AKRON, Ohio (AP) Rory Sabbatini gets his rubber match in the Rubber City.
Sabbatini, one of the few players bold enough to call out Tiger Woods, gave himself another shot at the world's No. 1 player by getting his double bogey out of the way early Saturday and closing with nine straight pars for a 2-over 72 in the Bridgestone Invitational.
That gave the spunky South African a one-shot lead over Woods, and another chance to go head-to-head in the final group. Kenny Perry will fill out the threesome, perhaps as the referee if not a contender.
"I think it's going to be a stormy day altogether," Sabbatini said with a smirk, a reference to nasty weather in the forecast that pushed up the starting times Sunday, and memories of his verbal sparring with Woods this spring.
He was at 4-under 206, the highest 54-hole score to lead at Firestone since it became a World Golf Championship in 1999.
Woods did his part. Despite a bogey from the trees on the 18th hole, the five-time champion at Firestone had a 1-under 69 the other five players in the final three groups were 21 over par and was one shot behind, leaving him a good chance to win the Bridgestone Invitational for the third straight year.
"Obviously, Rory is full of confidence," Woods said. "He believes in what he can do, and there's a lot to be said for that. You've got to believe in what you can do out there. I've got to go out there and do my business, and I'm sure he'll probably do the same."
Sabbatini also had a one-shot lead over Woods at the Wachovia Championship, and said he wanted him in the final group. Woods shot 69 in the final round, while Sabbatini closed with a 74.
The stunner came four days later when Sabbatini said Woods looked "beatable as ever." Woods returned the volley a day later by noting he already had won three times in 2007, as many victories as Sabbatini had in his career.
Sabbatini won a few weeks after that exchange at Colonial, and he's not one to back down. And he made it clear Saturday evening that he has a longer history with Woods than most people realize.
He mentioned that he was 1-1 against Woods while playing with him in the final round.