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Looking Back

A few weeks ago I talked about Rory Sabbatini and his comment that Tiger is beatable. I talked about how, generally, that’s a dumb move given other would be Tiger foes’ comments and/or actions directed Eldrick’s way and the resulting thrashing (Luke Donald wearing red on Sunday at a major in the final group with Tiger, and Stephen Ames questioning Tiger’s driving ability before Match Play a couple years ago were two examples). And how Sabbatini might be the exception to the rule because he’s talented, competitive and has learned to focus his energies on the golf course, to slow it down just a little.

There he was last week chomping away on his gum (how that guy doesn’t have a gum sponsor at this point is a mystery), playing with the slow-paced Bernhard Langer, calmly following a Saturday round of 62 with a 67 to win Colonial on the first playoff hole.

He still moves fast---several times the cameras got him mid-swing just after one of the guys in his group went. I’ve said that I like him in large part because of his pace. He doesn’t screw around out there. He’s a more composed and focused John Daly in that regard. I like him more because he’s competing and winning with that pace.

Usually, when someone goes really low like that, they don’t follow with a round anywhere near as low. More often than not if a guy goes in the 62-63 range on any given day of a tournament, that’s the last you hear from him for the rest of it. It’s gotten so if I’m watching one of my picks put together a round like that on Thursday or Friday I actually root for him to slow it down a little. Better to save some for tomorrow and par in with a 64 or 65.

To go that low on Saturday and follow with an excellent round on Sunday, starting the day tied with some pretty good competition, says an awful lot about Sabbatini. One of my outright picks, Scott Verplank, shot a 63 Saturday for a share of the lead then followed with a 1-over 71 on Sunday. That’s more typical. (Though I do recall Brad Faxon shooting a 61 on Sunday to win the Buick Championship in 2005---that’s off the charts rare.) One more example from the Colonial: Tim Clark shot a 64 on Friday and followed with a 74 on Saturday.

In microcosm, the playoff hole said everything you need to know about Sabbatini. From the fairway,Jim Furyk hit the green but was probably forty feet away. Sabbatini was next and went right over the pin, the ball stopping 15 feet past. Then Langer put his inside 10 feet, putting the pressure on Sabbatini.Furyk missed, then Sabbatini walk his in, right arm raised a la Jack at Augusta in 1986. Langer missed his and Sabbatini got his win after consecutive top-3s before The Players (one of those was the Masters).

You have to consider Sabbatini the rest of the way this season, especially in the majors. Don’t get up for the fridge if you’re watching, though. You might miss him.

Last week: Funny, and sort of the way things have been going around here, that I was close to picking Sabbatini last week in the outright. I went with Verplank instead. David Toms covered in the head-to-head, though, so I was up for the week but, oh what could have been (Verplank had 40-1 odds) … At 4-5, 1 unit, the head-to-head was .8 unit. Subtract the half unit lost in the head-to-head and I finished the week up .3. I’ll take it.

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