Sabbatini oh so close once again
BY BILL KWON
Special to The Advertiser
KAPALUA, Maui — This time Rory Sabbatini had to wait an hour and a half to find out that he finished second again in the PGA Tour's season-opener at The Kapalua Plantation Course.
Sabbatini shot a 10-under-par 63 yesterday — missing a birdie attempt at the final hole to tie the tournament's 18-hole record — to close with a 271 total. And then waited and watched as Geoff Ogilvy put the finishing touches on a carefully navigated 67 to win the SBS Championship by one stroke with a 22-under 270.
In 2001, Sabbatini missed a 3-foot birdie putt at the par-5 18th that would have forced a playoff with Jim Furyk in the winners-only event, then called the Mercedes-Benz Championships.
It was almost deja vu all over again yesterday for the South African, who was a 24-year-old starting his second year on the PGA Tour when he finished runner-up that year to Furyk, the last American to win here.
Despite shooting 10 birdies, including five in a row from holes 11 through 15, Sabbatini needed one more at the 663-yard closing hole. That would have put him 22-under and probably change Ogilvy's mindset from thinking birdie to par-is-good coming in. "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.
Sabbatini mishit his tee shot at 18 and said the risk-reward didn't justify going for it in two from 286 yards. "I had to take the miss and hit it out to the right and try to get it up and down," Sabbatini said. "I thought I had a pretty good opportunity for that and it just didn't pan out."
He then lipped the 11-foot birdie putt for the tie, giving Ogilvy the title for the second straight year. International golfers have now won nine straight years with Stuart Appleby winning three in a row and now Ogilvy trying for another Aussie three-peat next year.
It possibly could have been 10 in a row had Sabbatini sank that birdie putt in 2001.
"That memory's completely erased. It's been a long time. I've learned a lot since then," Sabbatini said. "Actually, I wish I had that putt today. It would have been a shorter birdie attempt."
But Sabbatini was a little more concerned about short-term memory.
"Your memory pays definite attention to all those little putts you missed out here early on during the week. Ultimately, every golf tournament comes down to what you did in the first three rounds — those little ones you missed, the little ones you made, the breaks you got and didn't get," said Sabbatini, who started the day five strokes behind Ogilvy. "I went out there and gave it my all."
But he wouldn't have minded that one more birdie putt.
There was one consolation this time. Finishing runner-up was worth $645,000 — it was $380,000 in 2001 — more than doubling his earning in four previous appearances. Sabbatini, who has been here since Dec. 14 with his wife, Amy, and two youngsters, even shows up when he doesn't qualify for the tournament.
"I enjoy being in Maui. It's very relaxing and a great place to spend time with family and friends," he said.