Singh earns fourth win this season
GRAND BLANC, Mich. -- Tiger Woods rolled in a long birdie putt and cupped his left ear to coax a louder reaction from one of the tour's rowdiest galleries.
Playing two groups behind, Vijay Singh's lead was down to two strokes, but he wasn't concerned about the roar from No. 17 -- or the world's top-ranked golfer.
"Tiger was never really ever within five shots of me all day," said Singh, who shrugged when informed that Woods was in fact closer to his lead.
Singh followed up three spectacular rounds with an average one and it was enough to win his third Buick Open, holding off a surging Woods. Singh closed with a final-round 70 for a four-stroke victory and a 24-under 264 total.
The Fijian said he never really worried about losing his lead.
"I wasn't as aggressive," he said. "I felt very much in control so I didn't want to make any mistakes because nobody was making a charge. To protect the lead is not a fun way to play."
What was an exciting tournament for three days became anticlimactic during the final round until Woods created a buzz with his comeback attempt.
Woods, who began the day eight shots back, vaulted into contention with six birdies and an eagle in a nine-hole stretch.
"I thought if I played a great back nine, I might be in position just in case Vijay messed up, but he's playing too well to do that," Woods said after tying for second.
Following his 17-foot putt for birdie at 17, Woods whipped the gallery into a frenzy with a gesture usually reserved for professional wrestling.
"I wanted to know how loud those drunk guys get," he said. "They were pretty hammered, they were wobbling as it was."
Woods' drive at the final hole sailed wide right while Singh made his second birdie at No. 16 to take a three-shot lead. Woods bogeyed the final hole and fell another shot back, finishing with a 6-under 66.
Woods, the top-ranked player in the world, and second-ranked Singh have alternated positions atop the rankings for nearly a year.
Zach Johnson (69) tied for second -- his best finish this year -- at 20 under.
"The cream rises to the top, and that's the best cream there is," Johnson said.
Robert Allenby (65) finished 18 under, alone in fourth. Allenby aced the 179-yard 11th, helping him finish in the top 10 for the first time since February.
Singh is the first three-time champion at the Buick Open, a tournament that started in 1958. He's also the first to repeat since Tony Lema in 1965.
The 42-year-old Fijian has won four events this year and 28 in his career. Singh trails only Woods' 44 victories and leads Phil Mickelson by two among active PGA Tour players.
Singh's five-shot lead was his largest entering a final round. The four times he led by three after 54 holes, he won each event, including the 2000 Masters.
The large cushion allowed him to play conservatively, making two birdies and 16 pars.
"I wasn't aggressive, but I didn't need to be," said.
Singh matched the Buick Open's 54-hole record of 22-under 194.
"You never win the golf tournament on Saturday, but you can put yourself in position to win," he said.
If he shot 67 or better for the sixth straight time at Warwick Hills, he would've eclipsed Robert Wrenn's tournament mark of 26 under, set in 1987.
"I wasn't trying to break the record, my goal was to win the golf tournament," he said.
Singh started the week with three victories, the same total he had entering the 2004 Buick Open. His last victory 60 miles north of Detroit started a run of six wins in eight events, including the PGA Championship. He went on to win player of the year honors.
"I'm playing better this year than I did last year," Singh said. "I'm excited. I just hope I can follow what I did last year. It's going to be almost impossible, but I'm going to give it a shot."
Singh will go for his third PGA Championship title and fourth major victory in two weeks.
Woods played for the first time since winning the British Open two weeks ago. At Baltusrol in New Jersey, he'll shoot for his 11th major title and third this year.
"I've played really well in the majors this year, hopefully the PGA will be a culmination of that," he said.
Woods had an up-and-down tournament. He opened with a 71, then had an 11-under 61 -- his career best round in relation to par -- before falling back with a 70 on Saturday. He tied the Buick Open record with three eagles, including two in a row in the second round.
On Nos. 1-4, Woods had five bogeys and one birdie over the four rounds. On the other 14 holes, he had 20 birdies, three eagles and two bogeys.
"I had it going at times, but I couldn't keep it together for 72 holes and that's disappointing," he said.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press