Tiger Woods shot his rivals down in flames at Firestone in Akron today – and taught South African Rory Sabbatini a lesson he perhaps should have learnt three months ago.
Seeking an amazing sixth victory in nine attempts at the Bridgestone world championship, the world number one resumed one behind Sabbatini.
But despite the rain he produced a breathtaking front-nine 31 and with six to play was eight shots clear.
Sabbatini managed only 38 and found himself joint second with American Chris DiMarco and England’s Justin Rose, also out in 31 as he gave another demonstration of what an improved player he is this year.
Rose was Woods’ closest challenger for a while, but bogeyed the 14th to slip back to level par.
In the Wachovia Championship in May, Sabbatini had also been one in front of Woods after 54 holes and sounded off about how he fancied his chances.
The American went out in 31 then as well, and went on to take the title.
Sabbatini’s confidence had not been shaken by that experience and nor was he daunted by Woods’ phenomenal record on the course.
“Somebody has to knock him down, you know?” he said.
“There’s always going to be that point you get to where somebody beats you. So maybe Sunday is my day. That’s the way I’m going to look at it.”
Woods hit his approach to the first to six feet, but although he made the putt it did not draw him level as Sabbatini had already made his birdie putt from 15 feet. However, Woods dominated over the next stretch of holes.
Sabbatini was twice in the rough on the next and did well to save his par five from 10 feet, but Woods was close to the green in two, chipped to four feet and, after making that for another birdie, sank further putts of 12 and 18 feet at the fourth and sixth.
Sabbatini, on the other hand, drove into the rough on the fourth and bogeyed, then failed to get up and down from short of the green at the short fifth.
That left them seven under and three under, respectively, and if an incredible 15th World Golf Championships victory in just 27 starts was not quite a formality at that point it certainly looked it after the ninth.
Woods was twice in the rough, but another indication that it was his day and not his opponent’s came when he chipped in for par and an outward 31 to match Rose.
And with Sabbatini all over the place and taking a double-bogey six, the defending champion led by five from Andres Romero – and then by six when the Argentinian, third in the Open two weeks ago and a winner in Germany last Sunday, triple-bogeyed the 10th after an air shot in the rough over the green.
It was then merely rubbing it in when Woods chipped in yet again on the short 12th to reach eight under.
The round had been brought forward three hours because of the threat of thunderstorms and the players were sent out in threes. But just one man was dominating it.