Kapalua, Hawaii: Vijay Singh had one bad swing on Friday, but it wasn't enough for him to lose the lead in the rain, whipping wind and eventual sunshine at the Mercedes-Benz Championship. Singh pulled his tee shot in the native grasses on the par-5 18th hole, hit a remarkable recovery and escaped with a par, giving him his second straight 4-under 69 and a one-shot lead over Trevor Immelman and Will MacKenzie in the PGA Tour opener. MacKenzie made his lone bogey on the 17th after being put on the clock and rushing a putt, and he had a chance to tie Singh until missing a 10-foot birdie on the final hole, settling for a 70. Immelman, the rookie of the year in 2006, birdied two of his last three holes for a 68. The elements changed, but the Plantation course at Kapalua remained a stern test. The start of the second round was delayed 1 hour, 20 minutes because of a light rain that began overnight and didn't stop until an hour after the round began. The trade wind picked up strength to 35 mph gusts as it tried shoo the clouds away. Singh thought it was nearly unplayable as he made the turn in a tie for the lead, but he picked up a few more birdies and reached 8-under 138. "I'd like it to calm down a little bit," Singh said. But he had few complaints about his position. He has finished a combined four shots behind three-time defending champion Stuart Appleby the last three years, and has not finished out of the top 10 since the winners-only tournament moved here in 1999. Appleby shot 72 and was seven shots behind in his bid to tie a PGA Tour record with his fourth straight win at the same event. Davis Love III (71), Chris Couch (70) and J.B. Holmes (68) were at 5-under 141, with Adam Scott (69) another shot behind. Homes Surprised Holmes was surprised to be in contention. He learned 20 minutes before his tee time that he would be playing alone because Arron Oberholser withdrew because of a back injury. Holmes made a sloppy bogey on the opening hole and showed no signs of doing anything grand until a chip from deep grass in the collar of a bunker on the ninth for a tap-in birdie. Starting with a 20-foot putt on the 11th, Holmes ran off four straight birdies. He felt so confident at the end of that stretch that he attacked the 305-yard 14th with driver, even though it was into the wind and surrounded by bunkers. He came up 20 yards short of the green to set up an easy birdie. The story at Kapalua continued to be the weather, with rain that made the 7,411-yard play even longer, and wind that put a premium on controlling the flight of shots and finding the right pace on the putts. Singh was superb. He took the lead for the first time with an approach to 20 feet on the par-5 fifth hole for an eagle, and no one passed him the rest of the round. He rarely came close to making bogey, and picked up birdies on the 14th with a perfect pitch to a foot, and a 15-foot putt on the par-5 15th. But he almost lost it on the 18th. He will be in the final group on Saturday with Immelman, the South African who captured the Western Open last year. Immelman found if difficult to stay upright in the wind, but had beautiful control of his shots and finished his round with perfect pace on a pitch-and-run to about 4 feet for birdie. Of the five players tied for the lead after the first round, Singh and MacKenzie were the only ones to move in the right direction. Brett Wetterich shot 79, while K J Choi took double bogey on No. 15 on his way to a 77. Stephen Ames had the lead after a 20-foot birdie on the opening hole, but never recovered from a double bogey at No. 7 and shot 74, leaving him five shots behind.
Topics : Golf