Singh starts new season with victory


Published: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

KAPALUA, Hawaii — The new era in golf brought out the old version of Vijay Singh.

Coming off his least productive season in five years, the 43-year-old Singh delivered a strong statement Sunday that he's still around by closing with a 3-under 70 for a two-shot victory over Adam Scott in the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship.

It was the 30th victory of his PGA Tour career and 18th since he turned 40, breaking the record held by Sam Snead.

And Singh finally walked off the Plantation course at Kapalua with the winner's lei around his neck and the keys to a new car, which he said he would give to his son. He has been runner-up twice in the last three years, and has never finished worse than eighth since this winners-only tournament moved to Maui.

This time, no one stood a chance.

He doubled the size of his three-shot lead after two holes, and only a late charge by Scott kept it interesting.

Singh finished at 14-under 278 and along with $1.1 million to push him over $50 million for his career, he earned 4,500 points for the new FedExCup competition.

The tour has called this a "new era in golf," and the hype has been so strong that Singh said he was tired of listening to it. All he cared about was winning, and he took care of that with ease.

Scott led by three shots when he played with Singh in the final round of the season-ending Tour Championship two months ago. This time he was trailing by three, and Singh never gave him hope. Scott fell six shots down after two holes, but he somehow made it interesting.

Two straight birdies on the back nine pulled him within two shots of the lead, and he had a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th that grazed the lip. He winced and turned away, then missed the 3-foot par putt to end his chances. A birdie on final hole gave him a 69.

The only consolation was his runner-up finish will move him up to No. 3 in the world ahead of Phil Mickelson.

Trevor Immelman birdied the 18th for a 72 to finish third.

Singh had only one victory in his last 35 starts on the PGA Tour, and the proud man who had climbed to No. 1 in the world slipped all the way down to No. 7 at the end of last season. He discovered flaws in his swing toward the end of the year, and to no one's surprise, the hardest-working man in golf spent his offseason correcting them.

He also brought a belly putter to Kapalua, and the combination was unbeatable. Singh was in a five-way tie for the lead after the opening round, and he slowly pulled away.

Singh tied Leo Diegel for 16th in career PGA Tour victories, but more impressive are his 18 victories in his 40s. That's as many as Hall of Famer Nick Price won in his career on tour.

"Anyone who says 43 is old, they can go to hell," Singh said with a laugh at the trophy presentation.

Singh's victory ended Stuart Appleby's three-year reign at Kapalua. Appleby, who finished 10 shots behind, had won the last three years by a combined four shots over Singh.

If anyone thought Singh's bad fortune on Maui would continue, he put that to rest quick.

He hammered his opening tee shot so far that it went through the fairway, but his approach stopped 5 feet away for birdie. Singh holed a 12-foot birdie on the next hole, and the rout was on as his challengers fell apart.

Scott took bogey from the bunker on No. 2 and three-putted for bogey on the fourth. Immelman three-putted his first two holes, and fell further behind when he came up short of the fourth green and dropped another shot.

About the only player who tried to make a move was MacKenzie, and even he ran into a few problem. After opening with a bogey, golf's free spirit ran off three straight birdies to get within four shots. But he failed to birdie the par-5 fifth, and after blasting a tee shot just short of the green on 398-yard sixth, he bladed a wedge over the green into deep rough and took bogey.

Singh sailed along under cloudy skies and wind not nearly as fierce as it has been the first three days. He made eight consecutive pars until a 12-foot birdie on the par-3 12th to extend his lead to five shots, and didn't flinch when Scott made his charge.

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