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September 12, 2009

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Sabbatini shares lead with Marino

TWO days after being left off the Presidents Cup team, Rory Sabbatini had seven birdies in a round of 5-under 66 to share the lead with Steve Marino in the BMW Championship in Illinois on Thursday.

They had a one-shot lead over Bo Van Pelt and Marc Leishman, who only qualified for the third US PGA Tour playoff event by making an eagle on his final hole on Monday in the Duetsche Bank Championship.

Tiger Woods, a four-time winner at Cog Hill, was among those at 68.

The group included Geoff Ogilvy and Padraig Harrington. Ogilvy was the first player to get to 5 under, which he attributed to a few long birdie putts. He took a double bogey on the seventh hole by hitting his tee shot into the water, yet recovered with consecutive birdies to end his round.

Sabbatini won the Byron Nelson Championship in May and appeared to be in good shape to make the Presidents Cup team until Y.E. Yang stunned the golf world with his comeback win over Woods at the US PGA Championship to bump Sabbatini out of the top 10.

Team captain Greg Norman then used his two captain's picks on 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, who has won four times in the last calendar year; and Adam Scott of Australia, who was in the worst slump of his career and has fallen out of the top 50 in the world ranking.

Right after his low round, Sabbatini took the high road.

"If I'd been playing well over the past couple weeks and didn't get picked, I might have something to complain about," said Sabbatini, who has missed four cuts in his last eight starts and has not finished in the top 30 since winning in Dallas. "But you know what? The situation is such ... I'm here this week. I'm going to focus on this."

Scott had two top 10s this year -- the Sony Open in January and the Scottish Open in July -- without another finish in the top 20. Norman said Scott was "the logical choice."

What disturbed Sabbatini was not hearing from Norman or anyone else during the three weeks after the US PGA Championship when the captain makes his two selections.

"There was not a single conversation or a single phone call, period," Sabbatini said. "You could say I was a little disappointed."

The spunky South African was hardly disappointed by anything at Cog Hill, the public course in the Chicago suburbs which received a facelift from Rees Jones. It is longer and tougher, with deeper bunkers, and it was reflected in the scoring.

The weather was close to perfect, with sunshine and mild wind. When the BMW Championship was last played at Cog Hill two years ago, in soft conditions from rain, Woods won at 22-under 262.

Woods at least kept himself in the mix this week, making a few good par saves and three birdie putts inside 5 feet.

"I think anything under par is a really good score," Woods said. "Usually, it takes a little bit before the guys get accustomed to what the scoring is going to be. The whole idea is, I think more than anything, the guys are trying to get accustomed to where to miss the golf ball, because the misses are so different than what they used to be."

Steve Stricker, whose victory last week in the Deutsche Bank Championship put him atop the FedEx Cup standings, had a three-putt from 10 feet at the turn and didn't make another birdie until his final hole for a 72.

Heath Slocum, The Barclays winner who is No. 3 in the standings behind Woods, opened with a 1-under 70.

Only 70 players qualified for this third playoff event, and the top 30 advance to the Tour Championship in two weeks with a chance to win the US$10 million bonus.


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