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Singh comes from behind to win HP Classic

| Tuesday, May 4, 2004

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- At the ninth hole, Vijay Singh thought he was out of the HP Classic. At the 18th, he knew the tournament was his for the taking.

Singh made a 25-foot birdie at No. 18 on Monday to win the rain-delayed tournament, denying Masters champion Phil Mickelson his second straight victory and Joe Ogilvie his first title.

"I had patience out there," Singh said. "Like the front nine, when nothing was happening. I was just 2 under, and everybody was way ahead. So I said, 'Just keep going, there is another nine to go. Just play a solid nine and see what happens.' And the putts started going in, and throwing in an eagle here and there, and all of a sudden everything changed."

Singh overcame a six-shot deficit in the last eight holes, using an eagle at No. 15 to shoot 29 on the back nine for a round of 63.

Ogilvie almost forced a playoff after Singh's putt, but his blast out of the sand trap missed by an inch.

"I shot 32 on the front side, and I felt like I was in control pretty much the whole way around," Ogilvie said. "Then I saw him make an eagle on 15, then a birdie on 16. I don't know how long the putt on 18 was, but what can you say. I mean, that's why he's probably the best player in the world right now. He shot 29 on the back side."

Singh finished at 266 and became the first three-time winner on tour this season, taking $918,000 of the $5.1 million purse. He also won last Monday at the rain-interrupted Houston Open. The victory moved Singh to No. 1 on the money list with $4,267,899.

It was Singh's eighth come-from-behind win. He has 18 career victories, trailing only Tiger Woods (40), Mickelson (23) and Greg Norman (20) among active players on tour.

Mickelson, playing in his first tournament since winning the Masters, and Ogilvie were a stroke back at 267.

Hidemichi Tanaka was fourth at 269, while Charles Howell and Justin Rose tied for fifth at 271. Three players, including former champion K.J. Choi, were tied at seventh at 272.

Singh had five birdies and an eagle on the back nine. He caught Ogilvie on the treacherous 15th, an island hole with sand traps on two sides.

"I looked up after nine holes, and I said, 'Well, it's over,'" Singh said. "But then I made a birdie on 11, 12 and 13, and all of a sudden I said I've got a chance. That eagle putt on 15 got me close. If I had made a birdie there, I may still not have won. I think that kind of tightened up the guys behind me as well."

Mickelson was tied for second going into the final round. Playing in the same group as Ogilvie, he made birdies at Nos. 15, 16, and 18 for a 4-under 68.

"I look in the middle part of my round, not birdieing 11, the par-5, and missing short putts on 13 and 14 took some momentum away," Mickelson said. "Although I was able to make a run near the last four holes, I really needed something there in the middle to get me up to the top of the leader board."

Ogilvie is playing on the PGA Tour for the second time after spending last season on the Nationwide Tour. His best previous finish on the PGA Tour was a tie for fourth at the 2000 Fed Ex Classic.

Ogilvie's putter, which got him the lead earlier in the week, wasn't as dependable yesterday. He missed birdie putts on 14 and 15.

The tie for second place earned Ogilvie $448,800. His biggest previous payday this season was $52,611.

That may have accounted for some of the pressure he felt, Ogilvie said.

"This is my biggest check by $300,000 or $325,000, so you know, it does come into play I think," he said. "You hate to say that as a player. But I was thinking if I make a bogey it's going to cost me 100 grand at one point."

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