Sabbatini didn't need to see it. He was on the 15th green, scrambling for par, when Muirfield Village shook with the loudest roar of the day.
"I knew something was going on up in front," said Sabbatini, who shot 72. "I was really just trying to focus on my own game, and the only thing I could do was control what I was doing. I knew that I was going to have to put a good number up there."
The South African hit his tee shot into the right bunker on the 16th, the third-hardest hole Sunday that yielded only four birdies, and then blasted out to just inside 15 feet and took bogey to fall one behind.
That was all Woods needed.
From the middle of the 18th fairway, with Nicklaus watching from behind the green, Woods hit 9-iron to the perfect spot on the back of the green, where it caught the slope and rolled to just inside 10 feet for the final birdie of a masterful finish.
Fittingly, Woods raised the putter in his left hand before the fall disappeared into the cup. That was the pose Nicklaus struck so often in his career, and this win was all about Woods and Nicklaus.
It was a hard-luck finish for Sabbatini, who has a long history with Woods for brazen comments that always backfire on him. He didn't get many breaks, but kept his patience throughout the final round and still had a chance until he failed to take advantage of a big drive on the 17th, having to save par from a bunker.
Spencer Levin, who had a one-shot lead going into the final round, lost the lead to Sabbatini with a two-shot swing on the par-3 12th, then took double bogey on the next hole to fall from contention. He closed with a 75, the same score he shot in the final round at Phoenix when he had a six-shot lead.
That was nothing compared with Rickie Fowler, who played in the second-to-last group with Woods to help generate an enormous gallery. Fowler opened with a birdie, and his day fell apart after that. With a double bogey on the last hole, he closed with an 84. The only consolation for Fowler was getting a front-row seat to a comeback remarkable even by Woods' standards — especially the chip-in on the 16th. Fowler said a good shot would have been anywhere around 10 feet.
"It came out perfect, landed right on the crown of that ridge there, and the rest is history," Fowler said. "I mean, he loves being in the moment, and that's where he kind of gets down, focuses and hits those shots. It was fun to see."
It was the second time this year Woods has won in his final tuneup before a major. He won Bay Hill, but then tied for 40th at the Masters. The U.S. Open at Olympic Club starts on June 14, and Woods would be quite happy to take the game he had Sunday to San Francisco.
"That was some good stuff out there," Woods said. "I never really missed a shot today."
NATIONWIDE TOUR: At Raleigh, N.C., James Hahn earned his first Nationwide Tour victory Sunday by beating Scott Parel on the second hole of a playoff at the Rex Hospital Open.
Hahn shot a 4-under 67 and joined Parel at 13-under 271. Both players had pars on the par-4 No. 18, and Hahn birdied the par-5 No. 9 while Parel had a par on the second playoff hole.
Hahn earned $99,000 for the victory. He started the day four strokes behind third-round leader B.J. Staten, but made his move early with three birdies on his first five holes.
Jin Park (67), Staten (72) and Jim Renner (71) finished at 272.
LPGA TOUR: At Galloway, N.J., Stacy Lewis shot an even-par 71 Sunday to win the ShopRite LPGA Classic by four strokes over Katherine Hull.
Lewis finished 54 holes at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club at 12-under par 201. It was Lewis' third LPGA win and her second of 2012. She won the Mobile LPGA Classic in April. Last year, Lewis won a major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Mika Miyazato and Azahara Munoz were both at 206 after rounds of 68 and 69, respectively.
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