Five Things: Sabbatini hangs on for Honda title
Sunday, March 6, 2011
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Finally, the wind dropped to a manageable level. Unfortunately, the rain came in. But the bottom line is, the Honda Classic attracted a festive Sunday crowd and did what every tournament organizer wants – it crowned a champion without any chaos.
Rory Sabbatini’s sixth PGA Tour win thrusts him back into the World Golf Championships and the Masters, for which he wasn’t previously eligible.
While the South African may have sucked the drama out of the affair, there were storylines still to tell:
1.) What’s this about taking time off?
All we hear with players these days is how they need rest. They play two in a row and they start talking like they’re starting a Lou Gehrig-like streak. Three in a row and they ask you to call them Dana Quigley.
So Sabbatini’s triumph is notable, because it comes on his eighth consecutive week of playing. Ineligible for the winners-only Hyundia Tournament of Champions, Sabbatini has teed it up every week since – the Sony, the Bob Hope, at Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open, the Waste Management Phoenix Open, then Pebble Beach for the AT&T, onward to the Northern Trust Open at Riviera and then, when most guys would have flopped with exhaustion, Sabbatini went to the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico.
For winning, Sabbatini not only gets $1,026,000, he earns a spot in next week’s Cadillac Championship an hour down the road at Doral.
Nine straight? Sabbatini is ready. But if only his peers were paying attention.
2.) Another learning experience
Before Sabbatini stole the show with a superb weekend, there was rookie Kyle Stanley. When he threw down six birdies against just two bogeys Friday to shoot 68, the onetime Clemson standout was 6 under and had his first-ever PGA Tour lead.
OK, that’s the good news, and much of what happened over the course of 35 holes Saturday and Sunday serves as the bad news, but Stanley still showed a slight smile after falling all the way into a tie for 24th.
“That eagle will help a lot,” Stanley said.
It was a brilliant approach from 231 yards at the 551-yard closing hole, and with a 10 foot eagle roll, Stanley had reason to feel good. Sure, rounds of 74-75 had turned the front-runner into an afterthought, “but it’s my first year out here and there is lots to learn,” he said.
At least for half the tournament things were bright, one week after Stanley finished T-13 in Mexico, and with $185,769 he is 78th on the money list. Not bad, but not a complete novacaine for the pain suffered over the weekend. He’ll take that with him, hoping to learn from it.
3.) The back is holding up fine, thank you
Ricky Barnes is back, at least according to his fourth-place finish – his best showing since a third at the Memorial Tournament last year. Barnes has suffered back issues this year due to what has been characterized as a mild bulging disk, which has kept the former U.S. Amateur champion on the bench – WD’ing from Bob Hope and finishing 72nd at the Northern Trust Open.
But this week at Honda, Barnes felt the best he’s felt all year.
“It held up a lot better than I thought it would,” Barnes said of his pesky back. “I’m going after the ball without any pain, but late in the day I need that achiness to go away.”
Barnes will take the upcoming week off before resuming his schedule in Tampa at the Transitions Championship.
4.) Still No. 2
Lee Westwood entered the week as World No. 2, hoping to slip back into the top spot with a solo third or better. During the second round, the Englishman was right where he needed to be at 4-under for the tournament, but that was the best he could accomplish, finishing the round at 1-over-par and sliding down the leaderboard, finishing T-29 with a final-round 70.
At the beginning of the week World No. 1 Martin Kaymer had a world ranking of 8.23 and Westwood had 8.00, but only earning 2.32 points this week at Honda, Westwood fell to 7.88 and further behind Kaymer.
By the way, Sabbatini jumped 50 places to World No. 52.
5.) The Field Is Set
The WGC–Cadillac Championship is next week and the only addition to the field was Sabbatini, who moved into third in the FedEx Cup Standings.
Sabbatini last played in the WGC championship at Doral in 2009 and finished T-53. The South African’s best finish in a WGC event came at the Bridgestone Invitational, when he finished second in 2004 and 2007.
– Alex Miceli contributed