Sunday, February 8, 2004

Singh shares lead at Pebble Beach

He and Oberholser up by 3 strokes after 54 holes

The Associated Press

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - The sun-splashed scenery at Pebble Beach was never more spectacular. Vijay Singh made sure the golf was worth watching, too.

Singh recovered from a rugged start with five birdies in a six-hole stretch Saturday for a 4-under 68 that gave him a share of the lead with Arron Oberholser in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

"I always enjoy the scenery here, the golf course is great and you cannot ask for a better place to play golf and win a golf tournament," Singh said. "I would love to do it if I could tomorrow."

Singh already has 11 consecutive top-10 finishes, three off the modern-day record set by Jack Nicklaus in 1977, and not even the bumpy greens on the Monterey Peninsula seem capable of stopping him.

He will be in the final group today with Oberholser, who had a 67 at Spyglass Hill to join Singh at 13-under 203.

Oberholser, who grew up 90 minutes away in San Mateo, was even more impressive on a more difficult track, playing bogey-free to get into serious contention for the first time on the PGA Tour. They have a three-shot lead over Jeff Maggert (67 at Pebble), Luke Donald (72, Poppy Hills) and Phillip Price (69, Pebble).

Phil Mickelson, who played the first three rounds with Singh, had a three-shot lead over the big Fijian at the turn but lost seven shots to him on the back nine. Mickelson wound up with a 71 and was four shots behind.

"I didn't strike it as well as I did the first 45 holes of the tournament," Mickelson said. "At Pebble, you need to hit your irons sharp because the greens are so small. When you give yourself putts at it, you can make some birdies. You saw that with Vijay."

During his streak of top-10s, which dates to the NEC Invitational in August, Singh has been known to run off several birdies in a row to take the lead or get into contention. This was no different.

"It's maybe because I'm hitting good shots, making the right putts at the right time," Singh said. "I can't explain it. It's a good feeling when it's going in, let me tell you that much."

Singh's top-10 finishes

By tying for third at last week's FBR Open, Vijay Singh's streak of top-10 finishes has reached 11 straight and is the longest on the PGA Tour since Greg Norman's 11 in a row 10 years ago.

Here is a list of the longest consecutive top-10 finishes since 1970:

Jack Nicklaus 14* 1977
Jack Nicklaus 13* 1973
Jack Nicklaus 13* 1971
Jack Nicklaus 12 1975
Tom Kite 11 1981-82
Greg Norman 11 1993-94
Vijay Singh 11 2003-04
*Includes British Open and/or team tournament results

HEINEKEN CLASSIC: Ernie Els moved closer to his third straight Heineken title, increasing his lead to eight strokes by shooting a 4-under 68 at Royal Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia. He was at 22-under 194, a shot off the 54-hole European tour record of 23-under 193 he set last year in the Johnnie Walker Classic at Lake Karrinyup in Western Australia.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Wayne Levi shot a 4-under 68 and Don Pooley had a 3-under 69 to move into a tie for the lead after two rounds of the Royal Caribbean Classic at Key Biscayne, Fla. Nine players are within two strokes of the lead and 19 are within four shots heading into today's final round of the first full-field event of the year.

WIE MAKES MEN'S CUT: There's only one regret Michelle Wie has about making the cut in the Hawaii Pearl Open in Aiea.

She's missing her school's annual carnival. Wie, 14, advanced to the final round of the men's 54-hole event, shooting a 4-under 68 to finish two rounds at 2-under 142. "It's a real bummer," she said about missing the carnival. "But I'm glad I made it to tomorrow."

Wie had six birdies and two bogeys in her round.

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