KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Whether he’s running away from the field or chasing from behind, Geoff Ogilvy has found the secret to winning the season-opening SBS Championship at Kapalua.
A year after winning by six shots, Ogilvy rallied from a two-shot deficit with 10 holes to play with smart decisions and flawless golf for a 6-under 67 and a one-shot victory over Rory Sabbatini on Sunday.
Ogilvy posted his eighth consecutive round in the 60s on the Plantation Course. He joined fellow Australian Stuart Appleby as the only repeat winners since this tournament moved to Kapalua in 1999, and he became only the seventh player in the 58 years of this winners-only tournament to win in consecutive years.
“We knew what we had to do,” Ogilvy said. “I’d never been in that situation. I’m happy and excited to get it done. I needed to make birdies and I did.”
Even though he trailed in the middle of his round, Ogilvy still had plenty of holes in front of him.
He played short of the par-4 14th, a 272-yard hole where most players were hitting driver, and pitched to 4 feet for birdie. And he took the outright lead with a 5-wood into 25 feet for a two-putt birdie on the 15th.
Sabbatini, who started the final round six shots behind, ran off five straight birdies on the back nine to seize the lead and closed with a 63. He couldn’t reach the green on the 663-yard 18th in two, however, and missed a 10-foot birdie putt that ultimately cost him.
“I said to my caddie, ‘We need to birdie the last two holes to have a chance,”‘ Sabbatini said. “The situation was you had to keep moving forward to put pressure on him. I had my opportunity, and unfortunately, it didn’t pan out.”
Ogilvy took two strong lines on the 17th for a par, then laid up on the 18th to take trouble of play on the left and closed with a par. He finished at 22-under 270 and moved back into the top 10 in the world with his seventh career PGA Tour victory.
It was his first win since the Match Play Championship last February. The trick now is for Ogilvy to keep this form throughout the year, and he hopes he can learn from mistakes a year ago when he tried too hard and practiced more than usual.
He is taking next week off before playing in Abu Dhabi, then returns home to Arizona where his wife is expecting their third child.
U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover’s bid to become the second straight wire-to-wire winner at Kapalua ended early when he hit into the hazard on consecutive holes and lost three shots. He closed with a 76 and was 14th in the 28-man field.
Matt Kuchar lingered without seriously threatening, missing several chances on the middle of the back nine as Ogilvy pulled farther ahead. He closed with a 67 and finished alone in third.
Sean O’Hair made all the right moves to give himself a chance. He was at 20 under, two shots out of the lead with a chance to reach the par-5 18th in two. He was quick with his swing and pulled it into the weeds, leading to double bogey and a 68 to finish fourth.
The Kona wind returned again, which makes Kapalua a tough start and finish, with birdies available in between and trouble on any hole with a poor shot. Sabbatini breezed through with a 32 on the front to get in the mix,
“I was just battling the putter the first three days,” Sabbatini said. “I came out today not knowing what to expect, and the flat stick showed up early.”
Even so, he got some help from the leaders. Ogilvy was in the lead until he pushed his tee shot badly to the right and into the knee-high native grass for a one-shot penalty. Glover followed him into the hazard, and both made bogey.
From the middle of the next fairway, Glover came out of his shot and shoved it into the high grass again, leading to double bogey. While he bounced back with two birdies, a three-putt on the 10th ended his chances.
Sabbatini, a bundle of South African energy who always looks to be in a hurry, wasted no time seizing the lead.
He attacked a dangerous pin on the par-3 11th with an 8-iron for the first of five consecutive birdies, finishing the streak by driving to the back of the green on the 282-yard 14th and hitting his approach to the par-5 15th to 15 feet for another easy birdie.
Both those holes played with the wind at his back. The challenge was the 552-yard 17th, a par 4 that with a sharp drop in elevation and a panoramic view of the Pacific below. Sabbatini hit 5-iron to just outside 12 feet for one of only two birdies in the final round. That was supposed to be the hard part of his hopes for a birdie-birdie finish. But he slightly missed his tee shot on the 18th, didn’t get the roll he needed to get down the slope and had to lay up short of the green.
His 10-foot birdie putt caught the right lip, and it ultimately cost him.
In his only other chance to win at Kapalua, he missed a 3 1/2-foot birdie putt on the 18th in 2002 that would have forced a playoff.
“I swear I’ll make a putt one of these years on 18,” he said.
DIVOTS: For only the second time at Kapalua, everyone in the winners-only field broke par. Mark Wilson and Heath Slocum tied for last at 2-under 290. The other time was in 2003, when Rich Beem finished last at 290. … All but eight players are going over to Honolulu for the Sony Open next week at Waialae. … Paul Casey, battling a rib injury since July, had his first top-10 finish since Colonial.