by Jeff Skinner
For a minute there on Sunday at The Honda Classic Rory Sabbatini looked like any other victorious golfer on the eighteenth green. After closing out Y.E. Yang, Sabbatini gave his wife and newborn son a big hug. It was a long, emotional hug where neither of them wanted to, or could let go. And when Rory and Amy Sabbatini finally broke free off each other it was plain to see the tears in Rory’s eyes. And when Dottie Pepper interviewed him right there he could barely speak and still had the moist eyes of a man moved by the moment.
This isn’t the Rory Sabbatini the casual golf fan has seen in the past. We expect tears from Steve Stricker and Bubba Watson and maybe everyone else, but Rory Sabbatini? Come on. Rory has had a different reputation over the years. He was the one that called Tiger Woods “more beatable than ever” back in 2007. He was the fast playing, frustrated, hot head that putted out on Ben Crane while Crane was taking eons to play from the fairway. He was the one with the big chip on his shoulder. Or at least it looked that way. Sabbatini’s reputation whether it was deserved or not, was one of a quick tempered, hard ass with little use for anyone that got in his way.
In truth, Sabbatini is a devoted father and husband. He gives hundreds of thousands of his own cash to charities, and helps raise much more. And he happens to be a very determined golfer that sometimes acts a bit different on the course than he would at home. He notes that he has changed a bit,“I’m a passionate golfer, I really am. I love the game of golf and I’ve had my moments. 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.
Sabbatini has had a few personal issues in the past year as his wife was gravely ill after the birth of their last child and he had an operation to remove skin cancer from his face. That’s enough to change your perspective on many things. “It’s been a tough road,” he said. “So it definitely is kind of a turning of a new leaf, so it really does feel good. It does feel like a fresh start in a sense.”
The black hat Rory wore on Sunday misrepresented Rory’s role in the final act of The PGA Tour’s drama. He’s not one of the bad guys. He’s always been one of the good guys and now he can’t help but show it.