Peace at The Players: O’Hair, Sabbatini make up
Friday, May 13, 2011
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Whatever bad blood might have existed between Sean O’Hair and Rory Sabbatini appears to have been settled.
And to hear the principals explain it, the on-course incident two weeks ago during the Zurich Classic in New Orleans was more rumor than rumble.
The big question now: What, if any, action will the Tour take? Officials, in keeping with their custom of not acknowledging player disciplinary action, would not comment.
Friday at The Players Championship, the two Tour veterans moved to distance themselves from any controversy.
Last week at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., Sabbatini had said that nothing had happened and any report to the contrary was all hearsay.
After his second round at The Players, O’Hair confirmed only that there was an incident between him and Sabbatini and that he regretted it had occurred.
“I think I could have waited until after the round,” O’Hair said. “I talked to the PGA Tour and gave my side of the story, and I’m sure Rory gave them his.”
The Tour also called Pat Perez, the third player in the group on that Friday in New Orleans, and he gave his version.
O’Hair conceded that some issues exist between him and Sabbatini. After Sabbatini texted O’Hair midweek during the Wells Fargo Championship, asking O’Hair to call him, the two worked most of it out over the phone, both apologizing for their actions.
“Life’s too short to hold grudges,” O’Hair said. “To be honest with you, Rory’s not a bad guy. I don’t think he’s a bad guy. When I first came on Tour, I liked Rory.”
In addressing why he withdrew from the Wells Fargo, an event that he won in 2009, O’Hair said he had to deal with firing his instructor, Sean Foley. With his game in a bit of disarray, he said he was feeling overwhelmed and dismissed any rumors of a suspension by the Tourn.
In fact, O’Hair does not think he did anything at Zurich that warrants a suspension.
“I wish I would have handled it a little better,” O’Hair said. “I’m not going to go in details, but I was defending myself, and it was not about pace of play.”
For his part, Sabbatini, one of the Tour’s fastest players, found himself in an unusual position Friday at The Players: defending slow play. Playing competitor Jonathan Byrd, the runner-up last week at Quail Hollow, was in the pine straw on the par-5, 11th hole when the group got out of position as Byrd was taking extra time with the shot. Byrd eventually would be put on the clock and get a bad time, for which he was notified during the round.
“I just think that the shot that he had, if it had been 99 percent of the guys on Tour, it would have taken him an excessive amount of time for it,” Sabbatini said of Byrd’s shot. “They (rules officials) felt the rule was the rule, and I thought there were extenuating circumstances.”
Sabbatini confirmed his conversation last week with O’Hair and agreed that they both needed to put it behind them.
“We talked, and we just resolved things,” Sabbatini said. “This is work out here, and you don’t want there to be any ill fillings or any tension out here.”
When asked about a report in the United Kingdom on Sky Sports that he could be suspended as early as Monday, Sabbatini again questioned the accuracy of the report.
“You, man, go for the fishing stories; it’s unbelievable,” Sabbatini said. “I don’t know where he’s getting his information from, but he might want to check his sources.”
In Byrd’s case, Sabbatini was there for him, and Byrd found no irony in the fact that Sabbatini came to his defense with all the suspension talk swirling.
“Rory was my advocate,” Byrd said. “I think Rory is a stand-up guy. He’s said some things that got him in trouble in the past, but most of the time he does a lot of good things, like he did today.”