ORLANDO — Vijay Singh was forced to take four days off from practicing, which was unprecedented. He found himself atop the leaderboard one week later at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which is not surprising in the least.
Weakened by a stomach virus that caused him to lose 18 pounds in five days, Singh recovered in time to make a strong defense of his Bay Hill title by chipping in twice Friday on his way to 5-under 65 and a two-shot lead over Carl Pettersson.
Singh, 45, looked like the model of athleticism on a day of gray clouds and occasional rain, not even remotely resembling someone afraid to stray too far from the bathroom for four days.
"I've got a very heavy shirt on. I can see my ribs," said Singh, at
9-under 131. "I thought I was going to pull out of this tournament, but on Friday, I just started to hit a few (balls). And that was it."
What he couldn't see on the leaderboard was Tiger Woods, who hasn't been this far out of the lead since the British Open. The world's No. 1 player settled for nine straight pars to close out at 68. He was seven shots out.
Pettersson opened with three straight birdies on his way to 65.
LPGA: Lorena Ochoa shot 4-over 76, her highest score in nearly a year, in the MasterCard Classic, leaving the top-ranked Mexican star nine strokes behind first-round leader Jill McGill in Huixquilucan, Mexico.
Ochoa had six bogeys and two birdies at the hilly Bosque Real Country Club. She had her highest score since 77 in the final round of the Ginn Open in April.
"I had some bad luck drives that left me in really bad spots, but the error was on the greens," Ochoa said. "I had really bad speed on the long putts."
McGill, the 1993 U.S. Women's Amateur champion who is winless in 13 seasons on tour, eagled the 541-yard ninth hole — her last — for 5-under 67. She had five birdies and two bogeys.
CHAMPIONS: Nick Price birdied the final hole for 6-under 66 and a one-stroke lead over defending champion Tom Purtzer after the first round of the AT&T Classic in Santa Clarita, Calif. Price is winless in 17 starts since joining the 50-and-over tour last year.
FUTURES: South Korean Sae Hee Son shot 66 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Bright House Networks Open at Cleveland Heights Golf Course in Lakeland. Kelly Lagedrost of Brooksville and USF shot 72, tied for 30th. Tampa's Elizabeth Stuart (75) was tied for 82nd.
FEHERTY HIT BY TRUCK: Analyst David Feherty broke three ribs and punctured a lung when he was hit by a truck while riding his bicycle near his home in Dallas. He expects to be fully recovered in time for the Masters.
SAFEWAY OUT OF PHOENIX: Safeway will consolidate sponsorship of its two LPGA events, leaving the Phoenix area after this year though the tournament was one of the tour's strongest. Safeway will remain title sponsor of the event in Portland, Ore., moving it to Pumpkin Ridge.