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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, January 11, 2010

Ogilvy claims season-opener


By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Geoff Ogilvy opened the PGA Tour on a victorious note for the second year in a row on Maui.

ERIC RISBERG | Associated Press

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A year ago, the Australian won with authority by six shots. Yesterday, he caught Glover early and Sabbatini late.

Ogilvy's final-round 67 left him at 22-under 270 and a shot better than Sabbatini, who scorched the West Maui earth with a 10-under-par 63.

Matt Kuchar (67273) was third and Sean O'Hair (68) and Martin Laird (70) shared fourth at 274. Glover, trying to go wire-to-wire as Ogilvy did a year ago, dropped to 14th at 278 with a 76.

Ogilvy now has eight consecutive rounds in the 60s at the Plantation, a place he has grown to love after a rocky introduction. In his first two visits to this tournament, open only to the winners of the previous year, he was 8-over par.

In the last two he is 46-under, and $2,240,000 richer.

"My first couple times it was crazy windy here," Ogilvy recalled. "The first year it was the brand new greens, really firm. There would be squalls, rain, frustrating weather. I didn't understand the paradise part of it.

"But my next time here it was gentle trades all week. I played well. I think my game has developed more to a game that would suit a place like this. I love having space off the tee, having big slopes you can use. Having par-4s you can try to go for, or lay up, both being good plays. I think it's a really good golf course considering the extreme land that it's on. It could have been quite frightening."

The 32-year-old has now won seven times and more than $21 million in five years on tour, jumping from 26th to 19th in career money yesterday. It should be enough to keep the family's third child due in a month comfortable.

Ogilvy went into the final round a shot back of Glover and caught him with birdie on the first hole. More than an hour ahead, Sabbatini was tearing it up. By the time Ogilvy made the turn, he knew precisely what he needed to do, and did it perfectly.

"I've never had that situation with nine holes to play so I'm pretty proud of the fact that I managed to shoot a few under on the back nine when I needed to," Ogilvy said. "The pressure is off when it's black and white. You get to 22-under, or 21 at least, or it's all over. So it's a different type of pressure. It's less intimidating."

Many, many golfers had a shot at this one, as gusty 15-20 mph "kinda Kona" winds could not keep them down. But no one could catch Ogilvy with the exception of Sabbatini. The South African's stunning 10-birdie round tied a career high but still wasn't enough to beat Ogilvy, who became the seventh in the 57-year history of this event to defend a title.

Stuart Appleby, another Australian, three-peated here a few years ago. An American has not won since Jim Furyk in 2001, currently the longest U.S. drought on tour.

Coincidentally, that was the year Sabbatini lipped out a 3-foot birdie putt on the final hole to lose by one. Yesterday, he lipped out an 11-footer on the 18th.

"I swear I'm going to make a putt on 18 one of these days to win, or at least get in a playoff," Sabbatini said, then smiled ruefully. "If I was here playing every single year, I would be as content as could be."

Sabbatini likes Kapalua so much he has come over the past seven years, though he didn't qualify in 2005, '06 or '09. This year he came to Kapalua three weeks early and was out early "six or seven" days picking up games with any amateur who came along.

"It's always a good chuckle out there," said Sabbatini, who joked to his wife Saturday night when he stood 12th, six shots back that he would throw a 63 at the final round and "see what happens."

"I was hitting the ball well all week and just needed to get the putter going," he said. "And the putter showed up early today. It's amazing how things start to get a little easier out there when you get off to a good start."

He climbed into third with a 6-foot birdie putt on the 11th, then drained two long ones to get to first at 18-under. Ogilvy matched that with a rare birdie at No. 8, but Sabbatini two-putted Nos. 14 and 15 for more birdies to climb to 20-under.

The two swings Sabbatini would like back came on the next three holes. Along with Ogilvy's remarkable game and recent mastery of the Plantation, they did him in. "We all know Geoff is obviously an excellent golfer," Sabbatini said, "but his strategy around the golf course is impeccable."

Sabbatini's approach on the 16th, from 73 yards out, ended up on the back fringe. "I think the power switch was off when I hit the shot ," he said. "It was one of those where it was almost too easy and you were in too good a position and I forgot to focus and concentrate to miss the green from that distance, not even the amateurs I played with would have liked that shot."

Sabbatini has been among the Top 20 on the money list four times, with five wins and two runner-up finishes at the Sony Open in Hawai'i and now here. He made a great birdie on the 17th to get to 21-under, but then found more frustration on 18, which was second-easiest all week.

Suddenly, everything at Kapalua looks easy for Ogilvy. He ultimately put this one away with five birdies in an eight-hole span. Ogilvy tied Sabbatini with a 4-foot birdie putt on the 14th and passed him with a two-putt birdie on the next hole.

Then he went into golf's version of the four corners, never coming close to folding on the final three holes. It was the second time in his career he has won coming from behind, the first being the 2006 U.S. Open.

As easy as he made it appear, the 14th-ranked golfer in the world really might have just been loaning the lead to Glover the first three days and Sabbatini for those terrifically entertaining two hours yesterday.

"I'm happy that I defended a golf tournament," Ogilvy said, not yet ready to compare himself with Appleby. "I'm coming back here. It's such a great place to start."

Ultimately, all those who charged early could not keep up. O'Hair got to 20-under then double-bogeyed the 18th after hitting into the weeds. Kuchar found trouble on two holes and Laird bogeyed two of the last three after three-putting the 14th for par. Stewart Cink could not compensate for an early four-putt.

NOTES

Next up, Zach Johnson will defend his title at the Sony Open in Hawai'i. The PGA Tour's first full-field event of the season tees off Thursday at Wai'alae Country Club.

Six of the seven major champions who played at Kapalua will be at Sony Johnson, Retief Goosen, Angel Cabrera, Stewart Cink, Y.E. Yang and Lucas Glover. Geoff Ogilvy is heading to the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

Sony will also have eight former champions in Johnson, Ernie Els, K.J. Choi, Brad Faxon, Paul Goydos, David Toms, Jerry Kelly and Vijay Singh, making his first appearance since November knee surgery. Former Hawaiian Open champs in the field are John Huston and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin.

The local contingent at Wai'alae is made up of tour players Parker McLachlin and Dean Wilson, along with Tadd Fujikawa, Kevin Hayashi and amateur TJ Kua.

Johnson won by two shots over Toms and Adam Scott last year. Fujikawa, who just turned 19, shot an 8-under-par 62 on Saturday and tied for 32nd his second top-35 finish in three years.