Sabbatini takes control

South African Rory Sabbatini leads by five shots heading into the final round of the Honda Classic after a four-under-par 66.

South African Rory Sabbatini leads by five shots heading into the final round of the US PGA Honda Classic after a four-under-par 66.

Sabbatini started the day one behind leader Kyle Stanley, but five birdies and a lone bogey was enough to hand him a sizeable lead over the rest of the field after 54 holes. South Korean Y.E. Yang and American Jerry Kelly are in joint second place.

Despite the large lead, Sabbatini is taking nothing for granted.

“I’ve got to go out there tomorrow and I’ve got to be focused and ready to go,” he said. “I can’t expect the field to give the tournament to me, because that’s not going to happen.

“There are going to be guys that are going to come forward and challenge and I’ve got to be ready to step up to that challenge and continue to make it tough on them.”

Sabbatini carded his first birdie by sinking a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-three fourth. A testy putt for par followed on the fifth. Making the turn at one-under, he opened his back nine with two more lengthy putts for birdie in the 10 – 20 foot range at the 10th and 11th holes, before carding his solitary bogey on the 12th.

“It’s a tough golf course. You can’t be complacent out there, because if you lose focus for a second, it can take shots away in a hurry,” Sabbatini said.

The 34-year-old, in search of his sixth PGA Tour victory and first since 2009, bounced right back from his bogey disappointment, sinking an 18-foot birdie putt on the 13th before parring his way to the clubhouse.

“I’m feeling really good. I’m hitting the ball nicely, kind of limiting the big mistakes, which is key out there, especially in the tough conditions. The putting has just been doing great for me all week.”

Sabbatini switched putters for this week, a move which has been paying rich dividends.

“I just didn’t feel like I was making anything,” he said. “I hit a lot of good putts and sometimes just changing the look of things, changing the feel of things, can kind of just spur something.”

Yang, meanwhile, is seeking his first title since claiming the 2009 PGA Championship and becoming the first Asian man to capture a major crown.

“I just try not to be greedy,” Yang said. “You can’t beat a course like this so sometimes a course just let’s you take a birdie or two on it and I just capitalise on the moment.”

Jerry Kelly, tied with Yang five back, had a roller coaster round, making six birdies and five bogeys, including two dropped shots on the closing two holes.

American Gary Woodland was fourth on 207, one stroke ahead of Stanley and two strokes ahead of four other US players – Charles Howell, Ricky Barnes, Tommy Gainey and Matt Bettencourt.

Former world number one Lee Westwood, who required a top-three finish this week to retake the top spot, struggled in the “Bear Trap” at PGA National, bogeying the 15th, 16th and 17th holes for a five-over 75 to lie well back.