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Archive for Sunday, March 20, 2005

Long day puts Perry in Bay Hill lead

Singh, trailing by two, could recapture golf’s No. 1 rating

March 20, 2005

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— Kenny Perry is leading the Bay Hill Invitational, thanks to amazing accuracy off the tee that kept him out of the rough on all but two holes during a marathon Saturday.

Vijay Singh is winning the battle for No. 1, thanks to astonishing collapses by Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.

When the third round was suspended by darkness, Perry was at 9 under and leading by one shot over Stephen Ames, with Singh and K.J. Choi another shot behind. The final shot from Perry was another driver he blistered down the middle of the 12th fairway, an indication that he wanted to keep playing.

Not true.

"I wanted to stop," Perry said as he mixed nutrients into a bottle of water to help his 44-year-old body recover from 4 a.m. wakeup calls and 29 holes of golf on a difficult course. "I was mentally and physically tired, and I was ready to go. It's going to be a long day (today)."

It felt like eternity to Woods and Els, who took turns hitting tee shots out-of-bounds and bumbling their way around Bay Hill -- Els in the morning, when he shot himself out of contention with a 77 in the second round; Woods in the afternoon, when he hit one drive onto the range and was nine shots out of the lead when play was halted.

Singh not only can move to No. 1, he can win the tournament where his PGA Tour career took root.

"They gave me an invite early in my career, and I think I owe them one," Singh said. "There's a lot of golf to play. Hopefully, I can finish off strong tomorrow and see what happens."

Perry took the 36-hole lead, his first on the PGA Tour in nearly two years, with a 4-under 68 in the second round that was played Saturday morning. He added two quick birdies to keep his name at the top.

"I'm frustrated that I didn't separate myself a little bit from the field," Perry said, a testament to how pure he struck the ball during his 29 holes Saturday.

Singh didn't play a single shot until he teed off late Saturday afternoon, then nearly made an ace on the second hole while firing off three straight birdies to get into contention.

The 42-year-old Fijian, who gave up his No. 1 ranking to Woods two weeks ago, is in prime condition to get it back. A victory would make it easy, but Singh also could return to the top by finishing in a two-way tie for third -- provided Woods winds up out of the top 20.

And that certainly looks possible.

Woods was even par for the tournament and nine shots off the lead and in a tie for 33rd.

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