Under brutal conditions with winds continuing to gust at 20-30mph at PGA National, Rory Sabbatini played a phenomenal round of golf on Friday at the Honda Classic. Sabbatini caught on fire, starting with a birdie on No. 9 and then four more on the back nine to fire a six-under 64, matching the course record shared by Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Anthony Kim, Stephen Ames and Mike Weir. With the afternoon wave still on the course, Sabbatini is the clubhouse leader.
The wide-brimmed hat a la Greg Norman that Sabbatini has been sporting isn’t some kind of fashion statement. It’s for protection from the sun — he had a cancerous melanoma removed from the left side of his face last year.
“I had to have a piece of my face cut out,” he explained. “I started wearing this because a normal hat doesn’t cover the side of your face, so I started to wear this to cover the side of my face to protect myself.
Sabbatini’s 64 is currently 8.415 strokes better than the scoring average at the Honda so far, which gives you a sense of just how good he played and how tough the conditions are.
While it’s not as awful as it was on Thursday, it’s still not easy. I watched Sabbatini for a few holes and then spent another hour or two out there following other players and Sabbatini looked like the only guy having fun and not grinding for pars.
Sabbatini admitted he wasn’t looking forward to playing golf today.
“I knew the conditions were going to be tough and they were expecting maybe even a little tougher than yesterday,” said Sabbatini in his post-round press conference. “You know, crazy things happen. Put the ball in the right spots a few times and make a couple of putts and all of a sudden, you stop worrying about everything and you just start trying to make some birdies.”
Only needing nine putts on the back nine, Sabbatini put a new putter in his bag on Wednesday. He felt like he’d been stroking it well this year, but wasn’t making anything and tossed in a TaylorMade Ghost in his bag.
“It’s been working wonders so far this week,” he said.
With the course playing extremely tough and the severe conditions, Sabbatini said nobody was above making mistakes, but the key is staying patient and eliminating the big numbers.
“I would taken even par for the next two days for sure,” he said. “If I was a betting man, I would say five-under would be a pretty good situation to be sitting on Sunday.”
*Update, 3:20pm ET: Kyle Stanley, who started on the back nine, birdies 13, 14 and 15 to tie Sabbatini at five-under.