New man’ Rory wins tournament and fans

Rory Sabbatini winning a PGA Tour event should really have become a ho-hum affair, but his seventh victory on the tour in the Honda Classic over the weekend was marked by a sense that it was just a little special.

The man who seemed to pull the trigger before he checked the ammunition was dry when he said that Tiger Woods was as beatable as anyone – when the former world number one was at the height of his powers – and infamously left Ben Crane behind late in the round because he felt he was playing too slowly suddenly came over all cuddly and lovable.

He held off a charging YE Yang as the 2009 PGA champion fired a four-under-par 66 to move to within one shot of Sabbatini’s nine-under-par total for the tournament as he got back into the winner’s circle for the first time since May 2009 when he won the Byron Nelson Championship.

The obligatory greeting by his wife on the green seemed a little sweeter than usual for Sabbatini, and it was.

“Obviously, this win is very special,” he said. “Each win kind of feels like the first and this one has its own unique qualities to it. It’s been a stretch; I’ve had a tough road. My wife had some health issues with the delivery of our baby, and it was a very concerning time there. And then my having to go through what I went through with my skin cancer, and then her father just went through it recently.”

So the cowboy hat is not just the transplanted Texan’s affectation, but basic medical common sense.

And he’s hyper-aware of his reputation: “I’m a passionate golfer, I really am,” he said. “I’ve had my moments and I’m not proud of everything I’ve done out here, but I’m trying to learn. I’m trying to be a role model for my children and I know as my wife has said to me, I wouldn’t want my son doing some of the things that I’ve done in the past.

“So I definitely have to take into account that my son is old enough now that he understands everything that I do, and really try and be a role model for him.”

The men who he held off to win are also impressed.

“I commend him for being I guess so emotionally stable,” Yang said. “Usually if you’re in the front, if you’re running away from somebody, you tend to be a bit nervous. But in Rory’s case, he seemed really calm.”

“He gets in his own way an awful lot and rubs some people the wrong way,” said Jerry Kelly, who finished third. “I can relate to that because I’m the same type of person. But he usually has the best intentions for everybody else around him. Today, he did not let his emotions get the best of him.”

Sabbatini relished it: “It definitely is kind of turning over a new leaf, so it really does feel good. It does feel like a fresh start in a sense.”

It was the eighth tournament in eight weeks for him, who won a spot in the Masters with his performance, and leapt 50 places on the world rankings – his 52nd position is closer to familiar territory for him than his 102nd from last week.

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