, April 27, 2004

HUMBLE, Texas Vijay Singh is usually unbeatable entering the final round of a tournament.

He proved it again Monday.

Singh shared the lead with John Huston in the rain-delayed Houston Open going into the last round, but pulled away with a 4-under 68 for his sixth straight win when leading after three rounds. Singh finished at 11-under 277 for a two-stroke victory over Scott Hoch.

''The last few times when I did go into the lead, I've been striking the ball well, so when you do that you don't feel threatened that someone else is going to overtake you,'' Singh said.

''You just let your game do the talking.''

Hoch was second after a closing 67. Huston (71) was another shot back, followed by Stephen Ames (69) and Dudley Hart (70).

''Today was the best I've played in a long, long time,'' Singh said. ''I struck the ball really solid from tee to green. Looking back, I'd like to play this way all the time.''

He hasn't been far off all year. It was the second victory of 2004 for Singh and his 17th on the tour. In 11 events this year, he's finished in the top 10 six times.

John Daly and Hoch started the last round three shots back. Daly got to within one stroke of the lead before fading late. He finished with a 71, leaving him six strokes back.

Weather problems interrupted play three consecutive days at the Redstone Golf Club and pushed the tournament into Monday, where third-round play was completed for most of the field earlier in the day.

Singh opened the event with a 74, but his second-round 66 equaled the low round of the tournament. He completed his third round earlier Monday, making an 88-foot chip for eagle at the 12th hole that gave him a 69 and a share of the lead with Huston after 54 holes at 7 under.

Singh began the final round after a short break and birdied two of the first three holes, rolling in a 20-foot putt at the par-5 No. 1.

At the 209-yard par-3 third hole, his tee shot stopped less than 2 1/2 feet from the pin. His putt for birdie gave him the lead outright at 9 under.

With Daly on the opposite end of the course making birdies, Singh had seven consecutive pars before a birdie at the par-4 No. 11, where he putted in from less than 10 feet. As Hoch closed in, Singh coolly added a 10-foot birdie at No. 15.

''He's an excellent player, one of our top players, and obviously when he's playing good, he's tough to catch,'' Hoch said. ''Vijay was just too tough. He didn't leave any openings.''

Hoch, who was coming off a tie for seventh at the MCI Heritage a week ago for his best finish of the year, began the final round three shots back. He birdied his first three holes, but didn't get another until No. 12.

Then on the par-5 15th, he got to within one of the lead. His third shot from 79 yards away landed 6 feet from the cup, and he made the putt for birdie to get to 9 under. That was as close as it would get for Hoch, who led this event in 1995 heading into the final day, blowing a five-shot lead with a final-round 75 and then losing in a playoff to Payne Stewart.

Hoch began the final round three shots back. He birdied his first three holes but didn't get another until No. 12.

''It was tough for me because I didn't hit too many of these greens to get anything close,'' he said. ''I didn't have too many birdie putts inside 15 feet.''

Daly, playing the back nine first, started the final round at 4 under. He had four birdies on his first eight holes, including a 42-footer at No. 17. He made the turn one shot behind Singh and started the front side with four consecutive pars, then bogeyed Nos. 5, 6 and 9 to take him out of the hunt.

Huston started the day by finishing his third round with a 5-under 67 to tie him for the lead with Singh. He birdied No. 1 with a 10-foot putt, then gave the shot back at the second hole when he three-putted from 33 feet, giving Singh a two-shot advantage. He could never get much going, with birdie attempts at Nos. 16, 17 and 18 all rolling just past the cup.

But his third-place finish after closing with a 71 easily was his best of the year.

Singh won earlier this year at Pebble Beach. He also finished second at the season-opening Mercedes Championships and tied for sixth at the Masters, vaulting him to No. 2 on the PGA money list. The $900,000 earned in Houston gives him $2.35 million for the year, trailing Phil Mickelson by about $130,000.



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