GRAND BLANC, Mich. (AP) – Vijay Singh quickly turned a showdown between the world’s top two golfers into a rout.

Singh started the third round of the Buick Open one stroke ahead of Tiger Woods, then birdied the first three holes while Woods bogeyed Nos. 2-4. Singh matched the tournament record of 7 under on the front nine and closed with a 63 Saturday, matching the event’s 54-hole record of 22-under 194.

If Singh holds onto his five-shot lead he’ll be the first three-time champion at the Buick Open, a tournament that started in 1958, and the first champion to repeat since Tony Lema in 1965.

As great as Singh’s round was, it could’ve been better if his putting was more consistent. He missed short putts for birdie at Nos. 7 and 14 and another for par at the 16th. It still was good enough, however, to tie Kenny Perry’s 54-hole tournament record set in 2001.

Woods is the top-ranked player in the world, and Singh is No. 2. They have alternated positions atop the world ranking for nearly a year.

Woods had three straight bogeys – falling seven strokes behind after four holes – before finishing 2 under for the round and 14 under for the tournament, eight shots behind Singh. His 22-foot par putt at the 18th spun around the cup, giving him a fourth bogey.

Zach Johnson (65) is at 17 under, alone in second place. Johnson won a tournament last year as a 28-year-old rookie and he’s 42nd on the money list this year with three top-10 finishes. Chris DiMarco (66) will begin Sunday’s final round seven shots back.

Singh began the week with three victories, the same total he had entering the 2004 Buick Open. His last victory here started a run of six wins, including the PGA Championship, in eight events en route to player of the year honors.

Woods opened at Warwick Hills with a 71 – snapping a tournament-record tying streak of eight straight rounds in the 60s – then vaulted into contention on Friday with an 11 under, his best round in relation to par.

Woods is playing for the first time since winning the British Open two weeks ago, and two weeks before the PGA Championship, where he’ll shoot for his 11th major title.

AP-ES-07-30-05 1849EDT


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