Singh handles being passed, takes home Buick

Fast start propels Daly to front, but world No. 3 stays steady, wins by shot


August 02, 2004|By Krista Latham | Krista Latham,DETROIT FREE PRESS

GRAND BLANC, Mich. -- Vijay Singh probably doesn't know what the word "rattled" means.

Otherwise, this scorching start -- birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie -- from his playing partner and chum, John Daly, in the final round of the Buick Open yesterday probably would have been just a tad worrisome. The two-stroke lead Singh started with vanished into a one-shot deficit after less than an hour.

But Singh's the No. 3 player in the world, and the way he saw it, he had 13 holes to play on a Warwick Hills course that houses as many birdies as a canary convention.

No biggie.

The 1997 champion stayed calm and became the third two-time champion of the Buick Open when he rallied and reclaimed the lead with a birdie on No. 16.

"John kind of put a lot of pressure on me there in the early stages," said Singh, who led the tournament after each round. "It was a good battle. I haven't had that kind of battle with anyone for a long time."

Singh finished with a 5-under-par 67 for the day and 23-under 265 for the tournament, despite starting the week using a standard putter for the first time in 2 1/2 years.

Daly shot 66 yesterday and took second at 266. Tiger Woods and Carlos Franco shared third place at 267 with matching 6-under 66s.

And although Daly is adamant that he struck the ball better, Singh still walked away with the Buick Winged Goddess Trophy, $810,000 and a new Buick of his choice.

"I think he did" strike it better, said Singh, who won for the fourth time on the PGA Tour this season. "Bottom line is, you know, I still beat him."

The Daly-loving crowd might have left disappointed, especially after Singh bogeyed No. 18, giving their long-hitting hero a chance to drop his 8-foot putt for a par and force sudden death.

But the putt just missed, and Singh told Daly he "was sorry, but someone had to win."

"I thought I hit a better putt," Daly said. "Me and [my caddie] both read it, and we thought it was right-center, and we thought it was just outside the hole. I made a lot of good putts on the back nine, but it just didn't go in. It just wasn't my day."

Daly's furious start and Singh's steadiness left little room for followers such as Woods and Franco.

Woods managed to get close with two birdies in the final three holes, but the 2002 champion never quite caught up.

"The golf course was playing pretty easy out there today," Woods said. "I just didn't make any putts on the back nine."

And Franco, who won last week in Milwaukee, matched Woods birdie for birdie.

"It was unbelievable," Franco said. "When I make it, he make it. When he made it, I made it. When I miss, he miss. When he miss, I miss too."

But they weren't in the real fight. Daly started attacking Singh before the final round even started.

Perched on the practice range, Daly spotted Singh lumbering up the hill to join him. So Daly aimed and fired a soft shot at the Fijian. The shot missed, and Singh laughed, and as he set up his bag next to Daly's, he told him he was going to "kick your [rear]."

Then Daly torched his way through the first four holes, wowing the crowd with his 9-iron, 142-yard approach on No. 2 that dropped a foot behind the hole and spun back in for an eagle.

"It was a dream start," Daly said, "there's no doubt about it."

But it wasn't a dream round.

After both birdied No. 7, Singh knocked a shot off his 5-wood to 12 feet on No. 12 and made the putt for a birdie that knotted the score at 23-under. Then he hit his second shot on the 580-yard, par-five No. 16 to 40 feet. A 2-putt later and Singh had the lead for good.

"I think I outhit him today," Daly said. "But he got the trophy, and I didn't."

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