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Interview: Rory Sabbatini

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Q. Regardless of what happens today, how special of a round was that for you including that terrific putt?

RONALD TOWNSEND: I guess we've started. This is Rory Sabbatini, a 3-under par 69. We've just had the first question. Go ahead, sir.

RORY SABBATINI: Obviously it's a very special moment. My history in majors has been far from anything spectacular. One of my goals the past year has been to improve on my performance in the majors.

So obviously this is a great start to the year and hopefully something to build on. Obviously being here at the Masters and, you know, in the renowned company that we're in, to be able to play the way that I did, it's just an amazing feeling.

Q. I know you're going to be asked this ad nauseam, but can you take us through 8, tee-to-green to the putt you need?

RORY SABBATINI: 8, for the first time this week I managed to hit my drive anywhere but towards the bunker. I hit a pretty good drive and got up there far enough. I think I had about like 250, 255 yards left to the hole. I took a 2-iron and actually didn't feel like I hit it all that solid, but, you know, I hit it on the line I wanted to. I was surprised when I got up there, it got all the way to the back center of the green. I was relieved and disappointed at the same time.

I've practiced that putt obviously a lot on Monday on the back of the green towards the front to get a sense of how it fed down toward the green so I had a good idea of where I needed to put it to in order to control the speed on the green.

Q. It looks like Zach might shoot something like 68 to win the Masters. Given the conditions, can you talk about what a tremendous round that is?

RORY SABBATINI: That's a phenomenal round. Under the circumstances, you know, that's just great golfing.

It just goes to prove, everyone says, you know, that the first time you're in contention in a major, whatever, nerves come into it.

I think as long as you focus on what you're doing and you don't think ahead, you're going to be fine. Zach's just proof of that. He's a very level-headed golfer. He's very consistent. He's also tenacious, and that's what you need to win.

Q. Were you aware that you took the lead after the birdie at 13, and can you talk about how -- what happened on 14, you said a minute ago, you talked about losing concentration.

RORY SABBATINI: Actually, no, I had no idea that I had the lead at that point.

It was just, you know, it was one of those things I got up on 14 tee. I actually felt like I made a good swing. Obviously we were playing the wind down off the left. I knew that if the ball went too far right it could actually work its way under the trees on the right over there. I was trying to keep the ball hugging down the left side there and felt like I made a good swing, made good contact with the ball and I just, you know, even when I looked up, I still thought it was going to there and the ball just continued to turn over too hard and clipped the tree and obviously went left off the tree.

From there it was pretty much just trying to recover and didn't quite get it done.

Q. Talk about your start. I mean, you had a great start. I think you had two back-to-back birdies on 2 and 3 and obviously the eagle on 8. Why were you able to get off to such a good start, Rory?

RORY SABBATINI: I can't give you the reason why. I went out there with, you know, the goal as par as a number, but I know that I needed to shoot 60-something to give myself a good chance of winning.

You know, I just -- you know, tried to just make some solid swings to start off with. Put myself in the right positions and it just kind of worked out that way. I played the par 5s pretty awfully this week up until today. I was 1-over on the par 5s until today. My goal was to try and turn that around and take advantage of them.

Q. Can you just talk us through the two birdies on 2 and 3?

RORY SABBATINI: On 2, I hit driver off the tee, just ran down there in the very edge of the rough on the left side and had probably about 240-something hole. I can't give you ideas of what it was to the hole because we were looking at front edges of the green all day.

I hit 2-iron in the left bunker and hit a good bunker shot, came up about 20 feet short and managed to hit a good putt.

On 3, I hit 4-iron off the tee and hit 9-iron that spun back off the green just in the fringe and, you know, luckily left myself an up-the-hill, right-to-left putt.

Q. Regardless of what happens, does this go down as the most memorable day of your career so far?

RORY SABBATINI: Over my career, I would say it is a very, very high contender with my first victory.

No, this is very special in itself. As I said, it's something I'm going to enjoy and appreciate and try to build on for the rest of the year.

Q. The first two rounds with the conditions were more about survival; did today really feel like the Masters should?

RORY SABBATINI: You know, I can't tell you if yesterday didn't feel like what the Masters should. You know, yesterday felt like a major. It felt like, you know, here's the situation, the course is tough, the conditions are tough, grind it out.

Any time you go into a major, par is a good score and that's the way you've got to look at it. Yesterday the conditions were a little easier, and the golf course has maintained itself and the conditions spectacularly considering the conditions through the week. The superintendent and the staff has done a wonderful job in just keeping it playable. You know, they obviously were pretty forgiving with us in the last two days with some of the pins out there, and you know, I was pretty happy not to see a pin on the back side of 17, but it was just, all things considered, it was a great golf course and great tournament.

Q. Tell us more about Zach's qualities as a person and golfer, if you can.

RORY SABBATINI: Oh, Zach's a great person. Obviously we run into him a lot because he also has an RV and so we always seem to be parking near each other.

He's just -- you know, he's got a great sense of humor. He's just a very down-to-earth person. He doesn't get ahead of himself. He's a quality person. That's the only way you can put it.

Q. Just to follow up on that, today with different scoring conditions, is it more fun for you as a player when you can attack a little bit more and not be grinding quite as hard?

RORY SABBATINI: You know, I don't think the conditions were any more that you had the ability to attack out there. I think they seemed like they softened the greens up just a touch today to have a little bit of forgiveness in it. It made it a little easier to control the placement of the ball so you were actually able to almost put the ball where you needed to, where you needed to have an opportunity to putt from.

Q. Was it fun today?

RORY SABBATINI: Oh, it definitely was.

Q. Looking at the scores, it looks like you and Retief are tied for second at this point in time, and last year Tim Clark, a fellow South African, finished second; can you talk about your fellow countrymen and how well you guys play?

RORY SABBATINI: I think you forget about Ernie, too. I think he's had a couple of seconds here.

Obviously Gary's not the only one who can get it done. But no, you know, it's just -- I don't know what it is. But there is a great junior program down in South Africa and there just always seems to be those waves of golfers that come through. Tim and I came through and now you seem to get Charl Schwartzel and Trevor Immelman and some of the younger South Africans coming through. It's just a great tradition of golfers there and, you know, hopefully something that we can continue to develop over the years.

Q. You said that your goal is to improve on your major performances. Did you do anything special for that? Did you look at major tournaments you've played in? How do you approach that?

RORY SABBATINI: I didn't do any of the above. I just basically decided that I needed to play smarter, especially in the circumstances being more focused on where I placed the ball, knowing when I can attack and when I need to be a little more cautious, and accept the fact that par is a good score and not trying to birdie every hole. That's always been my downfall is being too aggressive, and just being able to hit the ball away from the flags.

RONALD TOWNSEND: Thank you, and congratulations on a good round today.

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