Sabbatini will rest – after Colonial
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
FORT WORTH, Texas – Rory Sabbatini knows he will need to take a break to avoid becoming fatigued and frustrated.
Since his impressive streak of three straight top-three finishes that included the Masters and Wachovia, Sabbatini has started to feel the effects of playing so much.
“Actually, everything still is really good,” Sabbatini said Wednesday. “Last week, I kind of felt my body at the end of the week and just wasn't able to keep myself mentally focused. That's just wear and tear from playing a couple of events in a row.”
Still, time off will have to wait until after the Colonial, his fifth consecutive tournament – and one not far from his home in Southlake.
“I look forward to it every year. It's a great event,” Sabbatini said. “There is obviously a great tradition behind it.”
Sabbatini didn't skip Hogan's Alley, where the course itself is one of the biggest parts of the tradition. He has already withdrawn from next week's Memorial, another tournament he has always enjoyed, but knows he needs a breather before the U.S. Open next month.
But a lot of other top players are skipping the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, which begins Thursday.
Only two players in the Colonial field are higher in the world ranking than 16th-ranked Sabbatini. They are Jim Furyk, now third after Phil Mickelson took over the No. 2 spot last week, and No. 14 Trevor Immelman.
Mickelson and Sergio Garcia are among former Colonial winners not playing, but defending champion Tim Herron is back, along with two-time winners Kenny Perry and Corey Pavin.
Furyk said Colonial is “probably my favorite course to play and probably my favorite tournament” even though he has only four top-10 finishes in 11 Colonial appearances.
While length is a premium at so many modern-day layouts, the old-style par-70, 7,054-yard tree-lined Colonial course is pretty much the same as it was when Ben Hogan won there five times from 1946-59.
The only three top 10s for Furyk this season came in consecutive tournaments before the end of February. He was 13th at the Masters, but hasn't been better than 28th in any other tournament since, allowing Mickelson to leapfrog him in the world ranking after Mickelson won The Players Championship.
“I wish I was playing great golf and he was just playing better,” Furyk said. “He has been playing great golf and my game has been only mediocre the last couple of months. ... I just haven't been doing the things that I needed to do to score well.”
Sabbatini tied for third at the Wachovia Championship despite a closing 74, which came a day after he matched the course record of 64 and said how much he wanted to play in the final group with Tiger Woods. Sabbatini was 44th at The Players Championship and closed with a 73 at last week's AT&T Classic to tie for 24th.
“I could tell my body was getting a little tired,” he said. “I felt good going into the last two weeks, but just haven't felt that same ability to be able to maintain my focus throughout the rounds.”
After getting home from Georgia, Sabbatini didn't hit a golf ball until playing in the pro-am event Wednesday. He spent Tuesday driving a stock car 160 mph during a NASCAR driving school at Texas Motor Speedway.
This is Sabbatini's 15th tournament this season. He has made 11 cuts with four top-10 finishes (only one fewer than last season) and is 13th on the money list with $1.7 million.
The youngest player on the PGA Tour when he was a 22-year-old rookie in 1999, Sabbatini is now a veteran who knows when he can't keep pushing himself to play.
“That's definitely getting to know my body better and realizing that being worn out and fatigued and getting frustrated is not exactly beneficial to me,” the South African said.
Herron, who beat Richard Johnson in a two-hole playoff last year, is defending a title for the first time since the 1999 Bay Hill Invitational. But the husky golfer known as “Lumpy” who is popular among his peers and the fans isn't exactly playing top-notch golf.
In 26 tournaments since winning Colonial for his fourth career victory, Herron has no top-10 finishes and has been better than 31st only three times – the last time when he was 19th in the season opener this year.
“I don't know if I'm completely prepared to defend,” Herron said. “I've struggled since probably last year's Colonial. But you know what, before I won Colonial last year, I was struggling. So you just never know in golf.”