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Original Issue

Belly Buster Vijay Singh's win at the Buick Open was about more than a new putter

Early in this season, Vijay Singh was the talk of golf. He had
run off 12 consecutive top 10 finishes, capped with a win at
Pebble Beach. Even when the streak ended with a missed cut at the
Buick Invitational, he went on to win two more tournaments by
early May. The question was not if Singh would surpass Tiger
Woods as the No. 1-ranked player in the world but when.

Then, suddenly, Singh faded. During a two-month stretch from
mid-May to July, Singh had two fourth-place finishes and not much
else. Particularly troubling for the two-time major winner were
his weekend collapses at the U.S. and British Opens. Ernie Els
passed Singh in the World Ranking, and everyone was tabbing Els
as the next No. 1.

After the British, Singh had had enough. Statistically, he had
dropped from 56th in putting to 69th. After a one-week layoff to
work on his game, Singh showed up at last week's Buick Open, in
Grand Blanc, Mich., having forsaken his belly putter--a club he
helped popularize on Tour--for a conventional putter and went on
to win the tournament with a 23-under total of 265. Problem

Well, sort of. While the story of Singh's getting back to the
winner's circle by returning to his trusty old putter made great
copy, it wasn't the whole truth. In fact Singh's maladies during
his two-month swoon extended beyond putting. In that span he went
from 74th in driving accuracy to 142nd. It's hard to hit it close
when you're always playing from the rough, and it's hard to
maintain your putting stats when you're consistently looking at
longer putts. At the Buick, Singh putted better, but continued to
have trouble hitting fairways.

For one week, at least, it didn't hurt him, even during a Sunday
shootout with Woods and John Daly. Both players, like Singh, find
themselves on a bit of a rebound. Woods is looking better all the
time and may indeed be as "close" as he says he is, while Daly,
who played well enough early this year to win at Torrey Pines and
qualify for the Masters, has come back after a period of bad play
that saw him fail to even get into the U.S. Open.

The masses showed up to see Tiger and Big John go at it over the
final 18, and it seemed as if they would get what they were
after. Daly began with a birdie and an eagle and was five under
after four holes, while Woods was two under through seven. But in
the end, solid, dependable Singh had beaten back both challengers
to win his fourth event of the year and take over the top spot on
the money list.

Going into next week's PGA Championship, Woods, Els and Phil
Mickelson have all been playing well, and now Daly and Singh are
in top form, too. A win at Whistling Straits could mean the most
to Singh, though. He hasn't won a major in four years, and this
one would lock up player of the year and could move him to first
in the World Ranking. That's something to talk about.

COLOR PHOTO: REBECCA COOK/REUTERS (SINGH) MAGIC WAND Singh could smile thanks to a new putter, putting style and 28-putt average.





Trust Me

Tiger Woods looked good while going 21 under on an easy course,
but he needs to do better than 61st in driving accuracy if he
wants to win on a track like Whistling Straits.

Up & Down


Jerry Kelly
He took over the last spot in the Ryder Cup standings with a
closing 66 and a tie for eighth.

Buick Open
The cream rose to the top of the leader board and provided an
exciting Sunday shootout.

Karen Stupples won the British Open, while Luke Donald took the
Scandinavian Masters.


Jeff Maggert
He began the week on the Ryder Cup team but got bumped after an
MC in the Buick.

It drew a weak field as many players sneaked off to get a peek at
Whistling Straits.

Annika Sorenstam lost at the Open and Jesper Parnevik's Ryder Cup
chances dimmed further.