August 23, 2008

Round One: The Big Fijian

In a dramatic playoff marked by matching-birdie putts on the first hole, Vijay Singh defeated Sergio Garcia to win the opening leg of the FedEx playoffs

Vijay, who has had a suspect putter much of the year, didn't have much trouble on the greens Sunday.

Vijay, who has had a suspect putter much of the year, didn't have much trouble on the greens Sunday.

PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) -- Vijay Singh won The Barclays for a record fourth time Sunday, matching Sergio Garcia with a long birdie putt on the first hole of a playoff and finishing off the Spaniard with another birdie on the second extra hole.

The 45-year-old Fijian closed with a 1-under 70 to match Garcia (70) and Kevin Sutherland (68) at 8-under 276 on the sun-baked Ridgewood Country Club course, the first-time site after 41 seasons at Westchester Country Club.

Singh, the 1993, 1995 and 2006 winner at Westchester, earned 11,000 FedEx Cup points in the playoff opener to take the lead with 109,500 points -- 5,125 ahead of second-place Garcia. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational winner three weeks ago at Firestone, Singh also earned $1.26 million for his 33rd PGA Tour victory.

Garcia and Singh made long birdie putts on the first extra hole, the 472-yard 18th framed by a canyon of trees, with Garcia rolling a 27-footer and Singh matching him moments later from 26 feet. After driving into the right rough, Sutherland was on the back fringe in three when Garcia and Singh made their birdie putts.

Garcia and Singh then moved to the 577-yard, par-5 17th. Garcia hooked his drive into the left rough, just feet from towering trees. With Singh in the middle of the fairway, Garcia hit his second shot behind a tree in the right rough. Singh then hit a 267-yard approach onto the green, about 20 feet long and right.

Because the gnarly ground around Garcia's ball was ruled abnormal, he was able to take a drop that allowed him to get a clear shot to the green. He advanced the ball near the front of the green about 30 feet from the hole and nearly holed his chip.

Singh then rolled his 20-foot eagle putt within inches for a tap-in birdie.

Third-round leader Kevin Streelman (72), Ben Curtis (68) and Mathew Goggin (67) tied for fourth at 7 under, and Martin Laird (67), Justin Leonard (67), Nicholas Thompson (67), Mike Weir (72) and Paul Casey (72) followed at 6 under.

Garcia made a 2½-foot birdie putt on the 223-yard, par-3 10th to get to 8 under, a stroke ahead of six players, but couldn't pull away.

Garcia had chances to increase his lead on the 13, 14 and 15 on the demanding A.W. Tillinghast layout. He pulled a 10-foot birdie attempt left on the 617-yard 13th, watched in dismay when his 70-foot chip on 14 hit the flagstick and gently bounced away, then nearly holed a 15-footer from the fringe on the par-3 15th.

Sutherland made a 13-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th to tie Garcia for the lead at 8 under, and Garcia then fell a stroke back when he bogeyed the 16th after fading his drive into deep rough on the right side of the hole.

Garcia got back to 8 under with a tap-in birdie on 17, and missed a chance to get to 9 under on 18 when he pulled a 16-footer. Singh, playing alongside Streelman in the final group, reached 8 under with a two-putt birdie on 17, and also missed a 16-foot birdie try on 18 to set up the three-man playoff.

After birdieing 16 and 17, Streelman had a chance to get into the playoff with a birdie on 18, but missed from 18 feet.

Phil Mickelson shot a 68 to tie for 19th at 4 under. He dropped from third to fourth in the points standings entering his Deutsche Bank Championship title defense.

"I was a good round and it gives me some momentum to carry over," he said.

Steve Stricker, three strokes ahead after a second-round 64 and four in front at 12 under after 10 holes Saturday, had a 71 to join Mickelson at 4 under. The winner last year at Westchester, Stricker shot a 77 in the third round.

Kenny Perry, second in the standings behind the sidelined Tiger Woods entering the week, had weekend rounds of 72 and 76 to tie for 48th at even par. A three-time winner this season, Perry dropped to seventh in the points race.

Divots:@ Lee Janzen, the last qualifier at No. 144 in the standings, also finished at even par to jump to 119th -- the second-to-last spot for the Deutsche Bank in Norton, Mass. Alex Cejka, in the Czech Republic for the PGA European Challenge Tour event that he sponsors, ended up 120th. After the Deutsche Bank, the field will be cut to 70 for the BMW Championship at Bellerive in Louis, and to 30 for the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta. ... The 2009 event will be played at Liberty National in Jersey City.