“It’s definitely shown me I have to be a little more patient out there,” Sabbatini said. “There’s nothing that’s going to get achieved in an instant. You’ve got to make sure that you take your time and just make sure that you continue to run the process, and ultimately things will change.”
That’s what happened Friday, when Sabbatini made a couple of bogeys in his opening six holes. It started to turn with a 15-foot birdie on the ninth, and he was solid the rest of the way. He took care of the par 5s with good wedge play — both those holes were into the wind — and picked up a key birdie on the 14th to a back pin, leaving it below the hole and making a 12-foot birdie.
Woods did little wrong at the start except for missing a few birdie putts inside 10 feet and failing to take advantage of the par 5s. Even so, he didn’t come close to a bogey until he reached the par-3 12th hole, which played into the wind. The question was how much wind.
Woods was trying to decide between an 8-iron and a 9-iron on the 159-yard hole over the water, guarded front and back by bunkers. He watched Fred Couples hit a 6-iron that a big gust knocked down and deposited in the water. Woods went with a 7-iron that he hit like a bullet, over the water, over the green, into the gallery. From there, he hit a poor flop shot that didn’t reach the green, chipped to 10 feet and missed the putt to take double bogey.
“I didn’t feel comfortable hitting 7,” Woods said. “I thought I had to take a lot off of it, but I didn’t want it to ride, so I started it way left and just bailed out on it, hit it long. And I drew a good lie. It was just a bad chip shot.”
He recovered with a wedge into 6 feet for birdie on the 15th, then a tee shot that covered a front flag on the par-3 16th and settled about 8 feet away.
Woods, coming off his worst three-tournament stretch as a pro, said he played as well as when he won at Bay Hill to end a 30-month drought on the PGA Tour.
“The things that I’m supposed to be doing for the past few tournaments, I was able to do,” he said. “This is the way that I hit the ball at Bay Hill and the way I hit it at the end of last year. That’s what’s exciting about it.”