The Amazing Sabbatini
Sabbatini fired a 6-under-par 65 to better overnight leader Grant Waite by one-shot at 16-under-par. The 24-year-old South African became the fourth player to earn his maiden victory at the five-year-old event, and the eighth first-time winner on the Tour in 2000.
'I've had three chances before,' said a teary-eyed Sabbatini, 'and to finally break through and win one - it's an awesome feeling.'
This is Sabbatini's fourth career top-3 finish on the PGA Tour, and, of course, his first victory. Sabbatini collected a pair of third-place finishes in 1999 at the BellSouth Classic and the B.C. Open. He also garnered a runner-up finish at this year's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
In an airtight final round in Surrey, British Columbia, Sabbatini prevailed by becoming the first player of the week to birdie both the 17th and 18th holes in the same round.
Beginning the day three strokes off the lead, Sabbatini made an early move up the leaderboard by chipping in for eagle at the par-5 4th. A birdie at the par-5 12th gave the former Arizona Wildcat sole possession of the lead at 14-under, though; a red-hot Chris Riley quickly joined him at the top.
After a 1-over-par 37 on the front nine, Riley birdied his first five holes on the inward half to tie Sabbatini at 14-under. Unfortunately for Riley, his birdie streak came to an abrupt halt at the 15th. He played his final four holes in 1-over to finish the tournament in a tie for 4th at 13-under-par.
A number of players had their chances on Sunday, including Sergio Garcia. Just one shot off the lead through 15, the Spaniard failed to post a red number over his final three holes. His 13-under performance earned him a 4-way share of 4th with Riley, Doug Barron and Michael Clark II, who carded an 8-under 63 in the final round.
Mark Calcavecchia made a bid for his second Air Canada title in four years by birdying the 12th, 14th and 17th holes. But the 1997 champion came up two-shots short in an effort to claim his first victory in three seasons.
Waite had the best chance of thwarting Sabbatini on Sunday. The Kiwi birdied the 14th to reclaim a share of the lead at 14-under, but missed a six-footer at the 15th, which would have given him the top spot by his lonesome. An errant tee shot at the par-3 16th led to Waite's fourth bogey of the day, and effectually ended any chance the 35-year-old had of earning his first Tour win since the 1993 Kemper Open.
Waite matched Sabbatini's performance on the 71st and 72nd holes, but his 269 aggregate was one shot too many.
'I'm disappointed I didn't win,' said Waite, 'but I still feel good about my finishing two holes.'
Sabbatini's play down the stretch was nothing short of spectacular. Playing alongside Calc, the South African showed no signs of wilting after the 20-year Tour veteran nearly holed his approach shot at the par-4 17th. Calc's gimme birdie would have tied him with Sabbatini at 14-under - had Rory not dropped a 15-foot birdie of his own at the penultimate hole.
Maintaining his one-stroke advantage with one to play, Sabbatini drove through the fairway on the par-4 18th. Again showing his mettle, Sabbatini played for the pin at the home hole, barely carrying the surrounding water.
Then, with Calc looking on and facing a similar putt, Sabbatini calmly snaked in a 25-foot curler for birdie and the victory.
'When I first came on Tour, I thought I could beat anybody,' Sabbatini said. 'It's nice to be an optimist, but you also have to be a realist.
'I'm glad I've finally got one under my belt.'
'I remember my first win,' said Calcavecchia. 'I know it's a big thrill for him. As far as he hits it, if he can keep it on the course, he'll win more.'
In just his second season on Tour, Sabbatini collects a winner's check of $540,000 - more than half of what he earned in his first 47-career starts combined. The victory also takes him over the million-dollar mark for the season. With $1,119,902, Sabbatini becomes the 33rd Tour millionaire in 2000.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry