POTOMAC (Maryland): South African Rory Sabbatini shot a three-under 68 to win the rain-delayed Capital Open on Monday but only after his nearest challenger Duffy Waldorf was penalised two strokes for a rule violation.
Sabbatini finished on 14-under 270 to earn US$810,000 for his second PGA Tour victory following his success in the 2000 Air Canada Championship.
American trio Waldorf, Joe Durant and Fred Funk shared second place on 274, four shots off the pace.
Waldorf originally carded a 67 to finish on his own in second place, two behind Sabbatini.
However, while playing the 16th he discovered he was to be penalised for a violation on the 12th.
As he prepared to hit his second shot from the 12th fairway he tamped down an irregularity in the turf and rules officials determined that the improved ground was within a reasonable area of his line.
Germanys Bernhard Langer and American J.L. Lewis shared fifth place on 275.
Swedens Niclas Fasth, trailing Sabbatini by a shot when the round began, self-destructed at the end of the front nine when he double-bogeyed the par-four eighth and triple-bogeyed the par-three ninth to slip for a tie for seventh with Davis Love and Tom Gillis.
Sabbatini, 27 was three clear of Waldorf at the start of the day but that had dwindled to two after he played the front nine at the TPC at Avenel in one-under and Waldorf in two-under.
Sabbatini could not shake Waldorf but neither could the American draw closer than two shots.
The players matched eagles on the par-five 13th, with Sabbatini chipping in, and then birdies on the 15th.
The dramatic eagle chip-in at the 13th from a bad lie in the rough appeared to be just the tonic Sabbatini needed to continue playing aggressively.
I had a two-shot lead at the time and I knew Duffy had a very makeable eagle putt, he said. I was standing there and I had a pretty tough lie. I knew at best I could make it, but at worst I needed to make the birdie to keep myself in the lead.
I hit a great chip and it worked absolutely perfect.
The drama took on a different form on the 16th, however.
Waldorf was informed that officials were reviewing the incident at the 12th before he hit his second shot from the fairway at the 16th. His approach sailed long and came to rest near a drainage grate.
He bogeyed from there while Sabbatini birdied.
I was kind of shook up, because I had just played some really good holes, Waldorf said.
I eagled 13 and birdied 15. I felt I was still in the tournament. Now Im on the 16th fairway and Im thinking, Well, if I have two shots (for the penalty) and Im four back, Im kind of out of the tournament'.
It was kind of tough to kind of get things together. I hit a bad shot there and made a bogey.
Waldorf said he was unhappy with the officials ruling.
I argued that I thought it was a subjective call ... the rule says a reasonable distance from your line of play, he said.
PGA Tour rules official Mark Russell said that he did not believe Waldorf intentionally broke the rule.
I think its a nervous reaction, he said. He backed off the shot because a cart went by, and then he stepped up and just kind of casually tapped down where his ball had landed in the fairway, is what Im thinking. Im not sure.
It was an irregularity of surface. And the committee determined that it was a reasonable distance on his line, thus improving his line, thus getting a two-stroke penalty.
It cost him US$150,000 the difference between finishing solo second and being tied with two and maybe even more as his chance of winning was clearly affected when he heard about it. Reuters