KAPALUA, Hawaii — Vijay Singh quickly left everyone in his massive wake Friday. By the end of the second round in the season-opening Mercedes Championships, he left them a little hope.
Singh played his first seven holes in 6 under to open a large lead on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, then settled down with a series of pars to finish with an 8-under 65 for a two-shot lead over Mike Weir.
Despite the sluggish finish, the 41-year-old Fijian was halfway home to the tournament scoring record. And he made it as clear as the Pacific waters below that he's still the man to beat on the PGA Tour.
"He shows no signs of slowing down," Weir said after making up ground with a 10-under 63. "It's just a given he's going to be there."
Singh was at 15-under 131 after curling in a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th.
Ernie Els, who set the 72-hole record two years ago at 31 under, played solidly from start to finish for a 65 that left him two shots out of the lead. Sergio Garcia and Jonathan Kaye were another stroke back after 67s.
Tiger Woods might be right up there with Singh if he can ever figure out his putting. Woods missed three straight birdie chances inside 8 feet on the front nine, and ended his round of 68 by three-putting for par from 35 feet on the par-5 18th. He was 10 under, five shots behind the man who replaced him at No. 1 in the world.
"I had my chances to post a good, solid round," Woods said. "And I didn't do it."
The only thing that went wrong for Singh was putting the wrong driver in his bag. He discovered the mistake about 20 minutes before he teed off, and sent his caddie-trainer to fetch it.
Then, Singh stormed into the lead. He holed a 15-foot putt on No. 1, hit his tee shot to 5 feet on No. 2, then hit a crisp iron over a gorge to 15 feet on the par-5 fifth hole for an eagle. That was followed by another short birdie, then a 60-foot putt from just off the green. His great run finally ended when he missed a 3-foot birdie putt on the eighth.
Weir was walking up to the 14th green, already 7 under for his round, when he saw a scoreboard that showed Singh already 6 under for his round through seven holes.
"I figured I need to finish the round," Weir said.
The Canadian did just that, finishing with three good birdie putts to finish one shot off the course record.
Singh had to take an unplayable lie on the par-5 ninth and still made par, but he failed to capitalize on numerous good chances along the back nine.
"I didn't make too many mistakes," Singh said. "The putts dried up on the back nine, but I made a lot on the front. I'm playing well. I'm putting well. Hopefully, I'm going to have another one tomorrow."
He might need it.
Weir was terrific, making sure his body was stable in the stiff wind and holing putts from a variety of lengths.
And this would be a good place to atone for a crushing loss to Singh. Late last year, Weir was poised to become the first native to win the Canadian Open in 50 years, but he squandered a late lead and lost to Singh in a playoff.
"He didn't do anything to me there," Weir said. "He won the tournament, but I felt like I gave it to him."
Els wasn't ready to give Singh an inch, despite the Fijian winning nine times last year and making it look as if this year won't be any different.
The Big Easy played the par 5s in just 2 under, but hit his irons well and made his 65 look like a breeze.
"He's playing great golf. Let's not get that wrong," Els said. "But it's a long year. We can all play this game. I get my act together, it's game on. And the same with Tiger and some other people. If he beats me this week, 'Well played.' But there's another week, and there's a long year to go."
Chad Campbell, looking to return to the promising form he showed early last year, had a 67 and was at 10-under 136 with Woods and Stewart Cink (68).
It felt like a long year in one day for Woods.
The conditions were not much different from Thursday except for stiffer breezes, but the low scores suggested that players figured out how to putt on the greens.
Everyone but Woods, that is.
His putting was so atrocious that nothing outside 3 feet could be considered a gimme. He missed three straight birdie putts inside 8 feet starting on No. 6 that caused him to quickly slide down the leaderboard.
Woods hit a 408-yard drive on the 12th hole that left him only 100 feet from the hole. He pitched 8 feet by the hole and missed that one. Then he hit wedge into 4 feet and missed again.
"I've got to hit the ball so hard on the greens," Woods said. "But everyone has got to deal with it. You've just got to make the adjustment, and I'm having a difficult time."
Asked if he would go to the practice green, Woods laughed and said, "I'm going home. To hell with it."
Defending champion Stuart Appleby had no such problems. He set the early pace with five birdies in a seven-hole stretch, made three straight birdies late in his round and wound up with a 64.
"I'm just a little more comfortable with the grain," Appleby said. "I hit the ball nice. I moved around the course a bit better. But the blade does the talking when you're shooting a score that's going to be 6 or 8 under."
He wound up 9 under for the day — 8-under 138 for the week — which put him among the leaders.
But not for long.
First came Weir, then Els.
And to no one's surprise, Singh showed up quickly and prominently.