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Singh having a Tiger like season

Tiger Woods has put himself in some peculiar positions this year.

He has struggled just to make the cut. Tee shots have ricocheted off corporate tents and small children. He has spent Sunday afternoons cleaning out his locker, not standing on the 18th green posing with the trophy.

The strangest sight of all is ``No. 2'' next to his name in the world ranking.

Woods' record streak as the best player in golf -- 264 consecutive weeks at No. 1 -- came to an end at the Deutsche Bank Championship when Vijay Singh turned in a performance that even a computer couldn't dispute.

It was just a matter of time before the 41-year-old Fijian got his due.

It was the manner in which Singh reached the pinnacle of his amazing career that made it even sweeter.

Tied with Woods down the stretch on the TPC at Boston, with the gallery expecting Woods to respond to the most imminent threat to his throne, Singh pulled away with three birdies on the final five holes to win by three shots and become only the 12th player to be No. 1 in the 18-year history of the world ranking.

``I've achieved what I wanted to do,'' Singh said. ``I won a major. I won quite a lot of tournaments, and at the same time became No. 1 in the world. The whole season has been a great one.''

His season looks like the kind that once only belonged to Woods.

Singh's six PGA Tour victories are three times as many as anyone else. With two months left in the season, he already is a lock to win player of the year. He has a $2.2 million lead on the money list, and with at least five more tournaments to play, is a cinch to win his second straight money title.

What next?

If Singh were to follow the script, he would hit a 6-iron from 218 yards out of a fairway bunker and over the water to birdie the final hole at Glen Abbey this week and win the Canadian Open.

That was the signature shot of Woods' record-breaking season in 2000. He won nine times, earned more than $9 million and set himself so far apart from everyone else that it seemed his next challenge would come from someone who had not even been born.

It seems only fitting that the Canadian Open celebrates its 100th anniversary by returning to the Abbey with the No. 1 player in the world as the star attraction.

And there are shades of 2000.

Singh has won nearly $7.9 million, already the second-highest total in PGA Tour history. He still has the American Express Championship ($7 million) and the Tour Championship ($6 million) on his schedule, which leaves him in excellent position to break Woods' single-season earnings record of $9,188,321.

He needs three more victories to match Woods' nine PGA Tour titles in 2000, which is not out of reach considering Singh has won three of his last four starts and is rarely far from the top of the leaderboard.

His confidence has never been lacking, especially now.

``It doesn't matter who it is,'' Singh said. ``If I'm playing my best, I can beat anybody. I have never been one who is intimidated by Tiger. Then again, if you are playing poorly, it is intimidating to play against him when he is playing well.''

Woods hasn't played his best this year.

Four times he has gone into the second round with everyone wondering if he would make the cut. His drought in the majors is up to 10, but more troubling is that he has only given himself two good chances to win during that stretch.

But the change at the top of the ranking has more to do with Singh.

Woods was at his best in Boston -- ``The best ball-striking week of the year,'' Woods said.

Singh was simply better.

That makes Singh's accomplishment even more rewarding. With another chance to become No. 1 in the world, Singh went head-to-head with the best player in command of his shots.

Earlier in the year, that wasn't the case.

Singh first closed in on Woods by winning Pebble Beach in February. Woods returned from a four-month break and outplayed him in the next three tournaments, including a victory at the Match Play Championship.

Singh won back-to-back weeks in New Orleans and Houston while Woods was away, again getting closer than ever to No. 1 in the world. Again, Woods answered the challenge by finishing no worse than third in his next three tournaments, each time leaving Singh behind.

But right when it looked like Ernie Els had emerged as the chief threat to No. 1, Singh beat Woods at the Buick Open, beat everyone in a playoff at the PGA Championship and then left no doubt by taking on Woods in the final group of the final round at the Deutsche Bank.

Singh will stay No. 1 for the rest of the month, maybe the rest of the year. And now he faces the burden that Woods knows all too well.

What does he do for an encore?

As for Woods, at least now everyone can believe him when he says he's close.

He is only .45 points behind Singh in the world ranking.

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