- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

NORTON, Mass. — Vijay Singh has been playing the best golf in the world for a long time. Now he has Tiger Woods’ No.1 ranking to prove it.

Singh finished his long climb to the top of golf’s ultimate leader board by beating Woods in a head-to-head matchup, shooting a 69 yesterday to win the Deutsche Bank Championship by three strokes and claim Woods’ spot as the top-ranked player in the world.

It was Singh’s sixth victory of the year, enough to convince the computers that crunch the numbers what many have known for months.

“Finally it’s turned into my favor,” said Singh, who birdied three of the last four holes to win the $900,000 first prize. “I’ve worked pretty hard for this. I finally achieved what I wanted to do starting at the beginning of the year.

“It was a good win, as well. Coming down the stretch got pretty tight there, but I got focused and I played pretty good coming down.”

Woods had been No.1 for more than five years — a record 264 consecutive weeks — in the rankings that consider performance over the past two years, factoring in the strength of field. Singh had winnowed Woods’ lead to 12.09-11.91 heading into the Deutsche Bank, needing only to finish ahead of Woods to pass him.

The new numbers released last night had Singh at 12.72 points to Woods’ 12.27, making Singh the first player other than Woods to hold the No.1 ranking since Aug.8, 1999.

“That’s not too bad, is it? I’ve had a good run,” Woods said. “I’m not disappointed about the ranking; I’m disappointed in not winning. … Winning takes care of the ranking.”

Singh and Woods were tied at 13 under after Singh bogeyed the 13th hole, but Woods bogeyed the next one, and Singh birdied No.15 to pull ahead by two strokes. The 41-year-old Fijian added birdies on the final two holes at the par-71, 7,415 TPC of Boston to finish 16 under, three ahead of Woods and defending champion Adam Scott.

“It was a golf tournament to me. It wasn’t about the ranking,” said Singh, who has won the last nine times he took a lead into the final round. “It wasn’t about going out there and trying to beat Tiger and beat the No.1 player. I was out there trying to win the golf tournament, and that was my goal starting out today.

“You know, Adam Scott nearly jumped up and took it away,” he added, “but I was very focused.”

Scott started the day seven strokes behind Singh before making the turn with four consecutive birdies to get into contention. He birdied the 18th hole to move into second place at 13 under, and Woods’ 69 matched him.

John Rollins and Daniel Chopra were another two strokes back.

Singh took a three-stroke lead into the final day and made it four with a birdie on the first hole. But the lead withered over the front nine and disappeared when Woods chipped in for birdie on 12 and Singh went over the green with an 8-iron on 13, then missed a 7-footer to save par.

That left them tied at 13 under, with Scott one stroke back.

On 14, a 485-yard par-4, Woods and Singh were 6 inches apart on the green, about 9 feet from the pin. Singh sank his putt to save par, but Wood pushed his to the left for a bogey. On the par-5 15th their drives landed 6 yards apart on the fairway but Singh put his approach within 4 feet and Woods was 17 feet from the flag; Singh picked up another birdie to drop to minus 14 and Woods two-putted for par, leaving him two strokes back.

After making another birdie on 17 to expand his lead to three strokes, Singh smiled and seemed to relax. He acknowledged the cheers of the crowd for the first time all day.

“I made the putts that counted,” said Singh, who birdied the last hole after missing a 22-foot putt for eagle. “The big putt was on 17. When I made that one, I said, ‘That’s it.’”

On the second hole, a par-5 553-yard dogleg right, both players got into trouble. Singh couldn’t find his ball and took a drop, hit to 14 feet of the pin and then two-putted for bogey; Woods found his among the rocks in front of the green, but when he swung at the ball he hit a rock instead, jamming his wrist, breaking his club and costing himself a stroke.

Shaking off the pain, he punched his way up the hill, chipped onto the green and two-putted from 18 feet for a bogey.

Meanwhile, after making the cut for the first time in 15 months, David Duval finished tied for 13th for a payday of $93,750 — more than he has made in 24 events since the start of the 2003 season. He double-bogeyed the first hole for the second consecutive day but shot a 67.

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