Unexpectedly, Singh falters on Sunday

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Vijay Singh picked up where he left off last season, going wire-to-wire to win the ...

Wait a minute! Vijay the Great didn't win! King Singh fell from his throne atop the leaderboard!

Excuse the shock, but writing the obligatory Vijay victory piece has become second nature on the PGA Tour during the past 12 months.

How surprised should we be that Singh failed to finish what he started? Consider this: In the previous 11 tournaments during which he held the third-round lead, he won them all. And this: In the last 10 tour events he's played in, Singh's won seven of them. And one more: Through the first three rounds of this week's Mercedes Championships, Singh didn't make one bogey.

Talk about a good walk spoiled -- try following Vijay for three days, waiting for a mistake.

He finally made bogey on Sunday, on his 58th hole of the week. But when Singh quickly followed up with a birdie on the next hole, all was well and good in the land of the No. 1-ranked player again, victory a mere matter of time.

That is, until the unexpected occurred. It may not go down in sports annals with Eruzione's goal or Buster Douglas' knockout punch, but Singh's triple-bogey on the unlucky 13th hole jolted the serene PGA Tour landscape and put doubt in our minds. That hole was, in fact, the difference as Stuart Appleby took the trophy that was all Vijay's on Saturday night.

"I lost the tournament right there," said Singh, who shot a final-round 74 to finish in a share of fifth place. "Took a lot out of me. ... You're trying to force things and whenever you try to force things, they are never going to happen."

Unlike previous top-ranked players Tiger Woods and Greg Norman, Singh is neither ebullient nor voguish. His rounds contain all the aura of a practice session -- just a man going through the motions on the way to history. Or so we thought ...

Perhaps it is fitting that he did not win. There's no doubt, last year was all Vijay's. But this week wasn't supposed to be about him. The opening tournament of the 2005 season, the Mercedes was all about renewal, revenge and rejuvenation.

Renewal in the form of Woods, whose remade swing had many thinking he'd be back to the Old Tiger on Maui, the one who wins all the time.

Revenge in the form of Ernie Els, who had defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in each of the four majors a year ago.

Rejuvenation in the form of Sergio Garcia, who had hoped to celebrate his 25th birthday with a championship trophy and an eye on Singh's top spot by the time he turns 26.

Instead, it was a repeat by Appleby, a man who entered the tournament with a hip injury and looked cooked after an opening-round 74.

As for Singh, it was hardly a review of his 2004 season. A week that started like a broken record came to a screeching halt.

And left us all wondering if Singh will be whistling the same tune again this year.

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com