Rory Sabbatini holds off danger
Golfer shows stability, calmness, in winning Honda Classic
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Walking off the second tee Sunday, Rory Sabbatini veered left and stopped, peering toward a patch of 3-foot grass and the lake behind it.
Trouble for the Honda Classic leader? Maybe. Something was rustling in the rough.
"Is that a gator?" Sabbatini asked.
The South African was wise to brace himself for any menace on the PGA National course. While no reptile sightings were confirmed, Sabbatini's five-stroke lead shrank to one in the space of seven holes, and a halt in play because of lightning delayed his march toward victory.
He weathered the weather, turned back a late challenge from Y.E. Yang and shot an even-par 70 for a one-stroke victory.
He sealed the title with a 2-foot par putt on No. 18 for a 72-hole total of 9-under 271. The resident of Fort Worth, Texas, earned his sixth PGA Tour victory.
Yang birdied the final hole for a closing 66 to finish 8 under. Jerry Kelly, who played with Sabbatini and Yang in the last threesome, shot a 67 and took third at 7 under.
Sabbatini is known for his fiery personality, outspoken nature and occasional digs at Tiger Woods, who skipped the event. But Sabbatini's demeanor was even-keel from the time he took the lead Saturday.
"I'm a passionate golfer," he said. "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. 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."
The Sabbatinis have three children ranging from 7 years to 5 ½ months.
Dad started the final round up by five shots, and after No. 8 the lead remained the same. But Yang was within one stroke seven holes later, thanks to birdies on Nos. 12 and 14 and two bogeys by Sabbatini.
Then came treacherous Nos. 15-17, the water-laden stretch known as the Bear Trap. But there would be no collapse by the leader.
In fact, Yang said he was more shaky than Sabbatini down the stretch.
"Usually if you're in front, if you're running away from somebody, you tend to be a bit nervous," the South Korean said through an interpreter. "But in Rory's case, apart from No. 14, he seemed really calm. I commend him for being, I guess, so emotionally stable. I wasn't."
Gig Harbor's Kyle Stanley, the second-round leader, struggled for a second consecutive round. His 75 gave him a 3-over 283, which was worth a tie for 24th and $47,310. Alex Prugh, a former Washington golfer from Spokane, closed with a 71 for a 10-over 290 to tie for 58th and earn $12,540.
• The LPGA Tour has signed a three-year deal with CME Group to be the title sponsor of its season-ending Titleholders tournament.
• Brenden Pappas won the Bogotá Open when lightning wiped out the third round, reducing the Nationwide Tour event to 36 holes. The 40-year-old South African went 67-66 — 133, 9 under at Bogotá (Colombia) CC.
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