AKRON, Ohio (AP) — The ninth hole is where all the action is at Firestone Country Club.
Tiger Woods struck a ball that landed in the crook of a woman’s arm and he later chipped in for par. Then Rory Sabbatini, in second place six shots back of Woods at the time, took offense at a spectator’s question and had the fan expelled from the course.
In other words, it was another routine day at the ninth during the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday. Remember how Woods bounced an approach to the ninth up onto the clubhouse roof there during the second round last year?
Woods was leading by four strokes Sunday as he stood over his ball far to the left of the fairway after a wild 358-yard drive. He pulled his 9-iron second shot into the trees left of the green and it hit a limb and dropped directly onto Rudy Wittensoldner. The 58-year-old native of nearby Louisville was sitting with friends while covered with a clear sheet of plastic. The ball hit her in the forearm and she pulled her arm up against her body so the ball wouldn’t fall, gamely waiting until Woods came up to collect it.
Woods walked around the greenside bunker and laughed when he saw her scrunched down in her chair with the ball nestled against her body. Woods then asked for a ruling and received a free drop, chipping through the green. While marshals went to get ice for Wittensoldner’s arm, Woods calmly holed an 18-foot chip for par that was met by a huge ovation.
“It’s kind of hot,” Wittensoldner said of the spot where the ball hit her.
Woods was asked for a blow-by-blow of the hole.
“It ended up right on the lady’s jacket, poncho, whatever you want to call it,” he said. “I took a drop, hit a terrible pitch over the green, and I holed it from there with a little 9 iron. Four shots.”
Seconds later, after Sabbatini made a double bogey and was walking away from the ninth green, retired firefighter and paramedic Steve Banky casually said to him, “Hey, Rory. Still think Tiger’s beatable?”
Sabbatini wheeled and pointed to Banky, telling a police officer that he wanted Banky removed from the course. He was escorted to the course’s front entrance by two officers.
“We’re out here to do our job – let us do our job,” Sabbatini said later. “Have a little bit of decorum, a little bit of class out there. I guess a few too many beers were talking.”
Sabbatini shot a 74, Woods had a 65 to overcome a one-shot deficit to start the day and win by eight strokes.
It was at the Wachovia tournament earlier this year that the fiery Sabbatini said he wanted Woods in the final group. Woods then beat him by five shots in the final round to win the tournament. Four days later, Sabbatini said Woods looked “beatable as ever.” Woods countered that he had already won three times this year, matching Sabbatini’s career total.
Banky was stunned that he had been tossed from the course after paying $55 for his ticket.
“I figured he was talking a better game than he was playing,” said Banky, who was making his first trip to the tournament in 15 years. “I wasn’t trying to dog him. At the press conference he had, he said Tiger was beatable. I just called him on it.”
Banky then strolled away to his car.
HURRY IT UP: A storm front was predicted to come through Firestone Country Club, so changes were made to get the players off the course as quickly as possible in the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational.
Players teed off in threesomes on both the No. 1 and 10 tees. They were originally set to go off in twosomes from the first tee with the leaders starting almost 4 hours later.
After hot and humid weather the first three days of the tournament, overcast skies and a light drizzle cooled things down throughout the round.
RECORD WIN: Woods’ sixth win at the Bridgestone moved him into a tie for second for most victories by a player in one PGA Tour event.
Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open in 1938, ’46, ’49, ’50, ’55-56, ’60 and ’65, with the 27-year span between his first and eighth victories also a tour record.
Woods has now won the Bridgestone in 1999-2001, 2005-2007.
He joins Harry Vardon (British Open 1896, 1898-99, 1903, ’11, ’14), Alex Ross (North & South Open 1902, ’04, ’07-08, ’10, ’15), Snead again (Miami Open 1937, ’39, ’46, ’50-51, ’55) and Jack Nicklaus (Masters 1963, ’65-66, ’72, ’75, ’86).
Woods has also won another World Golf Championship tournament six times – the American Express Championship five times and then this spring, the WGC-CA Championship. Those were won on six different courses.
Only four players – including Woods, at Bay Hill from 2000 to 2003 – have ever won the same tournament more than three times in a row.
DIVOTS: Jose Maria Olazabal, who shot a record-low 262 in winning the 1990 World Series of Golf on the same Firestone course, struggled to a 314 – last in the field – while never breaking 77. … Woods’ 65 was the lowest round Sunday by two strokes. … Woods was 40th – barely in the top half of the field – in putting.