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Vijay spins another gold record

Posted: Monday, September 27, 2004

 

  Vijay Singh, of the Fiji Islands, celebrates after winning the 84 Lumber Classic by one stroke over Stewart Cink, in Farmington, Pa., Sunday, Sept. 26, 2004. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Vijay Singh, of the Fiji Islands, celebrates after winning the 84 Lumber Classic by one stroke over Stewart Cink, in Farmington, Pa., Sunday, Sept. 26, 2004.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

FARMINGTON, Pa. Vijay Singh is running out of firsts to take away from Tiger Woods.

Singh broke the PGA Tour single-year money record Woods set while winning three majors in 2000, holding off a fast-finishing Stewart Cink to win the 84 Lumber Classic by one shot Sunday for his third consecutive victory.

Singh's eighth championship this year pushed his earnings to $9,455,566 in 26 events, surpassing the $9,188,321 Woods made while winning nine times in 20 events in 2000. With Singh expecting to play four more times, he could become the first to win $10 million in one year.

''I'm going to try,'' Singh said. ''It's a run I hope never ends. I'm enjoying it so much and I feel like every time I enter a tournament, I should win it. I'm really proud of the way I'm playing right now.''

Singh led from start to finish for his fifth victory in six tournaments, the best such streak since Woods won six in a row to end 1999 and start 2000. Singh has won seven times in his last 16 events.

In only three weeks, Singh has ended Woods' five years-plus run as the world's No. 1-ranked golfer and taken away one of Woods' lines in the PGA record book. Maybe that's why Woods pulled out of the 84 Lumber after unexpectedly committing last week he didn't want to see Singh knock him out of yet another lead.

''It's ridiculous the way he's playing right now,'' said Chris DiMarco, who tied for third with Pat Perez and Zach Johnson.

''He's going nuts,'' an envious John Daly said.

Still, Singh willingly concedes this: As good as 2004 has been to him, it's not comparable to Woods' 2000 because Woods won the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA. Singh's only major win came at the PGA.

''Tiger won three majors, so I don't really look at it that way,'' Singh said. ''I'm just trying to enjoy this. I don't think I can play any better than I am right now.''

Singh's three-under 69, his third round in the 60s in four days, left him at 15-under 273. Cink went 67-65 over the final two rounds to finish at 14-under 274 despite trailing by 10 strokes after the second round.

Cink, five off the lead when the day started, had five straight birdies from No. 7 through No. 11 to make a move, but a bogey on the par-4 14th dropped him three back. Singh then held on despite a bogey on the par-4 18th and Cink birdies on No. 17 and 18.

''I want to win, I want to play well and it's a good habit (to get into),'' Singh said. ''I had my driver working, my irons working and I made the putts I needed to make.''

Again, Singh's exceptional fairway play allowed him to excel on a long course. Of the eight longest courses on the Tour this year, Singh won on four including the PGA at Whistling Straits. The mountaintop Mystic Rock course where the 84 Lumber is played was lengthened by about 400 yards to 7,471 yards after J.L. Lewis won last year at 22 under.

Singh is only 146th in driving accuracy despite being 11th in length, but is the best on the tour in greens hit in regulation. No matter where his drives go and only about half the time do they land in the fairway he's still putting for birdie or par.

And while Woods started winning barely weeks after joining the tour in 1996, the 41-year-old Singh's career keeps getting better the older he gets. Never a winner on the PGA Tour until he was 30, he now has 23 career victories, all in his 30s and 40s 12 since last year. Sunday's championship was his 45th worldwide, starting 20 years ago with the 1984 Malaysian PGA Championship.

Singh won the Deutsche Bank Championship and the Canadian Open before sitting out the Ryder Cup as a native of Fiji, he was not eligible to compete. He got off to a fast start at the 84 Lumber with a best-of-the-tournament 64 on Thursday, making him the player to beat from the start, as if he wasn't already.

''A start like that puts you in a great frame of mind,'' he said.

Singh dropped out of the solo lead only once Sunday, bogeying No. 3 to fall into a three-way tie with DiMarco and Jonathan Byrd. But Singh birdied the par-4 No. 4 to regain the lead and never gave it back, expanding it to four shots with birdies on No. 11 and 13. That momentarily stalled Cink, who is fourth in Sunday scoring average.

Cink followed an uncharacteristic bad Sunday he lost to Paul McGinley 3 and 2 in singles while going 1-2-1 at the Ryder Cup with his usual good one. The $453,600 he made pushed his yearly total to $4,279,670, or about $150,000 behind No. 4 Ernie Els.

''Unfortunately, I wasted too many shots earlier in the week coming off the Ryder Cup,'' Cink said. ''I found myself having a tough time concentrating early on.''

LPGA Tour

AUBURN, Calif. Christina Kim made a charge on the back nine, shooting a 6-under 65 at the Longs Drugs Challenge for a one-shot victory over Karrie Webb and her first LPGA win.

Kim, who was the first-round leader with a 64, made five birdies on the back side in finishing with an 18-under 266 at The Ridge Golf Club.

Webb had a chance to force a playoff on the final hole, but missed a 7-foot birdie attempt. Webb shot a 64 that included two birdies on the front side and an eagle to move into contention. She shared the lead until Kim's birdie on the 17th.

On the 18th, Kim's birdie putt rolled left of the hole. But Webb then missed her birdie attempt and had to settle for second place.

Two-time Longs Drugs winner Juli Inkster had three birdies on the front side and led by two shots heading to No. 10. She played the back nine even and finished with a 68, two shots behind Kim.

Champions Tour

CARY, N.C. Craig Stadler became the first player in more than six years to win three straight tournaments on the Champions Tour, making birdies on the final three holes to win the SAS Championship with a tournament-record 17-under-par 199.

He beat Tom Jenkins by six strokes.

Stadler closed with a 6-under 66 to avoid any real challenge from Jenkins, who shot a 68. Jose Maria Canizares (66) and Doug Tewell (67) tied for third at 8 under.

Stadler won the JELD-WEN Tradition and the First Tee Open in his previous two starts. In 1997-98, Gil Morgan also won three consecutive events he entered.

The Heritage

WOBURN, England Henrik Stenson of Sweden shot a 6-under-par 66 to win The Heritage by four strokes over Carlos Rodiles of Spain.

Stenson, the overnight leader, birdied four successive holes beginning at the 14th to claim his first European Tour victory in 3 1/2 years.

Stenson finished at 19-under 269. Rodiles carded a 7-under 65 to close with a 273. Patrik Sjoland of Sweden shot 71 and was six back. Anders Hansen of Denmark was seven behind after a 65.



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