Sabbatini assessed penalty for showing up late

Rory Sabbatini stands on the 18th tee during Round 1 of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

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KAPALUA, Hawaii – Blame it on Maui.

“We’re so close here, it’s so relaxed, you take it for granted,” Mick Doran said.

But on second thought, don’t blame it on this laid-back corner of paradise that is playing host to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Instead, “it’s totally my fault,” said Doran, whose first week as caddie for Rory Sabbatini featured a bizarre twist.

Taking the blame for having a watch that he discovered was four minutes slow, Doran was up front to explain how it is that Sabbatini showed up late to the tee for his 11:35 a.m. starting assignment in the second round. Assessed a two-stroke penalty, Sabbatini made a triple bogey at the par-4 first, but kept his composure and shot 3-under 70.

Though you might consider Sabbatini to be one of the players who can run hot on the PGA Tour, Doran gave his man all the credit for staying cool and turning things around. He got jump-started with an eagle at the par-5 fifth.

“We made the most of an interesting start,” Sabbatini said. “It’s the first time it’s happened to me, just one of those goofy moments.”

When he was on the putting green within 100 yards of the first tee, Sabbatini concedes he wasn’t paying close attention. “I know Mick feels bad about it, but ultimately it’s my responsibility more than anybody’s; it’s my job to be playing golf. It happens; unfortunately it happened today (to me), but it was still a good day.”

Though both player and caddie shared the blame, at different points they indicated a bit of surprise that an official didn’t come down to alert them. PGA Tour officials have never seen that as one of their responsibilities.

“We don’t have too many (late to the first tee penalties),” said PGA Tour rules official Jon Brendle. “But most of the time the guys are late because they’re running late. (Sabbatini) had been here for an hour or so, at least.”

Even before the penalty, Sabbatini’s day figured to be interesting, because he was paired with Sean O’Hair. The two players had a heated inside-the-ropes altercation while paired at last year’s Zurich Classic that was believed to have resulted in a suspension for Sabbatini. The Tour’s policy is to not make public such disciplinary matters, but Sabbatini went two months (June and July) without a start in a regular Tour event. He played the U.S. Open and British Open in that period, neither of which is conducted by the PGA Tour.

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