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Singh passes Woods; $10 million mark is next

9/27/2004

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 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 money total to
$9,455,566 in 26 events, surpassing Woods' $9,188,321 while he was
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.
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.
Since 1960, only four players have reached eight wins in a season: Singh, Woods (nine in 2000, eight in 1999), Johnny Miller (eight in 1974) and Arnold Palmer (eight in 1962 and in 1960).
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 after
starting the round two back.
Singh had a three-under 69 Sunday, his third round in the 60s in
four days, to finish at 15-under 273. 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.
"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 PGA 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. His 11 wins since turning 40 is best among active PGA Tour players.
"Look at Jay Haas, he's 50 years old and still competing,"
Singh said. "I'm only 41. So I've got nine more years to catch
him. So I think I will go year by year and see what happens."
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," he said. "I'm just trying to enjoy this. I don't think I
can play any better than I am right now."
Sunday's championship was Singh's 45th worldwide, starting 20 years ago with the 1984 Malaysian PGA Championship. After passing his latest money milestone, he ranks second all-time in career earnings at $35,310,489.
Singh was coming off victories in the Deutsche Bank Championship
and the Canadian Open before sitting out the Ryder Cup -- as a
native of Fiji, he was not eligible. He got off to a fast start at
the 84 Lumber with a best-of-the-tournament 64 on Thursday.
Singh dropped out of the solo lead only once Sunday, when a
bogey at No. 3 briefly dropped him 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
at one point with birdies on No. 11 and 13. Singh then held on even
after Cink birdied No. 16 and No. 17 during his 7-under 65.
Cink followed an uncharacteristic bad Sunday -- he lost to Paul
McGinley 3 and 2 a week ago while going 1-2-1 at the Ryder Cup --
with another good one. The $453,600 he made for finishing second
pushed his yearly total to $4,279,670, or about $150,000 behind No.
4 Ernie Els.