Two years ago this column was written about a golfer on the PGA tour who stormed off the 17th green and went to the 18th tee, leaving his playing partner behind to putt out alone. That column chastised Rory Sabbatini for his rude behavior, while acknowledging that Ben Crane's slow pace of play could cause one to lose their cool.
Two weeks ago this column was devoted to picking apart golfer Sergio Garcia for his unwillingness to accept responsibility for losing the British Open.
This week it's Sabbatini's turn again, but it is with some reluctance that I pile on the South African. As the events of two years ago became more distant, I pretty much forgave Sabbatini. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve in golf is playing with, or behind slow golfers, so I could see how Sabbatini lost his composure with Crane. In the Booz Allen Classic of two years ago not only did Sabbatini have to play with Crane on Sunday, but he was also paired with him on Thursday and Friday and behind him on Saturday.
Sabbatini, a quick player, was probably on the clock more in that tournament than for the entire season. Then word filtered out that some tour players had quietly congratulated Sabbatini for doing what many of them had wanted to do before. All of which seemed to suggest that perhaps Sabbatini was alright after all.
Fast forward to this season. Following a tour win earlier this season I saw a short special on Sabbatini which featured him at home with his wife and young family and some charity work he does. Nice piece about a guy who seemed even more likable.
All that good will has been lost. Three months ago Sabbatini lost a final round lead to Tiger Woods in the Wachovia Championship after stating he wanted to be in the final round with Woods. Woods shot 69 to Sabbatini's 74. A few days later Sabbatini, foolishly, told a gathering of writers that he thought Woods was as beatable as ever. To which Woods replied, "That is an interesting comment from someone who has fewer wins in his career than I have this year."
None of that really bothered me though, until Sunday. If Sabbatini wants to get Tiger Woods riled up so be it. That makes golf more interesting to watch when the two go head to head as was the case on Sunday.
Again Sabbatini entered the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational with a one stroke lead over Woods. This time Woods shot 65 and Sabbatini 74 to turn a one shot deficit into an eight shot victory. A mauling, if you will. One thing is clear about Tiger Woods thus far in his career. He takes statements like Sabbatini's in May very personally, no matter how it was intended.
As for Sabbatini? If he wants to keep putting himself on the butcher block, more power to him, but his display after the ninth hole Sunday raises questions. Approaching the 10th tee a spectator said, "Hey, Rory, still think Tiger is beatable?" Sabbatini's response was to have police remove the spectator. Sabbatini tossed in a profanity for good measure.
Years ago members of the gallery at a golf tournament were well behaved and never unruly. The sound they made were cheers and never jeers. Times have changed and some golfers have become targets for taunts from the gallery. In this case Sabbatini asked for it. If Sabbatini wants to keep talking, then he should be fair game.
What this spectator said was mild by comparison to some of the things a player like Colin Montgomerie has had to endure. If that little barb was the only one hurled at Sabbatini on Sunday, I would be surprised.
Sabbatini has changed lists again.