With the weather forecast for Sunday predicting inclement weather, PGA Tour officials moved up the tee times for the final round of the Honda Classic. They nearly got everything in before the rains came.
Instead, a 28-minute delay held off the inevitable – Rory Sabbatini winning the Honda Classic by one shot for his sixth PGA Tour win.
Sabbatini entered the final round with a five shot lead, allowing him to play a steady round of golf en route to the win. He did just that, shooting an even par final round of 70 to take the title at PGA National’s Champion Course.
The closest pursuer to the South African on Sunday was YE Yang. The 2009 PGA Champion and winner of the Honda Classic nearly toppled Sabbatini late in the round when he birdied the par-3 15th – the first hole of the Bear Trap – after Rory dropped a shot at the prior hole. The deficit for Yang had been reduced to one.
Sabbatini answered, though, with a birdie of his own at the par-4 16th hole to regain a two-shot advantage.
Then, just prior to when play was halted for 28 minutes due to storms in the area, Sabbatini cleared the final hurdle – putting his tee shot at the dangerous par-3 17th onto the green.
Yang did not get to hit his approach prior to the weather delay. He came back to the tee box and put his iron shot into the back bunker. Though he got up-and-down for par from the bunker, which was the end of his charge. A birdie at the par-5 last for Yang knocked Sabbatini’s margin of victory to just a shot, closing with an impressive 66 that just was not enough to overcome a large deficit to start the day.
Despite not winning, Yang is very happy about the end result and regaining form in recent weeks.
“It was a very good week and it’s been a very good early part of the season. So I think if I can capitalize on this, I’ll have a better year than last year,” Yang said. “And I feel good right now. My swing and everything, I feel quite confident about everything when I go on to the course. So I’m taking a lot of positives out of this week.”
Sabbatini was impressed by the charge of the ’09 PGA Champion.
“Y.E., he played a fantastic round of golf today. He just came out there, he did what he had to do to put the pressure on me,” Sabbatini said. “Lucky, I had enough of a cushion that I didn’t get too concerned about it.”
Though Sabbatini navigated the Bear Trap with seeming ease, it wasn’t as simple as he made it look.
“I guess there’s a pretty good reason they call it the Bear Trap because if it doesn’t get you one way, it’s going to get awe another. It definitely caused some stress for me today. But you know, just a fantastic week, and just really thankful to be sitting here right now,” he said after the round.
The 34-year-old Sabbatini recently had some family medical calamity – having skin cancer removed from his face, and his wife Amy having a serious scare while giving birth to the couple’s third child. Sabbatini’s attitude toward golf changed with those two events, and the results began to show with a fifth place finish last week in Mexico.
The win is a step forward for Sabbatini, but also allows him to be a better role model for his son.
“I’m a passionate golfer, I really am. I love the game of golf and I’ve had my moments. I’m not proud of everything I’ve done out here, but I’m trying to learn,” he said. “I’m trying to be a role model for my children and I know as my wife has said to me; I wouldn’t want my son doing some of the things that I’ve done in the past.
This week, Sabbatini introduced a new putter into the bag which, he says, has given him much more confidence with putts of 10 to 20 feet. After this performance at one of the toughest tracks on the PGA Tour, that putter might never leave the bag.
While most of the field was well out of contention before the final round began, a pair of Europeans went low to earn high finishes.
Graeme McDowell tied the course record of 6-under 64 to finish at 2-under par for the week and in a tie for 6th place. Luke Donald, who first set the course record at this course, matched Yang’s 66 to get to 1-under par for the week and sneak into a tie for 10th.
American Jerry Kelly finished in third place alone with a 67 on Sunday. Just behind him was Ricky Barnes, who has been facing back problems early in the year and whose 67 gave him an encouraging 4th place finish. Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey also continued to show promise with a final round 68 to finish in solo fifth.
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