Sabbatini: Two Shots Late
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Sabbo and Sean: BFFs

Rory Sabbatini and his caddie Mick Doran didn’t exactly get off to an ideal start in the second round at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Before Sabbatini even hit his first tee shot, he was already over par for the day because he received a two-shot penalty for missing his 11:35am tee time at Kapalua by two minutes.

The first tee already was probably going to be a tad awkward with Sabbatini and Sean O’Hair paired together for the first time since their near on-course brawl during the second round of the Zurich Classic last April — the two have mended things, but I doubt they play practice rounds together. (Robert Garrigus had a pretty funny tweet. So did Brian Gay’s caddie Kip Henley. This one made me chuckle, as well.)

So how in the world was Sabbo late to the tee? Well, he was on the practice putting green, which is pretty darn close to the first tee and in hollering range, and he and Mick just lost track of time. Both took responsibility for the mistake. In fact, Sabbatini had to comfort Mick because he was so upset with himself in the first five holes.

Right after Mick walked off the 18th green toward the scoring trailer, I asked him what happened. I was surprised because it seemed very out of character that he’d let Rory be late.

“It was totally my fault,” said Mick, shaking his head in disgust. “It’s quite weird actually because you always say to yourself, ‘I can’t believe they’re late on the tee,’ and all of a sudden it happens to you. They’re all out there looking down at you.”

In his 23 years of looping, this is the first time his player has been late to the tee. It was also the first time Sabbatini had missed his time since he’s been on Tour.

Both Sabbatini and Mick said neither of them was paying attention and Mick’s watch was also four minutes behind (which he didn’t know).

“I wasn’t paying any attention to who was the group in front of us,” said Sabbatini to a scrum of reporters after posting a three-under 70. “Mick feels bad about it, and ultimately it’s my responsibility more than anybody’s because it’s my job to be playing golf.  As I said, it was one of those things, just a goofy moment.  It happens.  Unfortunately it happened today.  But you know what, it was a good day anyway.”

Sabbatini ended up making a triple-bogey on the first hole, but he handled the fumble well, according to Mick and his scorecard.

“(Rory) was keeping my head on,” he said. “I wasn’t keeping (Rory’s) on, he was keeping mine on. The first five holes I was so pissed…He was saying, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s happened. He told me a couple jokes walking down the fifth hole. He was good about it. I was the one who was totally pissed off.”

Sabbatini rebounded nicely, posting an eagle on No. 5, followed with a birdie on No. 6, along with four more birdies throughout the course of the day.

It was a little weird because of the proximity between the first tee and putting green, which Mick pointed out.

“I’m surprised no one came down and shouted, ‘Get to the tee,'” he said. “But it was totally my fault.  It’s simple.  You don’t want to be starting off with a triple, do you?”

He’s right — it’s ultimately the player’s responsibility, but partly the caddie’s depending on the arrangement between the player-caddie. (I mean, I’m pretty sure there are a fair number of guys who don’t need their looper to tell them when it’s time to head over to the tee.) However, I agree with Mick that it’s a little strange no one tried to find him or call out to him. Like I said, most of the the practice green is visible from the first tee. Maybe if it hadn’t been…nevermind.

Well, it happens and it’ll happen again to someone else. (To my knowledge Dustin Johnson was the last player that received a penalty for missing his time at Riviera last February — in his case his playing partners were already in the fairway.) At least it happened in Maui, where it’s pretty much impossible to stay upset. Besides, all are guaranteed a check regardless (27th place in the 27-man field earns $64,000).

I’m more concerned with what kind of drama will happen the next time Sabbatini and O’Hair are paired together — it’s like they’re cursed! First, Rory goes nuts and yells at a teenage volunteer at Riviera last February. Next, the shouting match in New Orleans in April (that possibly led to fines and/or suspensions). And then, Sabbo was stroked two shots today.

(Photo via SCOREGolf)