Turns out the "new" Tiger Woods might not be so beatable after all.
Just ask Rory Sabbatini.
Starting the day in the final group one shot behind Sabbatini, Woods gobbled up the outspoken South African - along with the rest of the field - cruising to an eight-stroke victory Sunday in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods closed with a bogey-free 5-under-par 65 - the best of the day - to finish at 8-under 272 at Firestone Country Club's South Course in Akron, Ohio. It marked his third consecutive victory in the tournament, which he's now won six times.
As if not having won a major yet this year wasn't motivation enough to try and get his game rolling before this week's PGA Championship, Woods could've been fueled by the brash comments made by Sabbatini back in May. After Woods had beaten him in the Wachovia Championship, Sabbatini told reporters he liked the "new Tiger" and that the world No. 1-ranked player looked "more beatable than ever."
"Everyone knows how Rory is," Woods told reporters after his round Sunday. "I just go out there and just let my clubs do the talking."
Woods' sticks spoke early as he birdied the first two holes and four of the first six to take control. He then made par on 11 of his final 12 holes -- he had a birdie at the 12th - on his way to recording the largest winning margin on the PGA Tour this year, finishing the round in rainy conditions.
"This one felt good," said Woods, who led the field in both driving distance and greens in regulation. "Starting out the day one down and basically getting off to probably just the most ideal start - 4-under through five - and then obviously with the weather as inconsistent as it was all day, the whole idea was just to try and keep the card clean somehow and not drop a shot."
Woods was able to post just the second bogey-free round of the tournament thanks to a chip-in on No. 9 to save par. He also sank a 12-foot par-saving putt on No. 18.
"People wonder why you're grinding so hard. Well, I didn't want to drop a shot," Woods said. "I played so hard all day, and the whole idea was not to drop a shot ... keep heat on the guys and once I got off to the great start, for them to come get me. I just did not want to end the day that way, with a bogey."
It was Woods' 58th career Tour victory, including his fourth in 12 starts this year. He earned $1.35 million and 4,725 FedExCup points to remain at the top of the standings for the 14th consecutive week. He has collected 25,624 total points - 6,495 points ahead of second-place Vijay Singh - and is guaranteed to be the top speed in the FedExCup playoffs.
As for Sabbatini, his start was promising enough, but back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5 and a double-bogey on No. 9 dropped to him to 1 under for the tournament. He went on to bogey Nos. 10 and 14 before finally getting his second birdie of the round at No. 17.
"I just made too many mental mistakes, put myself in too many difficult positions," Sabbatini said in his post-round press conference. "This golf course, as tough as it is, if you're putting added difficulty on yourself, you're making it impossible out there.
"I never put any pressure on Tiger, never forced the issue and basically he got far enough ahead he could just cruise. In a sense, I just played into his game."
Sabbatini shot down the notion that perhaps he should've kept his previous comments about Woods to himself. He actually said he hoped that his words had indeed motivated Woods.
"I hope I inspire him," said Sabbatini, who tied for second with Justin Rose at even-par 280. "I hope I inspire him and play well enough that I can give him a good challenge."
Then again, it hasn't been easy for anyone to challenge Woods at Firestone. He became the third player to win six events on the same course in Tour history.
"More than anything, this golf course just fits my eye," Woods said. "Some years, I've come in here not playing all that great, but have somehow played well here. It's hard to describe, but this golf course just gives me a bunch of confidence every time I come here."
August 6, 2007
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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