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Sabbatini fends off Couples

Losing a four-shot lead was bad enough.

What rekindled the fire in Rory Sabbatini was a crowd rooting so hard for Fred Couples that it began cheering Sabbatini's misfortune. And when the South African made another sloppy bogey on the 15th hole to slip into a four-way tie for the lead Sunday in the Nissan Open, he knew it was time to turn it around.

"That was definitely one of the hardest rounds of golf I've played in my life," Sabbatini said. "It seemed like everything was going the wrong way."

On the verge of a collapse, Sabbatini hit a 7-iron to 5 feet on the pivotal par-3 16th hole for birdie, sending him to a one-shot victory over Adam Scott.

Sabbatini heard muffled applause on some of his best shots, and jeers when he found a bunker on No. 12 and made bogey to lose the lead for the first time since Friday. Then came his escape from the trees with a 2-iron on the 13th hole that allowed him to stride up the fairway with putter in hand. Only later did he realize the applause was for his ball rolling off the green.

"I thought it must be on the green, but I was wrong," he said. "That was the Freddie Couples Support Team. That just seemed like the way everything was going, hitting a lot of good shots that seemed to go the wrong way."

He overcame it all, and when he lagged his 45-foot putt to within a foot of the cup for a tap-in par on 18, he had 1-over 72 and his first victory since 2003.

"There's a lot of mixed emotions," Sabbatini said. "Relief is probably the biggest one."

It was despair for Couples, who stood over an 8-foot birdie putt on 13 to take the lead only to leave it short. Then, the two-time Nissan Open champion threw it all away with three bogeys on the final four holes.

Sabbatini had the highest final round by a Nissan winner since Tom Purtzer shot 72 in 1977. Sabbatini totaled 13-under 271 to edge Scott, the defending champion who started the final round nine shots out of the lead. Scott shot 31 on the back nine and closed with 64.

"You always hear the stories "Ah, he blew it.' I didn't want to give them anything more to fire at me," Sabbatini said. "I didn't want to give them any more ammunition."

Sabbatini, 29, is off to sterling start - a victory, two times a runnerup and more than $2.1-million to take a commanding lead atop the PGA Tour money list. Of players in their 20s, only Sergio Garcia with six victories has won more on the PGA Tour.

EUROPEAN PGA/ASIAN TOUR: Charlie Wi of South Korea shot 9-under 63 to win by one at the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur, denying Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee a third straight victory at the event. Wi birdied the final hole to finish 19 under after the event was shortened to 54 holes because of storms. Jaidee had 66 and finished second.

NATIONWIDE/AUSTRALASIAN PGA TOUR: Australian Paul Sheehan beat compatriot Michael Sim at the second playoff hole to win the Jacob's Creek Open in Adelaide, Australia. Sheehan, who plays mostly in Japan, posted his second straight 69 to finish at 7-under-par 281 with overnight leader Sim, who closed with 71. They each had par at the first extra hole, but Sheehan's bogey at the second hole, the par-4 18th, was enough to edge a double bogey by Sim.