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Singh gets accustomed to leading

Published Aug. 28, 2005

Just when Vijay Singh thinks he can't play better, he does. Just when it seems he can't do more during his Tiger Woods-like season, he does that, too.

Singh is first on the money list, first in the world rankings and, again, first on the PGA Tour leader board. Singh, turning the post-majors schedule into a weekly highlights show, shot 8-under 64 Thursday for a three-shot lead in the first round of the 84 Lumber Classic.

Good thing the $4.2-million tournament is sponsored by lumber billionaire Joe Hardy since it looks like Singh will cash another big check Sunday. Singh can surpass Woods' season money record of $9.1-million in 2000 by winning, and it's evident Singh knows it.

With seven tournament victories, Singh is closing in on Woods' best season of nine wins. Don't think he doesn't know that, too.

The way Singh is playing, with four rounds of 65 or lower in his past five tournaments, he agrees it almost would be impossible to play much better.

"I'm driving the ball the way I want it," Singh said after a bogey-free round that included eagle and six birdies. "I don't know if I can hit it any better. My playing is pretty good. I'm doing the same thing over and over again."

If he means winning, he's right. He is going for his fifth victory in six tournaments, including the PGA Championship, and his third this month. He won the Deutsche Bank Championship and Canadian Open in consecutive weeks before sitting out last week.

Perfection? Almost.

"Today I was pretty close," he said. "You can't really say that because, you know, each day is different. I'm swinging the club as good as I think I can."

To those chasing him, that's about as good as it gets. Singh leads Richard S. Johnson, Pat Perez, Cameron Beckman, Ben Curtis and Robert Allenby by three shots, with Kevin Na three back through No. 15 when play was stopped by darkness.

"He sure looks like he is on a roll like Tiger was a few years back," said Billy Andrade, who shot 3-under 69. "I think if you polled all the players and say would anybody get to the level that Tiger Woods was back at a couple of years ago, probably everybody would have said, "How can you get better than this?' And now Vijay seems to be on a run like that."

LPGA: Christina Kim shot 7-under 64 and held a one-stroke lead over Rachel Teske after the first round of the Longs Drugs Challenge in Auburn, Calif.

Kim didn't have a bogey on an almost windless day.

"I can't remember when I did that before," said Kim, who has four top-10 finishes this season.

Teske, an eight-time tour winner, had eagle and four birdies in her second nine.

"I don't know what happened," said Teske, who won two events last year and has four top-10 finishes this season. "But I just really put a really good swing on the second shot into the green on No. 10, and I had that rhythm for the rest of the nine. It's been a while since I've struck the ball so crisply."

Juli Inkster, the Hall of Fame player and two-time winner of this event, former rookie of the year Beth Bauer of Tampa, Miriam Nagl and Michelle Estill shot 66.

EUROPEAN PGA: Ryder Cup star Colin Montgomerie had birdie and eagle on the last two holes, shooting 1-under 71 that left him four strokes behind the leaders after the first round of the Heritage in Woburn, England. Graeme McDowell, Jose Manuel Lara and Nick O'Hern were tied for the lead after shooting 67 and seized the spotlight from Europe's victorious Ryder Cup players. David Howell was at 71 while Padraig Harrington had 72. The only Ryder Cup player to have a rough round was Ian Poulter at 77.

WITHDREW: Masters champion Phil Mickelson withdrew from next week's American Express Championship for personal reasons, the PGA Tour said. Mickelson, No. 4 in the world ranking, is the third player in the top 50 to pull out of the event. Kenny Perry (No. 16) and Nick Price (No. 35) also will not compete.

UBS CUP: Craig Stadler and Hale Irwin were added to the American team for November's competition. The Champions Tour stars join U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton and Ryder Cup player Jay Haas. It is captained by Arnold Palmer. Mark McNulty and Sam Torrance were named to the Rest of the World team, led by Gary Player. They join European Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer and Montgomerie.

If Vijay Singh wins, he would surpass Tiger Woods' season money record of $9.1-million in 2000.