May
4
2011
Fiery Sabbatini Denies Reports of Looming Disciplinary Action
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Rory Sabbatini rejected reports from earlier in the day that he may face disciplinary action from the PGA Tour for his heated argument with Sean O’Hair during the second round of last week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

“Well, I am playing this week so I wouldn’t worry about it too much, OK, guys?” said Sabbatini following his pro-am on Wednesday evening at Quail Hollow Golf Club, the site of this week’s Wells Fargo Championship. “That’s what it is, it’s a crazy rumor.”

When pressed by the swarm of reporters who had been waiting for him to finish his round, Sabbatini was testy and uncooperative. “No, that is just all rumor,” he said. “You are going based on a rumor. How many times do I have to tell you?”

His wife Amy interjected and stood in between us and Rory to prevent us from following him any farther. “I think that’s enough,” she snapped.

As I reported this morning, details to what triggered the exchange between Sabbatini and O’Hair on the 14th hole at TPC Louisiana are hazy. However, Steve Lucas, O’Hair’s father-in-law and caddie, intervened to prevent the disagreement from becoming physical, according to another report.

When I contacted Pat Perez, the third player in the group, on Tuesday night, he declined to comment. Approached again on Wednesday by the practice green, Perez said he could not go into what actually took place. “I’m not going to be the guy on the front page,” he said. “It’s for us to sort out. It’s between eight people — three players, three caddies, the walking scorer and the standard bearer.”

Joe Ogilvie, who played behind the threesome, missed the shouting match and joked he was disappointed he had a ruling on the 13th hole, otherwise he would have had a front row seat to the shouting match. While Ogilvie isn’t sure what prompted the confrontation, he believes slow play may have been a factor. “It was really slow,” he said. “The round took five hours and 25 minutes they day before. I think Rory was frustrated with the pace of play — as we all were. That probably had something to do with the frustration level.”

According to sources (players and player-managers) who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Sabbatini will face disciplinary action from the PGA Tour, most likely a 30-day suspension, which he then has the option to appeal. If Sabbatini was already suspended, the process of reviewing the appeal would allow him to remain in the field this week at Quail Hollow. On Tuesday Andy Pazder, the Tour’s Chief of Operations who handles disciplinary matters, was seen speaking with O’Hair and Sabbatini.

The PGA Tour does not disclose fines and suspensions, and media officials have declined comment.

Last week’s incident in New Orleans was not the first time he had a public outburst this season. Three months ago at the Northern Trust Open, Sabbatini, who also happened to be playing with O’Hair, along with Stewart Cink, made a scene when he went ballistic on a teenage Shotlink volunteer. Sabbatini hit an errant shot into the long rough on the 5th hole at Riviera, and the volunteer, who was trying to help, found a ball and marked it with an empty soda bottle.

When Sabbatini arrived, he accused the teen of pushing the ball deeper in the rough when he put the soda near it. The volunteer said it wasn’t the case — it was in the same place as he had found it. Then, Sabbatini lost his temper and launched an ugly tirade at the volunteer.

The kid wrote a long, detailed letter to the Tour, describing what had transpired. Sabbatini was suspended as a result, says a source, but he pleaded his case, agreeing to write an apology to the volunteer, according to CBSSports.com

In March Sabbatini won the Honda Classic, and in his post-victory press conference, he admitted to feeling shame for his poor behavior in the past and was working on his temper problem. “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,” he said.

Apparently he may need to try a bit harder.

It’s been an eventful week for O’Hair, who won the ’09 Quail Hollow Championship, but has struggled this season, missing five consecutive cuts. He withdrew on Monday evening and did not give a reason. On Tuesday a spokesperson at IMG, the management agency that represents O’Hair, wrote in an email it was due to “personal reasons.” Also that day, he split with swing coach of nearly three years Sean Foley.

O’Hair’s direct agent, Jon Wagner, declined to comment on the incident in New Orleans when approached at the driving range on Wednesday afternoon.

Whether or not Sabbatini will face suspension remains to be seen. Since Tour officials will not discuss disciplinary actions, perhaps we’ll know if Sabbatini is absent from the two tournaments in the Dallas area, where he lives, the Colonial and Byron Nelson Championship held in the last two weeks of May. He’s a past champion at both events.

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)