Sabbatini came through with clutch putts to win

May, 25, 2009
05/25/09
9:38
AM ET

Riding a hot putter all week, Rory Sabbatini sizzled in his fifth PGA Tour victory, firing a final-round 64 and setting the tournament scoring record at 261 (minus-19). The South Africa native became the 14th player to win both the HP Byron Nelson Championship and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

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Sabbatini's putting was exceptional this week. He averaged only 25.75 putts per round, compared to the field's 28.93 average. Sabbatini picked up more than three shots on the field each day with his flatstick alone. This stat was padded by his two hole-outs during the week.

What his putts per round won't tell you is how timely Sabbatini's putting was. When he gave himself a birdie opportunity, Rory knocked down 25 of 49 birdie putts. Rory's 51 percent was 21 percent better than the field average.

The high point for Sabbatini this week had to be birdies at Nos. 15, 16 and 17 down the stretch Sunday. Sabbatini had five birdies on the back nine Sunday en route to his second 64 of the tournament. This is the second lowest final-round score by a winner in tournament history; Peter Thomson posted a 63 to become the championship's first international winner in 1956.

Overall, Sabbatini did not have a spectacular ball-striking week. He was the only player in the top 10 not to hit 70 percent or more of his greens. He hit 68.1 percent of his greens, which tied for 38th. The other players in the top 10 averaged 77.3 percent for an average rank of seventh. However, these numbers don't do justice to the darts Sabbatini was throwing at the pins down the stretch.

Furious Finish

Hole Distance Proximity to hole Result
13 164 yards 6' 10" Birdie
15 186 yards 6' 4" Birdie
17 176 yards 8' 2" Birdie

Sabbatini wasn't the best ball striker in the field, but he was tops on the back nine Sunday.

Love for the new digs
D.A. Weibring received the highest of accolades for this recent work on the TPC Four Seasons course. The new layout features large, undulating greens and tree-lined fairways with creeks and ponds that come into play. The fairways were also changed to Bermuda grass, quickening the track. Looking at these numbers, it is no wonder the players fell in love with the design.

Deeper Shade Of Red

2009 2008
Winner, score Rory Sabbatini, 19 under Adam Scott, 7 under
Birdies 26 18
Field scoring 69.7 72.0
Driving distance 297.2 285.7
GIR % 65.1 53.7

The scoring average for the field dropped a huge 2.3 strokes between 2008 and 2009. The TPC Four Seasons course now has given up more birdies than any other venue on tour this year (1,670). This is quite the change from last year, when it was the seventh most difficult in scoring out of 54 courses and yielded only 1,121 birdies.

The other big change from 2008 to 2009 was the 11.4 percent average increase in GIR. The 2009 field hit 888 more greens this year, and for the tournament, took 1,354 fewer strokes. The new fairways also helped add 11.5 yards off the tee this year.

Notables
• Brian Davis now has three consecutive top-5 finishes. He has posted eight consecutive rounds in the 60s and has the longest active streak of 20 consecutive rounds of par or better on the PGA Tour. During that stretch he has finished T-19 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, T-38 at the Quail Hollow Championship, T-5 at both the Players Championship and the Valero Texas Open, and second at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

How has Davis managed to emerge this season?

Progressively Better

2009 GIR % Birdie conversion % Avg. length of putts made
YTD Through Quail Hollow 61.5 30.8 70' 4"
The Players 72.2 37.3 78' 0"
Valero Texas Open 75.0 40.7 86' 10"
HP Byron Nelson 77.8 39.3 87' 11"

These numbers show consistency and a game gaining confidence. Davis' iron play has been stellar and continues to improve. He is also cashing in on his birdie opportunities and making some longer putts.

• John Mallinger earned his best finish at the HP Byron Nelson Championship with a sixth-place showing in his third start there. Mallinger now has three top-10s in his last six starts, including his sixth career third-place finish at the Players. Mallinger has not yet finished higher than third in his career.

• Charley Hoffman (T-23) extended his streak of made cuts to 22. He is 13-of-13 in 2009 with nine top-25 finishes. His made-cut streak is second longest on tour behind Tiger Woods' 35.

• Despite a double-bogey at the final hole, where he 3-putted from 5 feet, New Zealand's Danny Lee (69-67-69-66 -- 271) posted his best finish (T-13) on the PGA Tour. Lee's previous best finish was T-20 at the 2008 Wyndham Championship, as an amateur, where he also shot four rounds in the 60s. He won an event earlier this year on the European Tour.

• The 1987 HP Byron Nelson Championship winner and 2009 Presidents Cup U.S. team captain Fred Couples (69-66-67-67 -- 269) earned his third top-10 finish (T-8) this season. Couples will turn 50 and become eligible for the Champions Tour in early October but continues to show he still belongs with the younger set. Now No. 61 (up from 76) on the FedEx Cup points list, Couples posted season-best T-3 efforts at the Northern Trust Open and the Shell Houston Open.

European Tour
Paul Casey now leads in 2009 wins, picking up this third of the year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Casey is now the top-ranked international player, climbing all the way to third in the World Golf Rankings. He started the year at 41st, but has surged with a January victory in Abu Dhabi, a second-place finish at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, a victory at the Shell Houston Open, and top 25s at both the Masters and the Players.

Champions Tour
Michael Allen, playing in his first event with the 50-and-over set, captured a 2-stroke victory over Larry Mize at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship. Allen's triumph ends a winless streak of 267 starts and is his first victory since a 1998 Nationwide Tour title at the Greater Austin Open. He has been winless in 334 career starts on the PGA Tour, where he still has exempt status for the rest of the 2009 season.

Allen became only the fourth player to win a major championship in his Champions Tour debut, joining Roberto De Vicenzo (1980 U.S. Senior Open), Arnold Palmer (1980 Senior PGA Championship) and Jack Nicklaus (1990 Tradition).

Send comments, suggestions and corrections to Nathan.J.Easler@espn.com. Information from the PGA Tour was used in this report.

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