PALM HARBOR, Fla. - Vijay Singh made a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that changed everything Saturday in the Chrysler Championship. A tournament that for most of the day looked as if it was up for grabs now seems headed for a familiar conclusion.
Singh recovered from two early bogeys for 4-under-par 67, giving him a one-shot lead over Tommy Armour III and making a half-dozen others play their best golf to have any chance of catching the No. 1 player.
The 41-year-old Fijian has won five times in seven starts, and he has won 10 straight tournaments with at least a share of the 54-hole lead, dating to the MCI Classic three years ago. A victory today on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook would be his ninth of the season and make him the first $10 million winner in golf.
"I haven't won yet," Singh said.
All he has to do is think back one week, when Ryan Palmer shot 62 in the final round to win at Disney. That might not happen at Innisbrook, one of the strongest tests of golf in Florida.
He started the third round only two shots out of the lead, then three-putted from 20 feet and had to save bogey from just off the green on the next hole.
"It's a difficult golf course to go low," Singh said. "I think I have to play solid golf - 2 or 3 under should do it for me, I think."
Singh was at 12-under 201, and never had the lead to himself until his birdie on the 17th.
Jesper Parnevik and Kirk Triplett each had 68 and were at 10-under 203. Another shot back were Jose Maria Olazabal (67) and Tom Carter (65), who now have a chance to keep their cards for next season.
Jeff Sluman and Jonathan Byrd, the co-leaders through 36 holes, fell back with rounds of 74 and 75.
Even if Singh runs away today, that won't siphon all the drama out of the final full-field event of the year.
This is the last chance for players to get into the top 30 on the money list to qualify for the Tour Championship, the top 40 to get into the Masters Tournament or the top 125 to secure their PGA Tour cards for next year. And the third round proved crucial for so many players.
Olazabal will not go to Q-school no matter what, and he is No. 146 on the money list. But he shot himself into contention at getting into the top 125 - maybe even winning.
Tim Herron shot 67 and was in a tie for seventh, leaving him a chance to sneak into the top 30.
On the brink
The Chrysler Championship is the final full-field event in which players can earn enough money to keep their tour card for 2005 by placing in the top 125. Notable names on the bubble after Saturday's third round of play: 124. Kent Jones$559,909T32 (-3)125. Olin Browne$597,034MC126. Craig Barlow$595,820MC128. Bob Burns$541,421MC146. J.M. Olazabal$454,550T5 (-8)147. Matt Kuchar$451,007T12 (-6) 164. Tom Carter$302,030T5 (-8)