Sabbatini hits out at LA hecklers

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Tournament: Nissan Open
Venue: Riviera CC, Pacific Palisades, California
WinnerRory Sabbatini

Rory Sabbatini has spoken out about heckling after securing a famous win that has rocketed him to the top of the US PGA’s money list.
The 29-year-old South African, known for not hiding his feelings, said after his one-shot victory over defending champion Adam Scott at the Nissan Open in Los Angeles: “There were a lot of very snide remarks.
“It’s sad when you have that situation,” he said
“I’m an avid believer that you don’t wish for somebody else to do bad, but all I can say is that it’s common here.”
There was one particular comment – Sabbatini refused to reveal what it was – that really got under his skin as he battled with popular American Fred Couples at the rear of the field.
But he added: “It almost motivated me to go into the crowd. It had nothing to do with Freddie. He was one of my idols growing up and is one of the nicest guys. But give other guys a chance – don’t be rude.”
At the 13th hole Sabbatini thought he had got out of trouble and onto the green when he heard the cheering after his second shot.
But after taking out his putter he then discovered that the shouts were for the fact that his ball had rolled down a slope into the rough.
“That was the Fred Couples support team,” he commented.
Former Masters champion Couples had just drawn level, but a birdie from Sabbatini at the short 16th was the decisive moment in the event.
And with Couples having three bogeys in the last four holes to slip to fourth, it was Scott, around in a brilliant, blisteringt 64, who finished second.
Sabbatini came in for a lot of criticism last June when he protested about the slow play of playing partner Ben Crane by stomping off ahead of him rather than having a quiet word.
He states that most of the comments he received from other players afterwards were supportive but, as Colin Montgomerie can testify, some boorish US fans can make life uncomfortable if you give them a reason to dislike you.
Three times a winner now on the US Tour – four if you add his World Cup win with Trevor Immelman in South Carolina in 2003 – Sabbatini also feels bitter about some of the adverse press publicity he has received.
Again he chose not to go into detail, but it made him glad he came through a tough final day at Riviera after holding a four-stroke lead after both the second and third rounds.
“There are people who have taken pops at me and I didn’t want to give them any more ammunition. They seem to have their opinions and it’s pretty sad,” said Sabbatini.
“I’m focussing on what I am doing and listening to the people whose opinions I value – and it’s paying off.”
With earnings of over two million dollars already this year – his win followed two recent runners-up finishes – nobody can argue with that.
Sabbatini described his closing 72 as “definitely the hardest round of golf I’ve ever played.”
But having gone into the day nine ahead of the young Australian, he was able to hold on.
Lee Westwood, meanwhile, earned roughly £120,000 for joint fifth place, his best finish in America since he ended the 2000 US Open in the same position.
The Worksop golfer, who last season did not record one top-15 finish in managing only 142nd spot on the US money list, was particularly delighted about a bogey-free closing 68 in the testing windy conditions.
“It’s nice to play so solidly in the last round because last year I think my average was about 77 over here,” he said.
“If I played at the US Open, the Players Championship or the US PGA like I did today it could have been a great season.
“I’ve worked hard the last few weeks in the gym and on the range and this was the culmination of all that work coming together.
“I had lots of good stuff last year, but there was probably a lack of confidence in my technique and my ability and I didn’t putt as well as I would have liked.”
The performance moves Westwood up from 17th to eighth in Europe’s Ryder Cup world points list.
Only five places in Ian Woosnam’s side come off that table, though, so there is still some work to do.
This week the circuit moves on to the Accenture world match play championship in San Diego – or for those outside the top 64 to the Chrysler Classic in Tucson.
Luke Donald has high hopes for the match play as well after a 12th-place finish at La Costa, but Justin Rose will try to get his act together again in Tucson after the disappointment of seeing a share of the first-round lead at the Nissan turn into a 39th-place finish along with Greg Owen.
Paul McGinley’s closing 74 left him even further down the field at 51st.
ALL THE FINAL ROUND SCORES
271 Rory Sabbatini (RSA) 67 65 67 72
272 Adam Scott (Aus) 68 71 69 64
273 Craig Barlow 67 69 67 70
274 Fred Couples 66 72 65 71
275 Lee Westwood (Gbr) 71 66 70 68, John Rollins 70 71 64 70
276 Carl Pettersson (Swe) 70 70 68 68, Tom Lehman 67 70 70 69, Dean Wilson 64 73 69 70, Trevor Immelman (RSA) 67 70 67 72
277 Bo Van Pelt 70 71 67 69
278 Tom Pernice 69 73 68 68, Luke Donald (Gbr) 69 70 71 68, Billy Mayfair 66 73 70 69, Robert Damron 72 70 67 69, Bob Estes 66 71 69 72, Jim Furyk 69 72 65 72, Tim Clark (RSA) 70 67 67 74
279 Harrison Frazar 67 74 71 67, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 72 71 66 70, Paul Stankowski 70 68 71 70, Nick Watney 68 70 69 72
280 Bart Bryant 71 71 69 69, Jeff Brehaut 68 73 70 69, JJ Henry 71 69 72 68, Ernie Els (RSA) 70 72 71 67, Brian Gay 71 67 71 71, Corey Pavin 67 73 68 72, Brad Faxon 69 71 68 72
281 Brandt Jobe 68 71 71 71, Kevin Sutherland 68 70 71 72, Shaun Micheel 70 71 73 67, KJ Choi (Kor) 69 69 70 73, Steve Flesch 71 71 67 72, Zach Johnson 71 71 66 73
282 Tim Petrovic 70 72 72 68, Chad Campbell 67 72 69 74, Mark Brooks 72 67 67 76
283 Yasuharu Imano (Jpn) 70 70 71 72, Olin Browne 68 73 69 73, Greg Owen (Gbr) 69 71 70 73, Mike Weir (Can) 71 72 70 70, Justin Rose (Gbr) 64 74 70 75, Jimmy Walker 71 71 72 69
284 David Duval 68 72 71 73, Rod Pampling (Aus) 67 74 70 73, Stewart Cink 71 71 70 72, Angel Cabrera (Arg) 72 71 70 71, Charles Warren 70 73 70 71, Thomas Levet (Fra) 68 68 77 71
285 Paul McGinley (Irl) 70 70 71 74, Charles Howell 68 73 71 73, Stuart Appleby (Aus) 68 73 71 73, JB Holmes 71 72 69 73, Scott Verplank 69 73 73 70, Aaron Baddeley (Aus) 72 71 72 70, Bill Haas 71 71 74 69
286 Jason Schultz 67 70 76 73, Tag Ridings 69 72 73 72, Ryan Palmer 71 72 71 72
287 Sean O’Hair 70 69 71 77, Bob Tway 72 69 72 74, Peter Lonard (Aus) 68 74 72 73, JL Lewis 70 72 72 73, Briny Baird 74 68 73 72, Ted Purdy 72 69 75 71, Len Mattiace 71 71 74 71
288 Rich Beem 75 68 69 76, Doug Barron 69 74 69 76, Mark Hensby (Aus) 74 67 69 78, Steve Elkington (Aus) 72 71 73 72
289 Wes Short 71 71 70 77
290 Joey Sindelar 68 74 74 74, Joe Durant 70 70 77 73
291 Jesper Parnevik (Swe) 66 77 74 74
292 Scott Miller 71 72 74 75
293 Ben Curtis 74 69 74 76, Pat Perez 68 74 76 75, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 71 67 80 75
294 Chris Riley 70 72 77 75
296 DJ Trahan 70 73 79 74