PGA Tour Confidential: The Honda Classic

Rory Sabbatini, final round, 2011 Honda Classic
Fred Vuich/SI
Rory Sabbatini took a five-shot lead into Sunday's final round at the Honda Classic and won by one.

Every week of the 2011 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

SABBATINI PREVAILS AT HONDA CLASSIC
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Good evening, and welcome to Top 100 teacher Mitchell Spearman. Glad to have you along for the insanity, sir.

Rory Sabbatini needed all of his five-shot cushion, but he got it done for his sixth Tour win at the Honda, getting himself into this week's WGC-Cadillac in the process. PGA National is clearly a major-worthy course, inducing three doubles in a row from the other Rory, McIlroy, and a horrific quintuple-bogey 8 from Adam Scott (77-82). Sabo has teased us at Augusta before. Should we look for him to win a major soon? And does all the carnage make for great viewing or would you rather see some more birdies?

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Rory winning a major wouldn't be a shock. He's a definite feel player, though, and reminds me of Colin Montgomerie. I think it's more difficult for feel players to survive the final-nine pressure of a major. The adrenaline and excitement make it hard to keep the same feel. But Sabbatini could do like he did at the Honda — get to the back nine with a five-shot lead and just hang on.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: I could also see Sabo winning a major. He's been pretty consistent so far this year and seems to have calmed down a bit. He obviously has the talent.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Rory has been on Tour for what seems like forever. He's his own worst enemy a lot of times, but he has the game to be a consistent top 30 player. To me, the Honda is a top five tournament on tour. I put it ahead of Bay Hill, Memorial and Wachovia.

Van Sickle: Sorry, don't see the Honda in the top five of tour events, certainly not ahead of Bay Hill and its pre-Masters buzz or the Memorial and Jack and the pre-U.S. Open buzz. Not even close.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: This was the least emotional I've ever seen Sabbatini. He was all business, really. This kind of play can get you into a U.S.-Open-on-Sunday-afternoon situation, for sure. What happens from there no one can say.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Yang praised Sabbatini for being so emotionally stable today. When Sabo was asked if there was a "new Rory" out there who can control his emotions better, he said that he's just a passionate golfer, but he's not proud of everything he's done. He said he's trying to learn because he wants to be a role model for his children. To answer the major question, if this new Rory is here to stay, then a major win sometime soon wouldn't be a big surprise.

Morfit: He was of course very emotional after he'd won, shedding tears with his wife, Amy. He seemed a bit less harsh, which was nice to see. I suppose it can be humbling to have the kind of year he had, with Amy's pregnancy complications sending her to the hospital for two days, and with the cancer scare Rory had.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Sabbatini rubs some people the wrong way, but I'm happy to see him back on his game. I find his devil-may-care attitude refreshing, and I enjoy his hyper-aggressive style. He put a huge charge into the Masters a few years ago with a big Sunday run. I'd like to see him do it again.

Click here to submit a question for Alan's next mailbag.

Top 100 Teacher Mitchell Spearman: He shows guts, hits pure iron shots and putts beautifully. Good combination for winning.

Herre: I found the Honda to be a little tedious. With the wind and those tough finishing holes, no one could make a move.

Van Sickle: Personally, I love watching the pros battle the elements, especially wind. You see just how good these guys are, and you see who's really playing well and who isn't. Sure, a birdie-fest is fun, but players against Mother Nature, like the year Padraig Harrington won the British Open at Royal Birkdale, is even better theater.

Shipnuck: I enjoy watching the pros get beat up, but only in moderation. Seems like the Florida swing has become a contest to see who can have the most boring, penal setup. If the best players in the world can't birdie a hole, there's something wrong with it.

Spearman: Only 13 guys finished under par for the week. The Florida swing courses are now tough except Doral, which is a WGC tournament. There will surely be more guys under par next week.

Herre: I think the Honda was kind of a one-off, because of the wind and the course. Mitchell's right — Doral will be more telling. I look for the durn 'furiners to have a big week.

Wei: I was disappointed the course was playing easier on Sunday, softer from overnight rain and not nearly as windy. I wanted to see if the leaders could withstand the pressure of the Bear Trap coming down the stretch.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I prefer the West Coast swing. The courses are far more interesting. I know every place can't be Pebble or Riviera or Torrey Pines, but my eyes kind of glaze over at these Florida courses. If you dropped me in the middle of PGA National or Doral, I could barely tell you which was which.

Wei: I'm with you, Damon. The courses on the West Coast swing are much more interesting. I'm not a big fan of the manufactured water hazards, etc., in Florida, but for some reason, I really enjoyed the Honda. There was a three-group pileup on 17 on Thursday while I was out there, and you could see the fear in the guys' faces before they hit the shot. It's already a tough hole even without 30-mile-per-hour gusts and stepping up to the tee after a 30-minute wait. I found it intriguing.

Hack: That's just it. The par 3s on the Bear Trap, for example. They're difficult holes, but are they great holes? Give me No. 12 at Augusta or No. 17 or 7 at Pebble. Give me the par-4 10th at Riviera. While the Bear Trap holes might scare people and ruin scorecards, they don't move my golfing soul.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Agree that there's not much to swoon over at PGA National, but at least the difficulty level of the course gives the tournament an identity, something missing at a lot of Tour stops.

Wei: No real complaining from players, which I thought was interesting. Pre-tournament, first word when guys talked about the course was "tough."

Van Sickle: Agree with Damon. I'm not a fan of PGA National or the Bear Trap run. It can make for exciting TV, though. Maybe that's enough, but it doesn't make me want to pony up a hefty greens fee to play resort golf there.

Bamberger: Florida, of course, is a vast, flat, soggy state. None of that says golf. That it's become such a golf destination is a triumph of marketing and some pretty mediocre use of bulldozers.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I thought it was more about the weather.

Bamberger: Oh yeah, and the weather.

Tell us what you think: Will Sabbatini be a threat at the majors this year? And do you prefer to watch tournaments where the field struggles, or a birdie bonanza?

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