Thursday, July 24
On third try, Singh gets job done


ATLANTA -- Annoyed by his two previous failures at East Lake, Vijay Singh left nothing to chance Sunday in the Tour Championship.

Charles Howell III
In a field of seasoned winners, second-year pro Charles Howell III was the only player to beat par each round.

After working overtime on a swing he could trust, and rehearsing a 3-iron shot to the 18th in case it came down to the final hole, Singh finally got his revenge on East Lake by closing with a 3-under 67 to win the final PGA Tour event of the year.

''The last two times I came over here, I thought I was going to win it,'' Singh said after a two-stroke victory over Charles Howell III. ''I've finally done it, and it's really something I'm going to cherish.''

It was the third consecutive Tour Championship at East Lake that Singh held at least a share of the 54-hole lead.

He lost in a playoff to Hal Sutton in 1998 after making bogey on the 72nd hole.

Two years ago, he was tied with Tiger Woods and closed with a 73 as both were defeated by Phil Mickelson.

Singh finally figured out how to close the deal. He struck the ball beautifully all day, kept out of trouble and dared everyone else to catch him.

They certainly tried.

''Every time I hit a good shot, he was right there to answer,'' Howell said after closing with a 66 in his Tour Championship debut.

First it was Jerry Kelly, who made an ace on No. 11 to trim the lead to one stroke. Singh responded with three consecutive birdies starting on the par-5 ninth.

Then came Howell, who holed a wedge from the 13th fairway for an eagle and birdied the 17th to cut the margin to two shots.

That was a small enough margin for Singh to remember his first failure at East Lake -- a bogey on the par-3 18th that allowed Sutton to get into a playoff and beat him.

''I had the same club in my hand,'' Singh said. ''I was practicing that this morning. I said if it comes down to 18, I need to hit a solid 3-iron. And that was the best one I hit. When I struck the ball, I didn't have to look to know it was going straight for the green.''

A two-putt par gave him a 12-under 268 and a check for $900,000.

David Toms had a 67 to finish third. The former PGA champion failed to win a tournament for the first time since 1998, although he still finished fourth on the money list.

Tiger Woods was never a factor after taking a double-bogey on the opening hole. Woods grimaced on his approach to the par-5 15th, and later attributed that to a sore knee that has bothered him all year.

''You just have to play through it,'' Woods said.

Woods hit only four fairways, hanging his head as each drive sailed into the trees. He wound up with a 70 and a tie for seventh, the first time he has finished out of the top five since the British Open in July.

Singh was never worried about Woods or anyone else.

''The key was my golf,'' he said. ''I focused on hitting the fairways, which I did. If you hit the fairways, the hole becomes so much easier.''

Unlike the previous two Tour Championships at East Lake, Singh had a little more breathing room -- a three-stroke lead over Howell, and an easy day for scoring with hardly any wind and overcast conditions.

Only nothing came easily for Singh at the start of the final round.

He made bogey from the bunker on the opening hole and had to settle for pars over the next seven holes, which slowly allowed a group of other players to sneak into contention.

Davis Love III made six birdies over a span of eight holes to close to two strokes of the lead until he missed the 13th green and faded. Love had a 65 and tied for fifth at 275 with Mickelson (69).

Toms closed to two shots of Singh with a short birdie putt on No. 9, then added another birdie on No. 12. He was never a factor after that, finishing with all pars.

The real scare came from Kelly, whose ace on No. 11 was only the fourth in the 16-year history of the Tour Championship Presented by Coca-Cola, and the first since Steve Lowery and Greg Norman in 1994 at The Olympic Club.

His 4-iron from 205 yards landed about 25 feet short of the hole and broke about 4 feet before curling in the back edge. That put Kelly only one stroke out of the lead, and the cheer must have awoken Singh from his slumber.

After missing three birdie chances inside 8 feet, the Fijian holed a birdie putt from seven feet on No. 9, then poured it on. He made a 12-footer on No. 10, then his tee shot on the par-3 11th came about 16 inches from matching Kelly's ace.

He settled for a tap-in birdie, a four-shot lead and was on his way.

Howell tried to make it interesting by holing out with a wedge from 13th fairway, the ball flying straight into the hole for an eagle that closed him to three shots.

All he needed was a few mistakes from Singh, who made none on a day when he could finally leave East Lake with a big check and a crystal trophy.









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 Finally
Vijay Singh joins ESPN's Scott Walker to discuss the keys of winning the once-elusive Tour Championship.
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