Posted on: May 27, 2011 6:01 pm
Edited on: May 27, 2011 6:01 pm

Woods, Sabbo to skip Memorial Tournament

As expected, Tiger Woods elected to take a pass at a place where he has had plenty of success over the years, the Memorial Tournament next week in Columbus, Ohio.

Woods has won the Jack Nicklaus-hosted event four times, but as he indicated earlier this week, it was doubtful he would play while trying to recover from a series of injury issues in his legs.

Woods on Tuesday described his chances of playing as "doubtful." He also indicated he hadn’t begun hitting balls in practice, had been walking on crutches and wearing a walking isolation boot on a foot in an attempt to recover from the maladies that prompted his exit from his last start after nine holes.

Interestingly, on his website, Woods lists his next start at the AT&T National, which his charity hosts. No mention of the U.S. Open in two weeks is made as far as his upcoming schedule, for whatever that's worth.

In another curious development, Rory Sabbatini withdrew from the Memorial on Tuesday, the tournament website noted in a posting with its list of commitments, prompting fast speculation that he has finally been suspended by the tour for two on-course meltdowns earlier this season.

Sabbatini entered, then withdrew, from Memorial.

Sabbatini was 10 over par through 15 holes at the Byron Nelson on Friday when the field list for Memorial was posted.

Posted on: May 15, 2011 1:16 pm
Edited on: May 15, 2011 1:17 pm

Finchem says Tiger absence not death knell

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Like pretty much all of us, he doesn’t have the slightest clue as to whether Tiger Woods' latest medical issues spell doom or merely gloom.

But as far as it relates to the health of his product, Tim Finchem believes Woods' continues time on the shelf is no longer a game-ender in the sports marketplace as far the PGA Tour is concerned. 

The PGA Tour commissioner pointed out at the Players Championship on Sunday that prognostications of impending Armageddon for the tour when Woods had his many, various setbacks of the past two years have hardly proven true, and in that time, other players have developed as marketable, popular commodities during his absence.

Let's face it: Woods has been largely irrelevant for months at a time and hasn’t won on the U.S. tour in 20 months. So for those who were curious -- morbidly or not -- about how the tour would fare without him, the past few months have been a good primer, he said.

Can the tour survive without Woods? It already has been, basically.

"The idea of the young guys challenging the established stars I think is something that's a positive thing," Finchem said in a brief chat with reporters before the final round. "The other thing is Tiger has been finishing well in advance of finish time this year, and our television ratings are up virtually across the board.

"There's a number of reasons for that, but one of them is clearly the fans are engaging with and focusing on these other players, and that's good news for the future. If you go back to the pre-Tiger era when there was much more parity, in all those years the number of what you would call an elite player or a star player or somebody that if you walked out on Wednesday the proam guys know, somebody that if you turn on your television the fans know, that number increased every year."

In fact, the tour's promotional spots on TV have been outright shoving the younger players to the fore, using them as juxtaposition with the stars like Woods and Phil Mickelson. Finchem said it was hard for the other players to find a foothold in the public mindset because of the dominance of a certain player.

"It's been harder to do that the last 12 years because there's so much focus on Tiger Woods," he said of developing stars. "I want to see him come back and win. I want him to win all the records, and I don't have any reason to believe he won't do that. There's nothing that tells me he won't do that, medical things aside. But it's also good for the longterm health of the tour to have exposure on these other guys, and we just need to take advantage of that."

Making his first comments to the print media in two months, Finchem strongly reaffirmed statements he made on television earlier in the week after a Golf Channel analyst asserted on the air that Woods only played this week because he had been pressured by the tour to appear at its flagship event. Woods withdrew after nine holes after claiming that he had re-injured his ailing knee.

The tour called the Golf Channel and strenuously complained about the report and Finchem still seem riled about it on Sunday.

"Well, it's not about him, it's any player," he said. "I don't twist players' arms, and as far as Tiger being hurt, guys, that's a decision he has to make, and I had no information that he wasn't ready to play golf. 

"I don't think anybody did. I don't think he did. I was on the range with him for a half an hour on Tuesday.  He was hitting it really well. He went and played nine holes, and he didn't have a problem. He played the next day, he didn't have a problem. He stayed on the range that day, he didn't have a problem.

"So it's all nonsense as far as I'm concerned, and I don't want to talk about it anymore."

As expected, Finchem also declined to comment on the disciplinary status of Rory Sabbatini, who has had two chronicled on-course blowups this year but has yet to be suspended. In Finchem's era, fines and suspensions have never been announced publicly, though he has stated that if a player issues false or misleading information about a sanction, the tour reserves the right to correct the information publicly. Sabbatini has twice characterized stories that a suspension is imminent as "rumors."

"We do reserve the right to clarify the record if an individual or the involved player makes a statement that is not consistent with the action, and that is the policy," he said. "I don't have any comment on what Rory Sabbatini said or what is alleged."

Since Finchem is a master of evasive action when pressed on uncomfortable topics, that could certainly be interpreted as meaning that Sabbatini won’t be suspended at all.

While other major sports have long announced sanctions against players who run afoul of the law or organizational rules, Finchem was practically defiant in defending the policy. As long as he is running the show, it appears it's not going to change, despite outcry that it's not effectively modifying the behavior of some players.

"I don't comment on disciplinary matters or whether there's an investigation going on or whether there's a process going on," he said tersely. "I don't comment. We reviewed it a number of times. We like the policy the way it is."

Posted on: May 13, 2011 7:18 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 7:19 pm

Sabbo and Sean clear air -- what happens next?

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Sean O'Hair told reporters after the second round of the Players Championship on Friday that he and sparring partner Rory Sabbatini have cleared the air.

They two had an on-course exchange two weeks ago in New Orleans that escalated into a profane, high-decibel argument in which bystanders interceded.

O'Hair told reporters that he and Sabbatini spoke early last week and addressed their grievances, which date to three months ago and another Sabbatini blowup in Los Angeles that O'Hair also witnessed.

O'Hair said he doesn't believe that anything he did, personally, in the New Orleans incident warranted a suspension.

The PGA Tour has neither acknowledged that the incident took place nor announced what will happen with Sabbatini, who is tied for 11th after 36 holes. A tour source said last week that Sabbatini was suspended for the Riviera incident, but that the disciplinary move was later rescinded when he agreed to apologize to all of the offended parties.

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 7, 2011 8:03 am
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Posted on: March 4, 2011 1:52 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 1:53 pm

Rory doesn't blow lid, scorches Honda with 64

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- No, it's not an homage to the Great White Shark.

It's a tip of the cap to the blazing sun above. Rory Sabbatini had a cancerous melanoma removed from his left sideburn area last year and decided to use a wide-brimmed model similar to the lid worn for years by South Florida icon Greg Norman.

Style had nothing to do with the quotable South African's headware. This was about coverage, pure and simple.

"I had a piece of my face cut out," he said.

Sabbatini was forced to handle an entirely different weather element in the second round of the Honda Classic, when he navigated 30 mph winds to make an improbable seven birdies in a 6-under 64 that might rank as the best round of the year as he moved into the early Friday lead.

A slew of players have already posted scores of 62 this season, but not under the conditions the field has faced this week at PGA National, where scores have soared and tournament records are being threatened. Sabbatini's total represented the low score of the tournament by three strokes. Adjusted for the skyrocketing scoring average of the field, it's 8.5 shots under par.

There are still two guys named Rory playing out here after all.

"He's got an amazing short game," playing partner Rob Allenby said. "Probably the best shortgame out here. He has such great hands."

An overstatement, perhaps, but Allenby had just watched Sabbatini use a total of nine putts on the back nine, so standing up and applauding was a natural thing to do. Sabbatini, who attended college in the States and has been utterly Americanized to the point where few think of him as an international player anymore, grew up playing the game at a course in Durban, located about a mile from the ocean.

In other words, where onshore winds were an everyday occurrence, just like this week.

"I tell you what, I will sit here and enjoy it," he said. "I'm done for the day."

In one blistering stretch, Sabbatini mustered five birdies in seven holes, which is more than some guys have managed over their whole 36-hole week. This despite, on the same nine, he hit a 5-iron and 9-iron from the same 165-yard distance, because of the difference in wind direction at the time.

Sabbbatini was asked whether he thought 5 under would be good enough to win. Allenby predicted 2- or 3-under might be enough to hoist the trophy, given the windy forecasts.

"I would take even par for the next two days for sure," Sabbatini said.
Category: Golf
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