Sun, Jun 03, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Sabbatini leads, Woods one back at Memorial

AFP, DUBLIN, OHIO

Rory Sabbatini posted a second straight 69 on Friday to seize the halfway lead at The Memorial, with 14-time major champion Tiger Woods leading a group just one shot adrift.

Sabbatini had a 36-hole total of 139 on the rain-sodden par-72 Muirfield Village course.

Woods, a four-time winner of the tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus, carded a 69 and was tied for second on 139 with Spencer Levin (72) and first-round leader Scott Stallings (73).

A victory today for Woods would be significant. It would tie him with tournament host Nicklaus for second on the all-time PGA Tour wins list with 73.

However, Woods wasn’t looking that far ahead.

“We’ve got a long way to go for that,” Woods said. “Yeah, obviously it would be nice, but I’ve still got half a tournament to go.”

Woods moved briskly up the leaderboard with three birdies in his first six holes. Some missed short putts kept the round from being even better, including a three-footer at the 11th that would have given him the lead at six-under par.

At the next hole, Woods was in trouble with a tee shot into the gallery.

After a poor chip, he finally reached the green in three and took a double-bogey from 13 feet.

Woods, who has endured an erratic season, shook it off with back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16, had a birdie chance at 17 then drained a testing four-footer at the final hole to keep the pressure on Sabbatini.

“I missed a couple out there, but overall I knew in these conditions to shoot something in the 60s was going to be a pretty good effort,” Woods said.

Rory McIlroy couldn’t say the same. Northern Ireland’s world No. 2, who defends his US Open title in a fortnight, carded a seven-over par 79 and missed the cut — his third early exit in as many starts.

McIlroy wasn’t the only marquee name to miss the cut. Bubba Watson, winner of the Masters in April, and PGA Champion Keegan Bradley, also exited early.

A heavy storm prevented play for almost two hours on Friday and South Africa’s Sabbatini endured the wettest conditions in the afternoon.

After a bogey at the first, Sabbatini rebounded with a 12 foot birdie at the fourth.

A wayward drive at the par-four sixth led to another bogey, but a birdie at the ninth saw him make the turn at even par for the day.

At the par-five 11th, Sabbatini laid up, hit his third shot to 10 feet and rolled in the birdie putt.

He made back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15 before saving par at 16 and again at 18 — where his drive found the right rough, but he managed to hit his approach to 6 feet.

“It’s only halfway, so I’m happy to be where I am right now,” Sabbatini said. “I’ve got two more days ahead of me and I’ve just got to continue to focus on what I’ve been doing for the last two days.”

Since winning his sixth PGA Tour title at the Honda Classic in March last year, Sabbatini has posted only two top-10 finishes.

“It’s definitely felt like things have been there but just really haven’t been putting the numbers up,” he said. “Ultimately, golf is a game of numbers, so it doesn’t matter how you hit it, it’s how you score.”

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