Mon, Jan 10, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Singh maintains lead as Kaye and Els close the gap

AP , KAPALUA, HAWAII

Vijay Singh made 15 pars Saturday, not the kind of golf that would seem to keep him atop the leaderboard in the Mercedes Championships. One swing made the difference.

With Jonathan Kaye and Ernie Els closing fast, Singh hit a 226m approach into 3m on the par-5 15th for an eagle that allowed him to shoot a 4-under 69 and keep the lead going into the final round of the season-opening tournament.

Singh, the only player in the winners-only field without a bogey on the Plantation Course, was at 19-under 200.

Kaye, who has played with the three top players in the world ranking the first three rounds, birdied six of his last eight holes for a 66 that left him one shot behind.

Els took the lead from Singh with four birdies on his first five holes, but there's always one hole at Kapalua that grabs him, and this time it was the par-5 ninth.

He hooked his approach into a bunker, took two shots to get out and made a bogey on a hole where most everyone else was making birdie.

He recovered with birdies on two of the last three holes for a 68 that left him two shots behind.

Tiger Woods also threw three shots away late in his round -- a 2-iron into the waist-high weeds on No. 15 that he never found, and a driver off the 17th hole that went 337m, through the fairway, the rough and into the hazard.

He wound up with a 69 and was five shots behind.

Singh will be trying to win his 20th different PGA Tour event, and history is on his side. He has won the last 11 times when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead, dating to the 2001 MCI Classic.

And everyone knows what to expect.

"He's playing exceptional, which is normal for him," said Stuart Appleby, who opened with a 74 and got into the hunt with rounds of 64-66, leaving him only four shots behind along with Mike Weir (71).

It was shaping up to a dynamic conclusion along the rugged coast of Maui, and an intriguing start to the year.

Six players were within five shots of Singh.

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