Sabbatini Holds Off Scott Couples at Nissan

By Sports NetworkFebruary 19, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 Nissan OpenPACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Rory Sabbatini birdied the 16th hole, then parred the final two holes Sunday to hang on and win the Nissan Open. Sabbatini struggled to a 1-over 72 in the final round to finish at 13-under-par 271.
'That is probably one of the toughest days I've ever had on the golf course,' said Sabbatini, who earned $918,000 for the win. 'It just felt like everything I was doing was back-firing on me. I was hitting good shots, but nothing seemed to go as planned. I hit a lot of good putts out there, but looked like a terrible putter. We were just having trouble reading the greens.'
Rory Sabbatini
Rory Sabbatini holds his son Harley after winning the Nissan Open.
Adam Scott, the 2005 champion, fired the low round of the day as he carded a 7-under 64 to jump into second place at 12-under-par 272. Craig Barlow was one stroke further back at minus-11 after a Sunday 70 at Riviera Country Club.
Fred Couples, a two-time champion of this event, bogeyed three of the last four holes to shoot 71 and ended the day alone in fourth place at 10-under-par 274.
Sabbatini led by four entering the round and kept that lead with a birdie on the first. His cushion slipped to two strokes after he bogeyed the third and fourth.
The South African got one of those strokes back when he made an 8-foot birdie putt on the sixth. Sabbatini parred five in a row around the turn. He nearly reached the green at the par-5 11th in two, but could only par the hole from right in front of the putting surface.
At the 12th, Sabbatini missed a 5-foot par putt to slip back to minus-13 and a share of the lead with Couples. Couples was playing steady golf as he birdied one, seven and 11 to move to 13 under.
Both Sabbatini and Couples bogeyed the 15th to create a four-way tie for the lead. Barlow, playing with Couples and Sabbatini, played the front nine at even par with two bogeys and two birdies.
Around the turn, Barlow birdied the 11th, then sank a 4-footer for birdie on 15 to get to 12 under and a share of the lead.
Scott, who was looking to follow Mike Weir as the second straight back-to-back winner here, was 2 under through six holes with three birdies and a bogey. Scott picked up five birdies on the back nine to fly up the leaderboard to minus-12.
'Starting out today, I figured I didn't have a chance,' Scott admitted. 'As I made the turn and birdied 10 and 11, the wind really started picking up. The leaders didn't jump out of the gate making birdies everywhere and I was slowly creeping up on them. I figured if I could get a few more, you never know what could happen.'
The Australian was in the clubhouse when Sabbatini, Couples and Barlow created the four-way tie at 12 under. As big a turning point as the 15th was, the 16th proved to be similar.
Barlow missed the green short at the par-3 16th and was unable to save par. Couples' tee shot hit a tree and landed in a greenside bunker. He blasted out, but could only two-putt for bogey.
'That was just a really bad shot,' said Couples of his tee shot on 16. 'I did not want to hit it left, and hit it the other way and got a lucky bounce into the bunker.'
Sabbatini moved back to the top of the leaderboard as he sank his 5-foot birdie putt on the 16th.
'I was frustrated with myself. I felt like I was sitting back and letting things happen and not being involved in it,' Sabbatini said. 'The 15th kind of woke me up. I was over done with sitting around and waiting. Then on 16, I started being aggressive again.
'It was a perfect yardage on 16. Today was the best I felt all week with my ball-striking, but that shot on 16 was a big shot. Then I got over the putt and said to myself, 'come on, if you can do this, you going to win this.''
Barlow could not get back into it as his birdie putt on 17 lipped out, then he two-putted for par at the last.
Couples went for the green at the par-5 17th, but missed the putting surface right. He left his chip short of the green. He pitched his fourth to 4 feet and made the par putt. Couples, though, three-putted from the fringe for bogey at the last to fall further back.
'On 17, I had my favorite club, 3-wood from a really good yardage,' stated Couples. 'I block, shanked it and scrambled to make par.'
Sabbatini left himself 17 feet for birdie on the 17th, but missed the putt right of the cup. The 29-year-old calmly two-putted for par from 45 feet out at the last to clinch his third PGA Tour win.
Lee Westwood posted a 3-under 68 to join John Rollins in a tie for fifth place at nine-under-par 275.
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman shot 69 to move into a tie for seventh place. He finished alongside Trevor Immelman, Carl Pettersson and Dean Wilson at minus-8. Bo Van Pelt was one stroke further back at 7-under-par 277 after closing with a 69.
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    Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

    Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

    While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

    He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

    "A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

    Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

    "If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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    Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

    When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

    Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

    "I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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    The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

    Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

    "It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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    DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

    By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

    World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

    Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

    "It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

    Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

    Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

    "I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

    Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

    "If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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    LPGA lists April date for new LA event

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

    When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

    The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

    The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.