Sabbatini, Gay finally find the right formula at Zurich
April 26, 2019
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- Brian Gay and Rory Sabbatini shot a 60 in the first round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, tying the lowest score since the event began using the team format. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
AVONDALE, La. – Rory Sabbatini thinks he may have found the secret to picking the right partner for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
“Quit trying to find the long hitter,” he joked.
A year ago, Sabbatini played with John Daly, the current PGA TOUR Champions player who during his heyday in the 1990s was the PGA TOUR’s longest hitter.
They missed the cut.
This year, he’s playing with Brian Gay, who, well, is not exactly known for his length off the tee. Gay entered this week ranked 208th in driving distance. That’s out of 209 players.
Gay-Sabbatini completed their first round Friday morning at TPC Louisiana, finishing with two birdies for a 12-under 60 that gave them the clubhouse lead. That 60 ties for the lowest tournament score since the Zurich Classic began using the team format in 2017.
It also should secure the first made cut at TPC Louisiana for both Gay and Sabbatini in that span.
Gay did not play in 2017, while Sabbatini partnered Bryson DeChambeau. They missed the cut that week; for DeChambeau, it was the third of eight consecutive missed cuts before he broke through that summer by winning the John Deere Classic for his first TOUR victory.
In 2018, Gay missed the Zurich cut partnering with Aaron Wise. Just like Sabbatini with DeChambeau the previous year, it just seemed like a case of mismatched timing. The next week, Wise tied for second at the RBC Heritage, then won the AT&T Byron Nelson two weeks after that.
But that’s all in the past. Gay thinks he’s finally figured out how to pick the right partner.
“It helps if you know the guy pretty well,” Gay said. “It's better if your games match up and if you're comfortable with your partner and you know each other. I think that works better.”
Both players have plenty of experience at the Zurich Classic, combining for 26 starts in this event. Ten years ago, Sabbatini was runner-up to Jerry Kelly at TPC Louisiana, but Gay’s best results came when the tournament was held at English Turn. He finished T-5 in 2001.
But it was Gay who played the steadiest of the two in the first round – although his missed birdie putt from 6-1/2 feet at the 16th hole Friday morning ultimately cost them the tournament record-low of 59.
“We would have beat it if Brian hadn't actually let us down with his putting,” cracked Sabbatini.
In truth, it’s Gay’s normally solid putting that gives the team confidence this week – especially going into the second round, which will use the Foursomes format. Sabbatini-Gay will likely start their round late Friday afternoon, meaning they’ll have to finish up Saturday morning.
“We actually match up very well because we've got very similar games in regards to how far we hit the ball, so we know what kind of lines we're looking at,” Sabbatini said. “But I actually felt very comfortable playing with him.
“Obviously it's great having him out there because you know he's always going to putt well, so that takes a lot of pressure off it from the get-go.”
Unlike some tandems who may spend all week together on and off the course, Gay and Sabbatini will be going their separate ways most nights. That’s because Gay has his family in town this week, while Sabbatini is flying solo with his family remaining at home.
In other words …
“I eat at the bar,” Sabbatini said. “He eats at a table.”