Back in the spring, Rory Sabbatini took exception to all the talk about how good Tiger Woods is.
Sabbatini spouted off a bunch of nonsense – “he’s as beatable as anyone else”…”I’m not afraid to go head-to-head against Tiger”…”I’d relish the chance to play in the last group with him, every week, in fact”…”he only has three wins this year, it’s not like he’s winning every tournament he plays in.”
Of course, Tiger – in his inimitable style – didn’t offer much rebuttal at first, waiting a week or so to finally a launch a one-liner that caught Rory right in the family jewels. When asked a week or so later about his season to date and the comments from Sabbatini, Tiger deadpanned, “Well, I’ve have as many wins this year as he has in his career, so I’d say I’m doing OK.”
Today, in Akron, OH, Sabbatini got his wish, when he and Woods were paired in the final group of the World Golf Championship event at Firestone CC. Evidently, Tiger provided another one-line zinger to start the day, shaking hands with Sabbatini on the practice green and saying, “today’s your chance, don’t f**k it up.” Although both Woods and Sabbatini both birdied the first hole, the stage was set. Woods’ introductory greeting made Sabbatini think. And, when golfers think, bad things usually follow.
Final tally from Firestone CC: Tiger: final round 65 and four-day total of -8 and the win. Sabbatini: final round 74 and a four-day total of even par, good enough for 2nd place.
When will these guys learn? It’s OK to THINK those things Sabbatini SAID about Tiger earlier this year, but it’s virtually out of the question to think you’re going to either, a) out-talk Tiger or, b) out-play Tiger.
It would be akin to a 15-handicap coming up to me at Mountain Branch one day and saying, “you’re as beatable as anyone out here…I’ll play you even-up.” No amount of pre-round “mouth-manship” could help him. The 15-handicap won’t win. Ever.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the difference between Tiger and Rory Sabbatini isn’t the same as a scratch player and a 15-handicap. It just doesn’t make any sense to challenge Tiger with words – or comparisons – or philosophical theories like “anyone is beatable at any point.” The only way to beat Tiger is with your clubs. Nick O’Hern has knocked him off twice in the Match Play Championship (O’Hern is a player barely able to crack the Top 64 in the world while Tiger is, and has been, #1 by a longshot for most of the last 8 years) yet O’Hern has never once bragged, boasted or even talked about those two triumphs outside of the obligatory post-round press conference where he usually mutters something like, “I’m just thrilled to be moving ahead in the tournament”. Tiger doesn’t lose to talk. Sabbatini found that out today.
There have been 25 World Golf Championship events in this, the 7th year of those tournaments (designed to bring together the best 125 players in the world with huge purses and mega-prestige to the winner). Tiger has won 14 of them – the rest of the world has won 11 of them.
Tiger has won 12 major championships. The only two active PGA Tour players – not counting Nick Faldo who remains active but incapable of competing – who have won more than two are Mickelson (3) and Els (3).
Sabbatini? Uh, he doesn’t have a major win to his credit. He has, however, made a great living playing golf.
But, as far as Rory goes, the proof was in the pudding today.
Better to stay quiet and have people think you’re a goof than to speak and remove any doubt.