11th May 2018 | Sunshine Tour
Fast start for Sabbatini at The Players
Rory Sabbatini carded a solid first round of five-under-par 67 to secure a spot near the top of the leaderboard at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Florida on Thursday.
The six-time PGA Tour winner finished the round tied seventh together with Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, defending champion South Korean Si Woo Kim, Americans Keith Mitchell, Steve Stricker and Andrew Landry. That put them one shot behind six overnight leaders, Swede Alex Noren and Americans Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Chesson Hadley, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Cantlay.
“I managed to keep the ball in play for most of the day, keep myself out of trouble and just had a really good day around the greens,” the Durban-born player who now resides in Texas said about his round. “I just made some good putts, put myself in position, gave myself a lot of opportunities, was able to convert, and yeah, the golf course is in great condition and probably the best condition I’ve ever seen it, but definitely good scoring conditions out there today,” Sabbatini said.
Sabbatini made six birdies and three bogeys on the eighth, 13th and 17th – all par-threes.
“It’s always key I think on this golf course to get off to a good start, put yourself in the right frame of mind. I hit a good tee shot on 10, drove it all the way down to the end of the fairway, I had a sand wedge in. Knocked it to five feet and made birdie.
“On 11, decided to lay up on my second shot instead of being aggressive. Hit a sand wedge in there about 18 feet and made the putt for birdie. Then 12, hit a three-iron in the fairway, chipped it up there about eight feet behind the hole and made the putt for birdie from there. So just a good way to get the round going and just get some momentum,” he said.
The 42-year-old, who moved up to 166 this week from 173 last week in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) feels that he no longer has as much power as he had before.
“I’m getting old, I can’t hit it that hard anymore. So, 12 was a little out of my range. It was kind of borderline. I think over the years I’ve learned my lesson on that hole, it’s one if you try and get aggressive it tends to bite back hard at you. So, sometimes it’s laying up and putting yourself at a good number is the best approach, especially to the front pins,” he added.
“You know, it took me a long time to figure out this golf course and then over the last couple years, I started to figure it out and unfortunately I missed being here the last two years through the injury that I had. But the last time I played I finished sixth. So, I felt really good about the way I played and this feels like I’m building on the momentum from a couple years ago. So, I enjoy the course. I’ve never seen it in this amazing of a condition. But ultimately today’s the day to go out there and score because tomorrow afternoon it’s just going to get firmer and dryer and it’s going to get tougher,” he said.
Other South African players in the field are Charl Schwartzel who signed for a share of 13th at four-under together with 13 other players, Branden Grace who shared 27th together with 11 players at three-under. Below the projected cut line were Tyrone van Aswegen at two-over and Louis Oosthuizen who had a disastrous six-over.