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Vijay Singh rues poor driving on back nine

World number one Vijay Singh's failure to win the PGA Tour's season-opening Mercedes Championship in Hawaii was the biggest surprise of the week.

Singh was always going to be the player to watch at the Kapalua Resort after producing one of the greatest individual years in the history of the game in 2004, and all the early momentum appeared to be with him.

The smooth-swinging Fijian was in error-free form at the elite 31-man event for the first three days and led at the end of each of them with scores of 66, 65 and 69.

He had gone on to win the last 11 times he had been in a similar position after 54 holes.

A stroke in front of second-placed American Jonathan Kaye going into Sunday's final round, Singh stayed at the top of the leaderboard until he lost his ball with a pulled tee shot at the par-four 13th.

He went on to run up a triple-bogey seven there before slipping back into a three-way tie for fifth, a closing 74 leaving him at 18-under 274.

Defending champion Stuart Appleby, four strokes off the pace after round three, made the most of Singh's stumble, a final-round 67 earning him a successful title defence by a shot.

"It's tough," Singh told reporters. "I made a bogey on number four but I didn't play that bad, except for the drive on 13.

"I thought the wind would have stayed down, but it blew quite a bit, and that was it. I lost the tournament right there.

"It took a lot out of me," added the Fijian, who won nine times and earned just under $11 million on last year's PGA Tour.

"I tried to make birdies coming in but it's hard making birdies on a golf course with a totally different wind direction.

"You're trying to force things but, whenever you try to force things, they are never going to happen."

The first ominous sign for the U.S. PGA champion in the final round came at the par-four fourth, where he collected his opening bogey of the year after three-putting from around 50 feet.

He was still tied for the lead as he stood on the 13th tee but that was soon to change as he watched his initial drive sail well left into waist-high weeds.

With the ball lost, he found the rough with his second tee shot, failed to reach the green with his wedge approach and then missed a five-foot putt for a six to slip back to two over for the day.

"I wasn't making too many mistakes," said the 41-year-old Singh, who ended Tiger Woods's five-year reign as world number one last September.

"One drive, that really got me, and then the one after that, well ... you can't win them all. Next week is another week," he added, referring to the Sony Open which starts on Thursday at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

 

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