Vijay has even round, ahead by 2

Updated: September 25, 2004, 8:37 PM ET
Associated Press

FARMINGTON, Pa. -- Vijay Singh is making it look easy by winning tournament after tournament, and millions upon millions of dollars, while chasing Tiger Woods' single-season money record.

A slow-lifting fog and slow-moving players conspired Saturday to make for one of Singh's toughest days in weeks, yet his ability to turn bad lies into good shots helped him to an even-par 72 that kept him in the 84 Lumber Classic lead.

"I didn't play as well as I did the first two days," said Singh, who started 64-68 at the 7,471-yard Mystic Rock course. "My rhythm wasn't there. I was struggling to find it all day. But I still lead by two, so I'm not that disappointed."

Even when it doesn't come so easily, Singh is difficult to knock out of the lead.

Repeatedly following poor shots with exceptional ones on a day when some of his best play came merely to save par, Singh finished at 12-under 204 to lead Chris DiMarco by two shots and Jonathan Byrd and Matt Gogel by three entering Sunday's final round.

Singh can break Woods' single-season money record of $9.1 million set in 2000 by winning the $756,000 first prize, or, if he plays in two late-season no-cut tournaments that offer guaranteed money, by finishing second.

Heavy fog shrouded the mountaintop resort course for the third straight morning, forcing a delay in play and the decision to go out in threesomes rather than twosomes. That meant some players, including Singh, started earlier than expected so the finish could be televised.

Play lagged all day as a result, with Singh, DiMarco and Ben Curtis needing 5 hours and 20 minutes for their round -- about 80 minutes slower than usual. That's why Singh wasn't surprised when the quality of play dropped off late in the afternoon, too.

"The pace of play was strained," Singh said. "You play the holes and then you wait 10 minutes on the next tee. ... I called it [to the attention] of the official on the 10th hole, and it didn't seem to help much."

DiMarco also disliked the pace, and the decision to play in threes.

"We would have finished before (Friday's ending time) easily in twosomes," he said. "But they wanted to get it in, and I think TV wanted a certain time, too. That was the ultimate decision."

DiMarco, one of only three U.S. team members competing after last weekend's Ryder Cup wipeout in suburban Detroit, repeatedly tried to make a move at Singh. But Singh held him off each time despite being in the 70s for only the second time in 11 rounds.

"It makes you aware you can take nothing for granted," Singh said of an uneven round that included three bogeys, two more than in his first two rounds combined. "If you're not careful, it can grab up and bite you."

DiMarco's bark was better than his bite. Three birdies on the front side seemed a portend of a possible big day, but DiMarco bogeyed the last two holes and three of the final five to settle for a one-under 71 that cut only one shot off the three-shot lead Singh brought into the third round.

Singh's lead was down to one after he bogeyed No. 11, but DiMarco gave a stroke back with a bogey at the par-4 14th. Singh got up and down from the fringe to save par on the par-4 15th, then made an even better recovery at the par-5, 526-yard 16th.

After hitting his second shot into the water, Singh needed to chip in from 25 feet along the right front fringe to save par -- and did exactly that, avoiding a two-shot swing on a hole DiMarco birdied.

Singh bogeyed the par-3 17th by driving into the pot bunker placed strategically in the middle of the green and missing a 12-footer, but DiMarco missed his 8-footer for par and also bogeyed.

Singh couldn't make an 8-footer for birdie on No. 18, yet DiMarco again failed to take advantage. He made an excellent recovery after hooking his drive onto a steep upward slope far to the left of the fairway, but couldn't make a 10-foot par putt.

"Thankfully, Vijay didn't run away with the tournament," DiMarco said. "Obviously, I would have liked to have finished par-par and been right there with him. But nobody really did much."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press