Sabbatini Capitalizes on Way to Open

By Associated PressJune 9, 2003, 4:00 pm
POTOMAC, Md. (AP) -- Rory Sabbatini's second PGA Tour victory was a chip shot.
 
Actually several of them, but none bigger than the one that found the hole from 60 feet at the par-5 13th. The eagle swung the momentum back to the South African, and he held off Duffy Waldorf on Monday to win the FBR Capital Open.
 
'I hit a great chip, and it worked absolutely perfect,' Sabbatini said. 'It's not often you can hit shots like that, that come off like you want and react like you want. That was definitely a big confidence booster, and that kind of settled me down a little bit.'
 
Sabbatini shot a 68 to finish with a 14-under-par 270 on the par-71 TPC at Avenel course. He was the only player to shoot in the 60s all four rounds.
 
Waldorf, assessed a two-shot penalty after his round was over, shot a 69 to finish at 274. Waldorf was penalized for using his club to pat down a rough area in front of his ball before taking his second shot at the 12th hole.
 
The gaffe cost Waldorf sole possession of second place. He finished tied with Joe Durant and Fred Funk, all four shots behind Sabbatini.
 
Sabbatini's first tour win was the 2000 Air Canada Championship, when he was just 24 years old. He said Sunday that winning for the second time on the tour was harder because of the self-induced pressure to repeat.
 
The 18-hole Monday finish was needed after rain washed out play Saturday, leaving the course so waterlogged that a 36-hole Sunday finish was not feasible.
 
'It's been a long time since I've had this feeling,' Sabbatini said. 'It's great to finally get that second win. It's been really a roller-coaster ride with the whole week.'
 
Play began early so the players could finish and get to Olympia Fields near Chicago for the U.S. Open, which starts Thursday. The Capital Open was the first to be played the Monday before a major since the 1999 St. Jude Classic preceded that U.S. Open.
 
Sabbatini had been playing well in recent weeks, including a tie for fifth at the Colonial two weeks ago. His final round wasn't without its dicey moments, however, and he owes his victory more than anything to his ability to chip from greenside rough.
 
Sabbatini found the rough while approaching the third, eighth and 14th holes, but he didn't lose a shot. He tossed his club in frustration after an approach found the trap at No. 7, but he blasted within 4 feet of the pin to save par yet again.
 
Sabbatini's three bogeys came when he landed in the creek at the par-5 sixth, when he had two bunker shots at the par-3 17th, and when his tee shot landed in a trap at the par-4 18th.
 
Sabbatini's second shot at the 13th landed in the rough right of the green. Despite a bad lie, he chipped the ball neatly for a fine roll across the huge green and straight into the hole for an eagle.
 
That put Sabbatini at 14 under and gave him a four-stroke lead, but only temporarily. Waldorf, playing in the same group, sank a 15-foot eagle putt to reach 12 under.
 
Both players birdied the 15th hole. Sabbatini then doubled his lead at the 16th with a short birdie putt, while Waldorf bogeyed after landing an approach in a gully near a drainage grate.
 
The par-3 17th produced the opposite result. Waldorf birdied from 18 feet, while Sabbatini bogeyed after his bunker-to-bunker shot.
 
Sabbatini's drive landed in a trap at the 18th, but Waldorf landed in the rough. Both players bogeyed the hole.
 
The fast-playing Sabbatini also had his patience tested as he played in the final group with the slow-playing -- and thus inappropriately named -- Niclas Fasth. While Sabbatini would quickly decide on his clubs and go ahead and take his shots, Fasth would double- and triple-check his reads for 3-foot putts.
 
Fasth stayed close to the lead until a back-to-back double bogey-triple bogey collapse at Nos. 8 and 9. The Swede needed two chips to get the ball out of the green-side rough at the eighth. He then put his tee shot in the water at the par-3 ninth, took a drop beyond the cart path, chipped to the green and three-putted for a 6.
 
Padraig Harrington made an early charge with well-placed iron shots on the front nine. His 12-foot birdie putt at No. 7 moved him within one shot of the lead, but he bogeyed the eighth and double bogeyed the 10th to fall out of contention.
Divots: The course was still a bog in several places, particularly in the walkways from green to next tee. 'You could lose a shoe in there,' Sabbatini said as he avoided a mini-quagmire between Nos. 2 and 3. ... The lead group had unexpected company at the second hole when Patrick Sheehan badly hooked his tee shot at No. 6. The ball landed inside the ropes in the rough by the second fairway. ... David Duval set a course record with a 62 on Friday, but it was his only round in the 60s. He final scores were 74-62-73-74.
 

Related Links:
  • U.S. Open Mini Site
  • Full Coverage of the FBR Capital Open
  • Full Leaderboard
  • Bio: Rori Sabbatini
     

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    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


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    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


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    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


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    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


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    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”