Benz There Done That Singh Leads

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PGA Tour (75x100)KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Vijay Singh looks as if he's tired of finishing second at Kapalua.

Having finished a combined four shots behind Stuart Appleby the last three years, Singh seized control of the Mercedes-Benz Championship in more blustery conditions Saturday, shooting a 3-under 70 to take a three-shot lead over Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman.

Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh is looking for his first Mercedes-Benz Championship win.
Singh has never finished out of the top 10 since this winners-only tournament moved to the Plantation course at Kapalua in 1999, but luck has never been on his side. The way he has played for three rounds, he might not need much.

The 43-year-old Fijian has been in control of all aspects of his game and was at 11-under 208, a strong score considering trade winds that have gusted up to 35 mph all week.

Scott made birdie on five of his last seven holes for a 69 and joined Immelman at 211.

Along with getting his year off to a great start, Singh is poised to make history at the PGA TOUR's season opener. A victory would be his 18th since turning 40, breaking the record held by Sam Snead.

'My desire is to win as many as possible,' Singh said.

Will MacKenzie (73) and J.B. Holmes (71) each recovered from shaky moments to stay in the mix at 212.

Except for the scenery and their positions atop the leaderboard, Singh and Scott have made the first PGA TOUR event of 2007 look a lot like last year's finale.

Scott and Singh also played in the final group two months ago at the season-ending TOUR Championship, but it was Scott who had the three-shot lead at East Lake, and he closed with a 66 for a three-shot victory.

Immelman had a chance to get into the final group until his eagle putt on the 18th just turned away. The South African figures he will need the lowest round of the tournament -- no one has been better than 68 all week -- to catch Singh.

'I'll need a special day tomorrow,' Immelman said. 'You don't expect him to give it away. But I've come from three behind before and won. All I can do is play my best golf and see what happens.'

Appleby's bid to become the fourth player to win a PGA TOUR event four straight times is all but over. He birdied the 18th for a 1-under 72, but that only brought him to 2-under 217. Tiger Woods, Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen are the only players to win the same tournament four times in a row.

Singh has never figured out how to close the deal at Kapalua, but he looks more determined than ever. He is driving with confidence, and having returned to the belly putter, it has carried him to the lead.

Singh was tied with MacKenzie coming off a bogey at No. 7 when he holed a 50-foot birdie on the par-3 eighth, the only birdie of the third round. He followed that with a 12-foot birdie on the ninth that dropped in the middle of the cup.

MacKenzie was asked what odds he gave himself of winning, and they presumably went down when told that Singh already was at 11 under and chipping for eagle on the final hole.

'I don't know, man,' he said. 'Throw me in there for 50 percent, because I plan on going low.'

MacKenzie and several others could do without the mistakes that cost them throughout a sunny day on Maui.

Davis Love III made a quick charge up the leaderboard, followed by a sudden retreat when he went over the par-5 fifth green, stubbed a few chips and took double bogey. Holmes was in the mix until hitting his drive on the ninth into the weeds, hitting his next shot after a penalty drop into the weeds, then blowing a remarkable recovery with a three-putt for double bogey.

MacKenzie also started to backfire.

Willie Mac is laid back, but he showed a temper after a three-putt on the eighth green -- 'Stupid!' he yelled at himself as he walked away -- and he nearly fell out of the picture on the 13th. He hit into the native grasses, was lucky to find it, then took a penalty drop and threw his head back in angst when the drop buried in the Bermuda grass.

He played a fairway metal that barely cleared the top of the hazard, then got up-and-down for a bogey.

'A roller coaster day,' he said.

Scott, meanwhile, recovered nicely from back-to-back bogeys toward the end of his front nine. He ran off three straight birdies, all of them from inside 10 feet, then made a 12-foot birdie on the 18th to finish off a 32 on the back nine.

Divots:
Singh, Immelman and Luke Donald are the only players to break par all three rounds. Donald (72-71-71) was six shots behind. ... Ben Curtis played alone and finished the first seven holes in just over an hour. But on the par-3 eighth, his tee shot went short into a hazard. Uncertain where it landed, he went to the green only to realize he had to go back to the tee. Trouble was, the shuttle had already left, so he had to wait for it to return. The whole process took 20 minutes. Curtis still finished in about three hours after a 77. That means he gets to play alone Sunday, too. ... Holmes might have the longest pre-shot routine on tour. He slowly swings the club like a sledgehammer as many as eight times, before standing behind the ball to visualize the shot. The whole process takes well over a minute.

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