Tiger Woods blows clear and strong

It was Tiger Woods�s 78th success, taking his earnings past �44m for work on this Akron course alone. By George Chesterton.

Tiger Woods strolled to a stunning sixth victory in nine attempts at the Bridgestone World Golf Championship in Akron, Ohio, with a final-round five-under-par 65. That earned him a third successive victory in the event for the second time - a record for the US Tour.

One behind the South African Rory Sabbatini at the start of a rain-hit final round, Woods turned that into a masterful eight-stroke win with a total of 272. Sabbatini and England's Justin Rose were on 280.

In the Wachovia Championship in May Sabbatini had also been one in front of Woods after 54 holes and had spoken with confidence about his chances of holding the lead against the world No. 1. On that occasion Woods beat him 69-74. Despite this Sabbatini's confidence was undiminished at the start of the round on that final day in Akron.

"Somebody has to knock him (Woods) 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."

However, Woods went to the turn in 31, just as he had in their previous head-to-head, and this time thrashed Sabbatini by nine shots to take the title again after a final round at the Firestone Country Club that was brought forward three hours because of the threat of thunderstorms.

"That was fun," said the American. "I couldn't have got off to a better start. That was ideal, especially in these conditions, and I figured that if I could keep my card clean I would put a lot of heat on the guys to come get me. They would have to shoot a miracle back nine."

Woods, who also won this event three times between 1999 and 2001, hit his approach to the 1st to six feet, but although he made the putt it did ? not draw him level because Sabbatini had already made his birdie putt from 15ft. But the South African was twice in the rough on the next and did well to save his par five from 10ft, whereas Woods was close to the green in two, chipped to four feet and, after making that for another birdie, sank further putts of 12ft and 18ft at the 4th and 6th.

Sabbatini bogeyed the 4th, then failed to get up and down from shy of the green at the short 5th, leaving them seven under and three under respectively.

At the 9th Woods was twice in the rough but another indication that it was his day came when he chipped in for par. And with Sabbatini 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, triple-bogeyed the 10th after an air shot in the rough over the green. Woods chipped in yet again on the short 12th to reach eight under and eight clear.

It was Woods�s 78th success, taking his earnings past �44m for work on this course alone.

Rose matched Woods's outward 31 but must have suspected that starting out on two over was too far back to have a chance of winning. Nevertheless, second place was worth having. Sharing it with Sabbatini with a 68 earned him over £300,000 and will take him into the world's top 20.

The 27-year-old holed from nearly 20ft at the 1st, chipped to five feet for another birdie at the 2nd and hit his tee shot on the 200-yard 5th to six feet. A 30-footer then found the target on the 8th and, although he bogeyed the 11th after pulling his drive into the rough and dropped another shot on the 14th, all the others chasing the runner-up spot made mistakes as well. Rose knew the importance of getting up and down from a greenside bunker at the last, splashed out to 10ft and made it. Chris DiMarco was level with him on the final tee but found the same trap and missed his 12ft par attempt.

"I'm excited now," said Rose. �That last putt was big emotionally. Even par was a really good score this week. I didn�t look at scoreboards and at the turn I thought if I could go under par on the back nine I would have a chance of winning. Then I did look at a scoreboard and saw Tiger."

Sabbatini then birdied the 17th and parred the last to recover some lost pride. "Maybe I am just spurring him on,� said the South African philosophically. �I�ve got to learn from it and I hope to have a different outcome next time. But I�m going to keep thinking the way I am."

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007