Rory Sabbatini has had run-ins with slow play, like the infamous Ben Crane incident in 2005, and other players, including barbs at Tiger Woods, branding Sabbo with the rap as one of golf’s biggest bad guys. Underneath it all, Sabbatini has a good and generous heart — he’s just been misunderstood (that’s just been my take), but last week at the Honda Classic, Sabbatini stayed steady and calm on the way to his one-shot victory over Y.E. Yang. We also discovered he’s encountered several scares that have lent him a new perspective.
Sabbatini dominated PGA National, holding a five-stroke lead going into Sunday. Yang did his best to make up ground — and almost forced a playoff, but came up just short. He went for par-5 18th in two, trying to make eagle to tie Sabbo, but his shot found the bunker. “I did go for broke again,” said Yang through a translator in his post-round press conference. “Unfortunately it didn’t work out.”
Yang commended Sabbatini for maintaining a calm demeanor under pressure throughout the day.
“Usually, if you’re in the front, if you’re running away from somebody, you tend to be a bit nervous,” said Yang. “But in Rory’s case, apart from 14, he seemed really calm. Everything was perfect from tee to green. Actually, the pursuer, myself, was a bit more nervous. I commend him for being so emotionally stable. I wasn’t…I think Rory had the upper hand psychologically, also technically today.”
Known for his fiery, hot-headed outbursts in the past, Sabbatini couldn’t have seemed more coolheaded on the course. Naturally, he was emotional when he won, but during his press conference he came across sincere and grateful.
“I’m a passionate golfer, I really am,” explained Sabbo. “I love the game of golf and I’ve had my moments. I’m not proud of everything I’ve done out here, but I’m trying to learn. I’m trying to be a role model for my children and I know as my wife has said to me, I wouldn’t want my son doing some of the things that I’ve done in the past. So I definitely have to take into account that my son is old enough now that he understands everything that I do, and really try and be a role model for him.”
Sabbatini has dealt with a few scares. His wife, Amy, had complications with the birth of their third child, causing a stay in the ICU. At the end of last year he was diagnosed with skin cancer on his face and had a “chunk” of it removed, which is why he’s wearing a wide-brimmed hat now. Amy’s father also went through something similar recently.
“It definitely is kind of the turning of a new leaf, so it really does feel good,” said Sabbatini. “It does feel like a fresh start in a sense.”
(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)