Two of the top five finishers at The Honda Classic -- winner Rory Sabbatini and Tommy Gainey, who claimed solo fifth -- were playing for the eighth consecutive week on the PGA TOUR.
They weren't alone. Among players who have earned FedExCup points, seven have played in every full-field event this season. Joining Sabbatini and Gainey are Spencer Levin, William McGirt, Jarrod Lyle, Chad Collins and Josh Teater.
Call them the Ironmen of 2011.
An eighth player, Matt Bettencourt, also has made eight starts. But unlike the other seven, he qualified for the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions in early January. Bettencourt took the week off two weeks ago before returning to play the Honda Classic.
Sabbatini said Sunday night after his one-stroke win at PGA National that he will actually be playing 10 consecutive weeks. He plans to play at this week's World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship and then the following week at the Transitions Championship.
"I think we might have to do a little conversing as to whether or not we are going to continue on to Bay Hill," he said. "My wife made me promise her that when I won, I'd take some time off."
Players usually don't play that many consecutive weeks for fear of getting worn out -- both physically and emotionally. But Sabbatini said he felt like his game was headed in the right direction and he wanted to continue building on the momentum rather than take a week off to rest.
"I felt like something good was going to happen," he said. "I guess if you flip a coin enough times, you are eventually going to end on the right side."
Gainey has two top-10 finishes in his last five starts and seems to be much closer in claiming the first TOUR win of his career. He was originally scheduled in the field at the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com but withdrew late Monday morning.
Teater is scheduled to compete in Puerto Rico this week, leaving he and Sabbatini as the last Ironmen standing.
PLAYING EIGHT CONSECUTIVE WEEKS
These players have played every week on TOUR starting with the Sony Open in Hawaii, the first full-field event of 2011:
|Player||FedExCup rank||FedExCup points||Best finish in 2011|
|Rory Sabbatini||3||724||Winner, The Honda Classic|
|Spencer Levin||15||487||Playoff runner-up, Mayakoba Golf Classic|
|Tommy Gainey||34||268||Fifth, The Honda Classic|
|William McGirt||72||136||Tied for 19th, Mayakoba Golf Classic|
|Jarrod Lyle||75||132||Tied for fifth, Mayakoba Golf Classic|
|Chad Collins||142||50||Tied for 42nd, Mayakoba Golf Classic|
|Josh Teater||207||10||Tied for 63rd, Farmers Insurance Open|
Rory Sabbatini became the sixth international winner of The Honda Classic since 2005 -- Padraig Harrington (2005), Luke Donald (2006), Ernie Els (2008), Y.E. Yang (2009) and Camilo Villegas (2010) were the others.
He also jumped to third on the FedExCup points list with his win. The top 10 players on the points list as of March 7, if not otherwise eligible, will gain entry into next week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. As such, Sabbatini earns a berth in the event.
One of the key’s to Sabbatini’s victory was his ability to scramble. He missed 25 greens in regulation but converted on 21 of those to lead all players at 84 percent. Sabbatini also tied for second in putts per round with 27.0 and was a perfect 6-for-6 in sand saves.
Sabbatini’s victory also came in his first appearance in this tournament since 2004 when he finished in a tie for ninth when the event was staged at The Country Club at Mirasol.
There were some nervous moments for Rory Sabbatini on Sunday -- like when his five-shot lead was cut to one -- but in the end he hung on for his sixth career victory on the PGA TOUR, shooting a final-round 70 to win by one.
After making a bogey on the par-4 14th hole, Sabbatini bounced back with a birdie two holes later to extend the lead back to two following a birdie by Y.E. Yang on No. 15.
Sabbatini never let up after that, making par on the difficult par-3 17th and then par on the par-5 finishing hole. Yang added some pressure by making a birdie in front of Sabbatini on the 18th, but Sabbatini safely two-putted from just inside 12 feet.
Jerry Kelly, meanwhile, shot 67 to finish third.
Rory Sabbatini can breathe at least a little sigh of relief. After seeing his lead drop to just one following a bogey at No. 15, Sabbatini bounced back with a birdie on the par-4 16th, where he rolled in 16-footer to get back to 9 under. He now leads by two with two to play.
Y.E. Yang, who had moved to within one, is now two back after two-putting from just over 37 feet. Jerry Kelly dropped to four back after making a par of his own from a nearly identical distance.
Rory Sabbatini’s lead is now down to just one after Y.E. Yang birdied the 15th hole to get to 7 under.
Yang hit what may end up being the shot of the tournament on the par-3 hole that opens the Bear Trap with his tee shot landing just over a foot from the hole to set up an easy birdie.
Sabbatini, meanwhile, made par on the hole, as did Jerry Kelly, who is still barely in contention just three shots back.
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- After making just four bogeys in his first 62 holes this week, Rory Sabbatini has two bogeys in his last six holes to see his once-commanding lead of five dwindle to two shots entering the difficult Bear Trap.
Sabbatini just bogeyed the 14 th hole to drop to 8 under when he missed the green and failed to get up-and-down. Y.E. Yang, who won The Honda Classic two years ago, made a 9-foot par save at No. 14 to move within two. Jerry Kelly also bogeyed the 14 th hole to remain three shots back.
To follow them live with Shot Tracker, click here . -- Craig Dolch
If anyone is going to catch Rory Sabbatini, they better do it soon. Sabbatini still has a five-shot lead and is through seven holes with one birdie and no bogeys.
Meanwhile, Gary Woodland has moved into a tie for second with Y.E. Yang. They’re 2 and 1 under on their rounds, respectively, but it’s obviously going to take a lot more than that to catch Sabbatini. Of course, that’s easier said than done. The lowest number on the board right now is 4 under by Graeme McDowell, who is through 13 holes.
For the first time this week, someone is double digits under par with Rory Sabbatini moving to 10 under after a birdie on the par-5 third hole. Sabbatini reached the green on the 538-yard hole in two then two-putted from just inside 40 feet for the birdie.
Indeed scoring has been better here in the final round -- for example, only one player (Kyle Stanley) in the top 10 is over par in the final round, while two others are even par. Everyone else is 1 or 2 under at the moment.