Originally created 12/16/01

Singh avoids the silliness, leads by four



THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - Bernhard Langer climbed a tree. Jesper Parnevik poured water on his glove to keep it dry. David Toms' tee shot on the par-3 eighth hole went 450 yards - 230 yards toward the green, 220 yards down a winding cart path.

No wonder they call this the silly season.

Vijay Singh was about the only one who avoided the comical calamity, holing out for eagle on his way to a 1-under 70 and a four-stroke lead over tournament host Tiger Woods after three rounds of the Williams World Challenge.

The only thing missing Saturday were the giggles. For a tournament that doesn't count toward money lists or world rankings, there were plenty of long faces.

"The conditions make it that way," said Woods, who made double bogey on No. 17 and finished with a 74. "No one wants to embarrass themselves with a high score."

Singh was at 11-under 205, in great position to claim the $1 million prize, and there's nothing silly about that kind of money.

"Everybody wants to win," Singh said. "I don't think anybody is trying to have fun."

Woods was not immune to the bizarre. His tee shot on the par-3 17th rolled down a hill, picking up mud. When it stopped, the clump was in the exact spot where his club hits the ball.

"That was weird," he said.

The way Saturday went, that was nothing.

The scoring average was 73.72, more than three strokes higher than the opening round. And it would have been even worse if not for Thomas Bjorn, whose 64 not only tied the course record but was a 16-shot improvement from his second round.

"You golfing stud," Mark Calcavecchia said to the Dane in disbelief. "Beat me by 12."

Just about everyone else got beat up, sometimes in the most peculiar fashion.

Langer and caddie Peter Coleman climbed a large oak tree in search of his ball, which he finally found and shook loose. He took a penalty stroke and managed to save par.

Toms hit into the middle of a rock by the green on No. 7, took a drop and nearly chipped in for par. On the next hole, his ball bounced right of the green and onto a cart path, then rolled down the winding path about 220 yards.

"We did some silly stuff out there," Toms said.

David Duval is famous for hitting into the rock in the middle of the fairway on No. 7 during his "Showdown at Sherwood" against Woods two years ago.

"I haven't hit it all week," he said proudly, which is not to say No. 7 has been kind to him. He was just right of the green, then required three chips to reach the putting surface and took double bogey.

The most bizarre episode belonged to - who else? - Parnevik. The Swede's right hand slipped on his club on his tee shot at the par-3 third hole, and he shanked it 20 yards into the water, leading to double bogey.

Toward the end of his round, Parnevik poured water on his glove because it was too dry - isn't that the purpose of wearing a glove? He wound up with a 75, 10 strokes worse than the previous day.

What was the difference?

"I didn't shank any," he said.

The most unfortunate incident belonged to Fred Couples, who was tied for the lead after birdies on three of the first five holes.

He three-putted the next three greens but will still in the thick of the tournament until he reached No. 15, a par 3 with a stream guarding the front of the green.

Couples went over the green, then chipped out of thick grass into the creek. He dropped a ball and almost hit into the water again, chipped up and missed his put to take a 7.

While Langer got down from the tree to make par, he bogeyed the final two holes for a 74 and was at 211. Scott Hoch had an even-par 72 and was at 212, while Lee Westwood had the other sub-par round, a 70 to get to 213, along with Parnevik.

Everyone else is playing for money - a lot of it, with the last-place finisher getting $130,000.

Singh never trailed Woods, making birdie on the second hole and missing as many chances as Woods on the front nine.

He had a one-stroke lead until No. 10, when his drive left him 52 yards to the hole. His lob wedge bounced once and disappeared into the hole for an eagle.

He walked off the green with a four-shot lead, and ended the day with the same margin. Singh is one of four guys in the 18-man field who failed to win on his home tour this year, and wants to end the year on a positive note.

Most everyone else kept golf in perspective. When Scott Verplank and Jim Furyk finished their rounds, they went into the clubhouse, changed channels from golf to football and played pool.