Singh Takes Early Lead at Buick Open

Thursday, July 29th 2004, 5:57 am
By: News On 6

GRAND BLANC, Mich. (AP) _ Vijay Singh shot a 9-under 63 Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Buick Open, with Tiger Woods lurking four shots behind.

Singh, one shot ahead of Olin Browne and two in front of Mike Grob, fell two strokes short of the tournament record.

Defending champion Jim Furyk shot a 66, and was tied for fourth with four others.

Woods got off to a slow start with only one birdie through eight holes before closing with four birdies in an eight-hole stretch. He had to scramble at times early, once crouching with a tree branch on his back just to save par, but his bogey-free day kept him near the leaders.

Woods is the top-ranked player in the world, with one win and nine top-10 finishes. Singh is third, with three victories and 10 top-10 finishes.

Singh went back to a standard putter, after using a long one for 2 1/2 years, and the change seemed to work.

The 1997 Buick Open champion had eight straight 3s _ five birdies, an eagle and two pars _ between Nos. 8-15 at Warwick Hills.

Among the group of seven players tied for ninth with Woods was Briny Baird. He aced the 197-yard 3rd, the same hole where his father, Butch, in 1962 had the Buick Open's first hole-in-one.

Browne's 64 matched his low round of the year. He tied for fourth last week at the Greater Milwaukee Open for just his second top-10 finish in 19 events this year.

Warwick Hills, a relatively short course with wide fairways and receptive greens, is always one of the easier courses on the PGA Tour. It was even more vulnerable Thursday after rains soaked the course earlier in the week, allowing players to be even more aggressive.

The average winning score the past five years has been 20 under.

Furyk won last year at 21-under 267 _ two shots ahead of Woods, the 2002 champion _ about two months after winning the U.S. Open. He has a shot at being the Buick Open's first back-to-back winner since Tony Lema in 1965.

Furyk, playing in his second tournament since having wrist surgery in March, had his best round since shooting three 64s last year. It was his 22nd straight sub-par round at Warwick Hills, dating to 1997.

PGA champion Shaun Micheel will begin Friday's second round at 1 under. Micheel will defend his title in two weeks at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

Fred Funk, vying for a spot on the Ryder Cup team, withdrew from the tournament with a rib injury.