AKRON, Ohio -- Firestone always seems the perfect place for Tiger Woods to show his best stuff.
This year, the timing could not have been much better.
In the final event before the final major of the year, Woods
buried Rory Sabbatini and the rest of the field Sunday at the
Bridgestone Invitational for an eight-shot victory, sending his
confidence soaring Sunday as he left for Southern Hills and the PGA
"This might just give me a little more confidence," Woods
It was a command performance on a challenging course,
reminiscent of some of his major victories.
He was determined to play the final round without a bogey, just
like the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and Woods showed more emotion
over saving par with a 12-foot putt on the final hole than any of
his birdies in his 5-under 65. He finished at 8-under 272.
He was the only player to finish under par at Firestone; the
only other times he had done that were his two U.S. Open victories.
And after turning a one-shot deficit into a six-shot lead on the
front nine, Woods left everyone else playing for second.
"The whole idea was to win this event, but be playing well
going into next week," Woods said. "I feel I made some nice
strides this week, and I feel very good going into next week. ... I
feel like I'm in better shape heading into this one than I do going
into the last major."
Sabbatini took another step backward. The fiery South African
lost a one-shot lead to Woods in the Wachovia Championship this
year, then said Woods looked "beatable as ever."
Not on this course.
It was the second time Woods has strung together three straight
victories at this World Golf Championship, and he tied a PGA Tour
record by winning for the sixth time on the same course. Jack
Nicklaus won six Masters at Augusta National, and Alex Ross won six
times at the North & South Open at Pinehurst No. 2 at the turn of
the 20th century. He also won for the 14th time in 25 tries at the
World Golf Championships.
"This one felt good," Woods said.
Sabbatini closed with a 74, just as he did in the final group
with Woods at Wachovia. Justin Rose saved par on the final hole for
a 68 that left him tied for second. He thought he had a chance with
four birdies through eight holes until he saw a leaderboard with
Woods in firm control.
"I thought, 'Oh, well, we're playing for second,'" Rose said.
"And obviously, that's what it turned out to be. Rory and I were
in different situations today. For me, vying for second place was
an exciting prospect. With Rory, maybe it's a slight letdown."
Woods started the final round one shot behind Sabbatini. When
they made the turn as the rain began, white flags would have more
appropriate than umbrellas. Sabbatini was shaken to the point that
he ordered a spectator removed.
Woods essentially won by picking up five shots during a
five-hole stretch on the front nine, but the ninth hole was absurd.
Everyone in the final group was all over the map and headed for big
numbers, with Woods the wildest.
He hooked his tee shot so far to the left the ball found the
rough on the 10th fairway. Then he tried to slice his approach
around the trees, only to drop from a branch and hit a 58-year-old
woman in the arm, coming to rest in the crook of her arm. After
taking a drop, Woods pitched over the green, then chipped in for
Sabbatini took five to reach the green and made double bogey,
and as he walked toward the 10th tee, a spectator said: "Hey,
Rory, still think Tiger is beatable?"
Sabbatini turned and glared. He barked at a police officer and
demanded -- with an obscenity thrown in -- that the fan be taken
"out of here."
Soothing the sting was seeing his children standing by the 10th
tee, and Sabbatini stooped and hugged them. Then he pulled his next
tee shot into the rough and made another bogey, as Woods poured it
on. Even with everything falling his way, Woods kept a straight
face when he holed a chip from the front of the 12th green for his
Still, this was over much sooner.
Sabbatini was having to work way too hard for pars early in the
round. He hit his tee shot so far left on the par-5 second that his
best option was to play up the third fairway. He ran into Stuart
Appleby, who had just teed off on No. 3, and Sabbatini said to him,
"Sorry, I screwed up." It was only later that he paid for it.
He saved par on the second, and after having to lay up short of
the water on the par-4 third, saved par again. But his luck ended
on the fourth when Sabbatini went into deep rough on the right,
couldn't get back to the fairway, couldn't clear a bunker and had
to chip to 4 feet to escape with bogey. Woods made an 18-foot
birdie at No. 4 for a two-shot swing and his first outright lead.
Sabbatini came up short on the fifth and made bogey, then Woods
poured in an 18-foot putt for birdie on the sixth.
"I spent too much of the day trying to hack the ball back out
to the fairway," Sabbatini said. "And it made a long day."
Asked if he would temper his comments in the future, Sabbatini
"Why?" he said. "I hope I inspire him and play well enough
that I can give him a good challenge."
Andres Romero, the Argentine coming off his first European Tour
victory in Germany, shot a 71 to tie for sixth and give him enough
money to take PGA Tour membership next year if he wants it.
Woods earned $1.35 million for his 58th career victory. Since
the start of the 2005 season, Woods has not gone more than five
starts on the PGA Tour without winning.