South African professional golfer Rory Sabbatini is now golf’s “Other Rory.” But he still has a long history of ruffling feathers. In fact, Sabbatini’s gruff style once led a full 25 percent of PGA Tour players to list him in a poll as the person they least like being paired with.
In 2007, while many of his peers were still shaking in the presence of Tiger Woods, Sabbatini called Woods out twice within a week. When Woods responded to that first episode of trash talking by defeating Sabbatini while the two were paired together in the final round of the Wachovia Championship in Charlotte, Sabbatini was nonplussed. He dismissed Woods’ 69 that day as predicated on lucky breaks early in the round. Then, when Sabbatini opened The Players Championship with a 67 the following Thursday to Woods’ 75, he declared Woods, “more vulnerable than ever.”
Sabbatini’s most amusing moment, however, came in 2005, while paired with the notoriously slow Ben Crane in the final round of the Booz Allen Classic at Congressional Golf Club outside D.C.
Now, I’ve been accused more than once of taking a bit too long over the ball. So I suppose I should sympathize with Crane. Then again, I’ve also found myself paired with exceptionally slow golfers during a late afternoon round, whom I knew were going to cost me my chance of finishing the round if I didn’t shake them. On one occasion, my friend Kevin and I saw the high handicappers we were paired with duck into the grill room at the turn, so we seized the opportunity to sprint to the 10th tee before they could slow our progress any further.
Of course, Kevin and I weren’t playing on tour, as Sabbatini was when he had the misfortune of being paired with Crane that day in Maryland. Frustrated by Crane’s awesomely slow pre-shot routine, Sabbatini lost it after he hit his second shot on the par 4 17th hole into a pond beyond the green. Unwilling to endure yet another grueling wait for his playing partner, he proceeded immediately to his ball rather than pausing for Crane to play his approach shot. By the time Sabbatini had taken his drop, hit his chip shot and putted out, Crane still wasn’t even on the green. Undeterred, Sabbatini headed straight for 18 tee without bothering to wait until Crane finished out.
Sabbatini eventually issued a formal apology. Crane, meanwhile, called the incident a wake-up call that led him to speed up.
But in the long run Rory was unable to change his ways. At a tournament in New Orleans in 2011 he got into what was reported to an obscenity-laced shouting match with PGA tour player Sean O’Hair. Earlier that year, at Riviera in Los Angeles, Sabbatini had left playing partners O’Hair and Stewart Cink appalled when he berated a 16-year-old tournament volunteer, blaming the youngster for the bad lie he had drawn in the rough.
Golf Tantrum doesn’t endorse talking down to volunteers. But we still wish Sabbatini good luck today and Monday during the final two rounds of the Honda Classic.