Polar opposites Couples & Sabbatini and a 5-letter dirty word: CHOKE
Choking is going to be a subject we will routinely discuss in this column. Admit it or not, everybody gives in to being nervous sometimes. Well, except maybe Tiger. In golf, it is the proverbial elephant sitting in the living room that nobody wants to mention. And, boy, were we treated to a blue-plate special of it this past weekend.
Roarin’ Rory Sabbatini’s guts were spilling out all over Riviera Country Club during the final round of the Nissan Open. (By the way, I don’t care what GQ says, Rory Sabbatini is the most disliked golfer on the planet since his tantrum at the 2005 Booz Allen.) It is amazing what a little case of the nerves will do to a man playing the best golf of his life. Those 3-5 footers for par are akin to threading a needle. Nothing was going his way until Fred Couples came to his rescue.
At this point we should say that Freddie is likely the most LIKED golfer on the planet. If ever a person could win a tournament on goodwill alone, it would be him. It pains me greatly to say this but Freddie choked it right back to Sabbatini. Immediately after tying for the lead courtesy of another missed short putt by Sabbatini, Freddie all of a sudden can’t hit an approach shot. There were a couple low flying ducks to the left, followed by some “block-shanks” (his term, not mine) to the right.
Amazingly, after apparently gaining some confidence from watching these horrendous iron shots, Sabbatini plays a little knockdown on the par 3 16th to about 4 feet and makes the birdie putt to regain the lead. All that was needed was a couple of routine pars to finish off the one-shot win over Adam Scott, who had posted his score an hour earlier. If you had witnessed the early round carnage, those 2 pars seemed like anything but routine.
Perhaps Sabbatini has cleared a major hurdle in his golf development and now his emotional state can finally match the load of talent he’s carried for a long time. That would be good news. And perhaps we’ve witnessed Fred Couples last hurrah on the PGA Tour, which would be a sad development indeed.
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And BTW I started watching the last round this week rooting for Freddie, but ending cheering on Rory because of the ugly morons in the gallery. I suspect I wasn't alone in that either.
It didn't cross my mind that Freddie could mess it up so big. What was up with his shot on the 16th? A relatively short par 3 hole (just over 150 yards) and he hits a tree 30 or 40 yards right of the green, and was actually lucky to find the tree-bounce end in the bunker. I don't remember many times that I've seen a professional do that.
And about that Crane incident. Rory may well have been out of line to do what he did, but I can totally sympathize. There are fewer people more irritating than turtle-speed golfers.
Crane should not be banned from the tour - he has already taken enough stick over his speed of play, and is likely on the clock every week. He is trying to speed up.
Tiger doesn't play quickly.
Vijay, Phil, Rory and Love III are my 4 most-hated golfers. I love Freddie - and also Tiger, but he is pretty much considered a demigod nowadays.
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