No Presidents Cup for co-leader Sabbatini

Rory Sabbatini waves to the crowd on the 18th hole during the first round of the BMW Championship at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club.

Rory Sabbatini waves to the crowd on the 18th hole during the first round of the BMW Championship at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club.

LEMONT, Ill. – On Tuesday, Rory Sabbatini was passed over by International Presidents Cup captain Greg Norman, whose two picks included slumping Adam Scott.

On Thursday, Sabbatini took the BMW Championship co-lead after one round and was still thinking about the Tuesday development.

Or perceived snub.

When he walked off after birdieing 18 for a seven-birdie 66, he delivered this interesting passive-aggressive quote: “I have to commend captain Fred Couples for calling his guys who didn’t make the team,” the South African said.

Translation: The Shark didn’t call, and that stung.

Upon reaching the media center interview room, Sabbatini had more to say about the matter. It was close to his heart because he finished 11th on the automatic list, one spot too high. He had been 10th until Y.E. Yang knocked him out at the PGA Championship.

“There was not a single conversation, single phone call, period, from anybody,” Sabbatini said. “You could say I was a little disappointed.”

About not being called. Not about not being picked.

Sabbatini hasn’t finished better than 34th on the PGA Tour since he won the EDS Byron Nelson Championship in late May. He missed the cut the last two weeks and in four of his past seven starts.

“If I’d been playing well over the past couple of weeks and didn’t get picked, I might have something to complain about,” Sabbatini said. “I have no problems with any decisions made.”

Except the decision not to make a courtesy call.

Sabbatini obviously channeled his frustration in a positive manner Thursday at the facelifted Cog Hill No. 4. He drove the ball beautifully, long and straight, hitting 10 of 14 fairways and averaging 296 yards off the tee.

“It was a relaxing day,” he said. “In golf terms, that doesn’t happen very often.”

He shares the lead with Steve Marino, perhaps the Tour’s best player without a victory. Marino tends to play his best golf on courses that value ball-striking. Best testimony was his playoff loss at Colonial, a course that demanded precision and moving the ball around.

“Driving the ball and hitting irons are the best part of my game,” Marino said. “It seems I play well at courses that require that.”

The new Cog Hill certainly does.

“Every shot is so demanding,” Marino said. “It’s a long, difficult golf course. If you let your focus slip, you can get on a run the other way for 3-4 holes.”

Scores were lower than many expected on Day 1, particularly because many tees were moved up. It played 7,400 yards, well less than the 7,616 on the card.

A stroke back, tied for third, was rookie Marc Leishman, 25, a relative unknown from Australia. Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen or heard of him.

The Nationwide Tour graduate turned pro only four years ago and has ascended rapidly. He grew up in the country in Australia, focusing a lot on cricket, a little on soccer and an awful lot on the beach, a 10-minute walk from home. By 15, he narrowed his focus to golf and traveled around playing the amateur circuit.

Soon after turning pro, he won in Korea in 2006. He came to America the next year to Monday qualify on the Nationwide. He played his way onto that Tour via the Monday route last year and did well enough to make the 2009 big Tour.

“It’s been reasonably quick,” he said of his climb to 67th in FedEx Cup points.

Heavyweights Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington and Geoff Ogilvy were among those another stroke back at 3-under 68.

Woods said he felt “very good, very good” about his round and pronounced anything under par a “really good score.”

Ogilvy was the best for a long while. Playing the back-nine first, he went out in 5-under 31 but shot 2 over on his second nine.

As is common with the opinionated Australian, he left us with perhaps the Quote of the Day upon finishing. It had nothing to do with the new golf course but the new gigantic, undulating putting green.

“The putting green has 25 holes and every one is on the side of a hill,” Ogilvy said. “OK, maybe four out of 20 aren’t. Go check out where the holes are. It’s very ridiculous.”

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