May
9
2011
Sabbatini Finishes Strong But Stonewalls Suspension Questions
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Sabbo was the center of controversy at Quail Hollow

Admit it. For a moment when you looked at the Wells Fargo Championship leaderboard and saw Rory Sabbatini had charged near the top, you got a little nervous, especially since the other players in contention looked a little shaky at times coming down the stretch. You were also impressed at how well Sabbo plays while under scrutiny for disciplinary matters. (When he won the Honda Classic in March, the Tour was considering suspending him for an incident at the Northern Trust Open.)

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, the profanity-laced exchange between Sabbatini and O’Hair during the Zurich Classic dominated the chatter amongst reporters, players, caddies, etc. Sabbatini is facing a 30-day suspension from the Tour for his second disciplinary issue of the season. While Sabbatini denied being suspended, sources say he’s appealing the punishment (and while the Tour reviews his appeal, he’s still allowed to play).

Apparently, the heated argument was triggered by slow play in the first two rounds. Sabbatini complained about the pace incessantly and O’Hair said playing with Rory was equivalent to a two-shot penalty, according to Golfweek‘s Alex Miceli.

Because of the PGA Tour’s policy of refusing to disclose or comment on issues involving disciplinary matters, a Sabbo win would have spilled over to the Tour’s marquee event, The Players Championship. Nightmare! (Remember: Tour players are one step away from sainthood. They don’t curse or engage in heated disputes! See Woods, Tiger.)

Teeing off over an hour before the last group at Quail Hollow, Sabbatini fired a blazing bogey-free seven-under 65 in the final round for a total of 14-under.

CBS didn’t interview him and gave the reason, according to Golf Digest’s John Strege (via Geoff Shackelford):

“I can tell you that we went to interview Rory and ask for a post-round interview just to ask him how he did it today,” Ian Baker-Finch said. Sabbatini was the leader in the clubhouse at the time. “[He] requested we not ask about the issues he’s facing at the moment and the disciplinary side of things. We mentioned that a little earlier. We said no, we needed to ask about that. So we won’t be hearing from Rory just yet.”

Respect. Good on CBS for taking a pass.

In the interview room, a Tour official warned media members to limit their questions to golf and the round. A fellow reporter said the implication was the interview would end immediately if anyone dared to stray off course (along with the possibility of having your credentials revoked or being put on double secret probation). Sabbatini gave glowing reviews of Quail Hollow and discussed his spectacular play. Basically, it sounded like he was reciting a scripted press release (if you feel inclined, you can read it for yourself).

Sabbatini’s weekend effort didn’t turn out to be enough and he placed solo third.

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)