Singh ends heartache to capture Bay Hill title

Monday, March 19, 2007

Vijay Singh kept staring at the silver trophy from the Arnold Palmer Invitational, turning it slightly at the base to make sure his name was finally on the list of champions.

Even then, it must have been hard to believe.

Singh has been coming to Bay Hill in Orlando, Fla., for 15 years. He had left with nothing but three runner-up finishes and plenty of heartache. There was that bogey-bogey finish in 1994 to lose to Loren Roberts, the 7-iron into the lake on the 18th two years ago to lose to Kenny Perry.

He made sure that wouldn't happen Sunday.

Singh played so well in the middle that it didn't matter how bad it got at the end. Even with a bogey-bogey-par finish, the 44-year-old Fijian still matched the best score of the final round with a 3-under 67 that gave him a two-shot victory over Rocco Mediate.

"I knew how difficult Bay Hill plays on Sunday," he said. "It was a good feeling to be standing on 18 tee knowing that you don't have to make a par to win the tournament."

He played his approach far away from the water and wound up making par, anyway.

Singh, who finished at 8-under 272, became the first multiple winner on the PGA Tour this year. His 31st career victory tied him with Harry "Lighthorse" Cooper of England with the most by a foreign-born player.

"I love this place," Singh said. "I hate the 18th hole, but I love the rest of it. It feels great. Having won Jack's tournament (Memorial) and now Arnie's, it's a great one to get."

Mediate made three clutch par saves to keep alive his hopes, only to find trouble on the 18th for a bogey and a 67.

Vaughn Taylor, who had a two-shot lead going into the final round, didn't make a birdie until the 15th hole. His only other birdie came on the 18th to give him a 73 and third place, but it was not enough to move him into the top 50 in the world ranking and qualify for the World Golf Championship next week at Doral.

Ben Curtis closed with a 72 to finish fourth.

Tiger Woods delivered a dramatic finish, but not the kind anyone expected.

His chances ended with a three-putt double bogey on the 11th hole, and then a bad day got even worse. Woods hit his tee shot into the water on the par-3 17th and made double bogey. After chipping out of the rough on the 18th, he hit his third into the water and made triple bogey for a 43 on the back nine.

He closed with a 76, his highest score in a regular PGA Tour event since a 76 in the third round of the Memorial four years ago. Woods wound up tied for 22nd, ending his streak of 13 straight top 10s worldwide, nine of those on the PGA Tour.

Woods left the course without comment.

Champions Tour

Tom Purtzer won the Champions Tour's AT&T Champions Classic for the second time in five seasons, beating Loren Roberts with a 17-foot birdie on the fourth hole of a playoff.Purtzer closed with a 4-under 68 to match Roberts (69) at 10-under 206 on the Valencia Country Club course in Santa Clarita, Calif. The 55-year-old Purtzer earned $240,000 for his fourth career victory on the 50-and-over tour.

-- The Associated Press

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