I mean, look at that face. It must have been terrifying on an infant. In case anyone doesn’t know, and it wouldn’t be surprising if you didn’t, this is Rory Sabbatini. He plays on the PGA Tour. He may be the biggest jerk in all of professional sports, a crown that comes with some distinction. If he played a sport that was a little more popular this guy would be the ultimate villain. Sean Avery, Milton Bradley, they would have nothing on old Sabbo, who despite preaching about his changed attitude after winning the Honda Classic this year, currently finds himself in some hot water with the PGA Tour.
Before the events that have been detailed in the last day or two, Sabbatini was probably most well-known for his meltdown while playing with Ben Crane in the Booz Allen Classic. Crane, one of the slowest players on Tour at the time, drove Sabbatini, one of the Tour’s quicker players, to the breaking point. By the end of the round, Sabbatini was playing a good 1/2 hole ahead of Crane, putting out before he reached the 17th green and then moving on to tee off on the final hole before Crane had arrived. While some viewed his move as a bold statement against epidemic slow play on Tour, there is no question how he went about it was…well, d*ckish.
Years removed from that incident you still hear Sabbatini occasionally described as surly, short-tempered, and he has acknowledged as much himself. What we didn’t have was another concrete example of him losing his mind. Until now. The PGA Tour guards their disciplinary actions and fines like they are the formula to Coke. Guys get in trouble on Tour all the time, but you never hear about it. It is all done behind closed doors. Also, because golf is golf, often things can happen on the course without anyone really knowing.
This is what happened during a rain-soaked round at Riviera earlier this year. With no one in their gallery and no reporters to be seen, Sabbatini got into an altercation with a teenage volunteer, who was spotting on a particular hole. The short version of the story is that Sabbo thought the kid caused his ball to become embedded when he marked it in the rough, and completely exploded. The profanity laced tirade, which may or may not have included Sabbatini taking off his belt in anger, got so bad that Sean O’Hair, playing alongside Sabbatini had to step in. This apparently started a little feud between Sabbatini and O’Hair. The volunteer involved in the incident sent a detailed account to the PGA Tour and Sabbatini was disciplined, but of course, we didn’t hear about that. Secret, secret.
Fast-forward to last week in New Orleans and Sabbatini is paired with Sean O’Hair again. For a second time, with practically no witnesses there is an altercation. This time between just the two players. No one will speak of the details, but it is being reported that O’Hair’s father-in-law had to step in to prevent the confrontation from getting physical. Can you imagine an actual fight on the golf course? That would blow my mind. The story gained some momentum this week in Charlotte amidst rumors that Sabbatini was going to face a suspension.
Sabbatini won’t discuss it, and claims the incident is being blown out of proportion. O’Hair withdrew from the field to cap an odd week where he fired both his coach (Tiger Woods’s own Sean Foley) and his second caddy in 6 months. Tough break for the looper, and it’s been a nightmare of a year for O’Hair. If Sabbatini is suspended, it’ll be quite the feat. O’Hair has the appearance as one of the most docile members of the Tour. I met the guy once, he’s about as menacing as a student-teacher. I just wish golf was covered a little more closely so we had the details, or the people covering it were more aware of this budding feud so nothing would have gone unnoticed. I’m telling you, Sabbatini has the face, he has the arrogance, he could go straight to the top. I guess only his actions, and people’s willingness to properly hate a golfer will tell the full tale in the end.
On the actual course, it’s a really good field and quality event this week at Quail Hollow. Some call it the best non-major venue on Tour, and it will host an upcoming PGA Championship. Rory McIlroy is the defending champion, it was his blistering 66-62 weekend last year that announced his arrival in the States. Of course, his play since then has been less distinguished. Rory is 2-over through his first 11 holes. On the American side, Bubba Watson is coming off another win and might be our best player at this point. The admittedly nervous Watson, who is also prone to tears after each of his wins, would make an interesting #1. He’s off to another good start. Phil Mickelson and Martin Kaymer are also in the field. And, old Sabbo, still not suspended is sitting at even-par in the early going.