| Vijai Singh of Fiji with the trophy after a four-stroke victory at the Disney Classic meet on Sunday. (AFP)
Lake Buena Vista: Fiji’s Vijai Singh won the Disney Classic by four strokes on Sunday, seizing the US PGA Tour money lead from Tiger Woods and putting himself in position to clinch the crown next weekend.
Woods has won the money title the past four years and in five of his six full Tour seasons, but Singh has taken advantage of eight more starts than Woods to be in position to dethrone the world’s top-ranked player.
Singh, who began the final round in a four-way share of the lead, fired a five-under par 67 to finish the $4 million event at 23-under 265. His 15th career victory and fourth of the year brought $720,000.
Woods charged back after an opening bogey with six birdies and an eagle to fire a 65 but settled for a share of second with fellow Americans Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank, who shared the lead but each returned only a 71.
Singh has won $6,827,507 this year to $6,577,413 for Woods, who will sit out next week’s $4.5 million event at Palm Harbour, Florida, to concentrate on the season-ending Tour Championship in two weeks at Houston.
By skipping next week, Woods gives Singh a chance to take the money crown by capturing the $864,000 top prize. That way, even the Tour Championship’s biggest paycheck, $1.08 million, would leave Woods shy of Singh.
“I’m in the best position to win the money title,” Singh said. “I’m playing one extra tournament. If I win next week, he can win the week after, he ain’t going to beat me.”
Woods will focus on dethroning Singh, the reigning champion at the showdown of the year’s 30 top money winners. Such a win at Houston would be a major step for Woods in trying to capture a fifth PGA Player of the Year award.
“It’s important, but not that important,” Woods said of the money title. “If he has it wrapped up, so be it. I think anyone would rather have Player of the Year than the money title.
“He plays a lot more than I do. You have to pick and choose where you need to peak. I’m trying to get my mind and body physically ready for the Tour Championship.”
Woods missed the first month of the season following knee surgery and plays a more limited schedule through the year than 40-year-old Singh, who is aiming to strip Woods of his world No. 1 ranking as well.
“If I keep playing the way I am, I can do it,” Singh said. “I give myself another five years. It’s going to be really hard to get Tiger from the No. 1 spot. He’s playing so well every week. I just have to match and play better than that. I’ll only feel like No. 1 if I take over the No. 1 spot.”
Singh birdied five of the first 12 holes and was the sole leader all the way through the back nine. He took a bogey at 13, birdied the 14th, made bogey at the 16th but finished with a 32-foot birdie.
“I think my putter won the tournament,” Singh said. “I’m playing the best I can right now. It’s a good feeling to know you’ve got a chance of winning every time you tee it up.”