Two Weeks in South Florida

Two weeks, two different results. Two weeks, two different champions of two different pedigrees. Welcome to what was the PGA Tour’s annual two-week stay in South Florida this past spring.

First there was Rory Sabatini’s triumph at the Honda Classic, his first PGA Tour victory in several years. Sabatini held off past champion Y.E. Yang by one stroke at PGA National, reversing a recent trend of young gun dominance on tour.

One week later, however, that trend re-emerged at the Blue Monster at Doral. Nick Watney bested one of the top fields of the early golf season to win the Cadillac Championship, the second World Golf Championship event of the year.

Watney outlasted fellow Butch Harmon pupil Dustin Johnson to win the tournament, which included the top players in the world among the field including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and world No. 1 Martin Kaymer. Watney joined other emerging players making a name for themselves including Mark Wilson, Jhonattan Vegas, Luke Donald and Bubba Watson – all winners on tour this year.

The victory was the third in Watney’s career, but given the field he bested and the status of the event, it was by far his most significant. “I really wanted to take care of business and grasp this opportunity,” Watney said following his triumph. “I actually love that feeling; you don’t get it too often. That’s why you play.”

Considering the way Watney has been playing, he is certainly showing he is among the best young players in the game. Watney, a former Fresno State standout, has more victories that Watson and Johnson, a pair of golfers widely considered among the fastest rising players on Tour. In addition to earning him a $1.4 million payday, the victory edged the young star closer to the top 10 in the world ranking.

“All I can do is to keep improving, hopefully keep winning tournaments,” Watney said. “The world rankings are what they are. But that’s
not why I play.”

While Watney spent his week at Doral improving his form, Sabbatini enjoyed a return to form during the Honda Classic. His triumph at PGA National (9-under 271), was the sixth of his strong career but the first since a victory at the 2009 Byron Nelson Invitational. The Fort Worth, TX resident held off Yang’s strong final round charge to claim victory and, perhaps, signal a return to the game that made Sabbatini one of the game’s best players just a few years ago.

The victory also showed a more mature, calm side to Sabbatini, who was known for his outbursts and surly behavior on the golf course in the past. That calm nature was tested during the final round at the difficult PGA National course, but Sabbatini looked like a player used to winning and playing under stressful circumstances.

“I’m a passionate golfer,” Sabbatini said. “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.”

A fast rising young golf star and the return of one that used to be among the best in the game. Those were the two storylines of the PGA Tour’s two weeks in South Florida. As they usually are, they were two of the best weeks on the PGA Tour and certainly 14 days that prove both the present and the future of professional golf are in good hands.


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