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Singh wins after a shocking collapse by Sergio

| Monday, May 9, 2005

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Only one thing went according to script Sunday at the Wachovia Championship. The winner strolled up to the 18th green with no worries, the tournament all but decided.

The shock was seeing Vijay Singh hoisting the trophy.

The celebration was supposed to be for Sergio Garcia, who had a six-shot lead going into the final round, a margin only four other players in PGA Tour history had squandered, none since Greg Norman in the 1996 Masters.

Singh might have been the only guy who saw it coming.

"Sometimes it's harder to play with a big lead," Singh said. "You don't want to lose the tournament. If the guys are catching up ... you start to get a little nervous. But we played well."

Singh took advantage of a record-tying collapse by Garcia and an untimely mistake by Jim Furyk to win the Wachovia Championship on the fourth playoff hole at Quail Hollow.

After a steamy day of shocking shifts in momentum and clutch birdies by Furyk, Singh only needed a par on the 18th hole in the playoff to capture his third victory of the year.

Furyk made two birdies on the final three holes, including a 7-footer on the 18th to get into the playoff. But the third time he played the 18th was his downfall -- he pulled his tee shot into the creek, took a penalty drop and laid up, then saw his fourth shot carom off the flag and into the rough.

"Just getting that close and not winning, sometimes it's a lot worse than finishing fifth," Furyk said.

Imagine how Garcia felt.

First, he squandered his six-shot lead in 12 holes. Then he got the lead back with consecutive birdies, only to slip into a tie when he went for the pin on the peninsula-green at the par-3 17th, went into the water and made bogey.

He was eliminated on the first extra hole by three-putting from 45 feet, missing a 6-footer for par.

"They say you learn more from your losses than your wins," Garcia said after closing with a 72. "And I've got a lot from this week to learn."

Overlooked in his collapse was spectacular play from Singh and Furyk, who each closed with a 6-under 66. All three finished at 12-under 276 before heading into the third straight playoff on the PGA Tour. Singh was involved in two of them, and both times, his opponent went into the water off the tee.

Still, the tournament essentially was decided by one person.

"Sergio made it easier for us by bogeying 17," Singh said. "You can't miss a golf shot out there. The golf course will not yield at all."

Singh felt badly for Garcia, but only a little. The 42-year-old Fijian never tires of winning. And while Garcia made the record books for all the wrong reasons, he kept himself in the tournament until the playoff.

"He didn't shoot a high number or anything," Singh said. "He didn't shoot 5 or 6 over to lose it. We won it. He's going to feel it a little bit, but not as bad as what Greg did losing the Masters."

Norman led by six over Nick Faldo, closed with a 78 and lost by five.

But even Singh tried to give this one away.

After four straight birides at the turn to take a two-shot lead, he flubbed a chip behind the par-5 15th, turning birdie into bogey and needed more help from Garcia to get into a playoff. The 25-year-old Spaniard delivered with his bogey on the 17th by going at the flag with a 7-iron.

"It was the perfect club, I just didn't hit a good shot," Garcia said. "I couldn't get the job done."

Singh likely won't earn enough points to replace Tiger Woods at No. 1 in the world, although he'll get that chance next week in the Byron Nelson Championship.

Nothing went right for Woods all week, even when he was finished.

After an eagle on the 15th and closing with a birdie, PGA Tour rules officials determined that he should not have moved a fence right of the 10th fairway, that was damaged when the gallery joined in to help. He was given a two-shot penalty, turning his 69 into a 71 and leaving him in a tie for 11th.

Woods left the scoring trailer without comment.

Masters runner-up Chris DiMarco closed with a 66 to finish fourth, his third consecutive finish in the top five. Phil Mickelson was 9 under through 15 holes until dropping three shots over the final two holes for a 66 to tie for seventh.

Garcia showed signs early of a massive struggle.

Garcia had a slippery 10-foot birdie on the first hole that just missed and trickled 30 inches by, and he lipped that out for bogey. He missed from 8 feet on the next hole, then 10-footers on the fourth and fifth holes.

The only thing holding him together was his swing, and it wasn't long before that fell apart.

He drove so far left into the trees on No. 9 he could only punch out to the rough, and then he was headed for more trees until his third shot struck a fan and landed short. But he chipped poorly to 40 feet and made double bogey.

His six-shot lead was down to two at the turn.

Garcia again pulled his tee shot into the trees on the par-5 10th and had to settle for par, and Singh caught him for the first time with a 4-foot birdie on the 11th.

The Fijian was pouring it on. Garcia was leaking oil.

And when Garcia made bogey from the bunker on the par-3 13th, he was two shots behind -- an eight-shot swing in just 13 holes on a course where everyone else was making up ground.

Even when momentum shifted back to Garcia, he let it get away. Tied for the lead, he hit his approach into 6 feet on the 15th for a great look at eagle, but missed the putt.

Ultimately, all that got him was a dubious entry in the record books.

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