Rory Sabbatini was on an incredible run even before winning the Crowne Plaza Invitational last year.
Three consecutive top-three finishes, including the runner-up spot at the Masters, came in the stretch before Sabbatini won a three-man playoff at Colonial.
Sabbatini hasn’t won since.
And this season, in the same three tournaments where he did so well in the lead-up to last year’s Colonial, he missed two cuts and finished 67th in the other this time.
Yet, Sabbatini insists that he’s playing better going into this year’s Colonial than he was then.
“Last year, even though my scores showed one thing, I wasn’t very happy with the state of my game,” Sabbatini said on Wednesday.
“It’s been a frustrating year for me. I feel like I’m hitting the ball better than I ever have in my career. I’m not scoring as well as I’d like,” he said.
The numbers seem to back up both of his contentions.
Sabbatini returns to Colonial as the 14th-ranked player in the world, two spots higher than at the same point a year ago. But his scoring average of 71 is more than a stroke higher than last season, and he has finished under par only four times his last 20 rounds.
While Sabbatini tries to defend his title, which started yesterday, 2000 champion Phil Mickelson is back at Colonial for the first time in three years.
Mickelson is also coming back from a week off spent partly on a golf course, acting not playing. He played himself in a scene shot for an episode of HBO’s Entourage scheduled to air later this year.
The world’s No. 2 golfer got plenty of air time leading up to Colonial. He was featured in the tournament’s promotional television spots for sponsor Crowne Plaza, meeting with actual people he’d hit with golf balls and Mickelson look-a-likes.
“They were fun to do,” Mickelson said.