Rory Sabbatini FedEx Cup contender Rory Sabbatini defends East Lake's greens

Despite earlier reports to the contrary, FedEx Cup contender Rory Sabbatini said he doesn't believe the conditions of the greens will be a significant factor in this week's Tour Championship in Atlanta.

On Sunday at the BMW Championship, the PGA Tour circulated a written notice to players, warning that record heat had severely damaged the greens at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and that tournament officials were forced to cancel the Wednesday pro-am. And while practice rounds were to be allowed, no player was allowed to hit a ball onto any of the greens or step foot on them until Thursday's first round.

However, after playing the back nine Tuesday, Sabbatini painted a much different picture of the condition of East Lake's greens.

"There was a little over-exaggeration to the extent of the damage to the greens," Sabbatini told reporters. "I don't think it's as bad as everyone thought it was going to be. Obviously, they were just wanting to prepare us and be cautions about the whole situation.

"Other than them just being a little slower than traditional out here, there's obviously some patches on the greens where you can see the distressing of them, but all things considered, they're still rolling well."

Fellow competitor Mark Calcavecchia agreed.

"The greens are 10 times better than what the tour told us they were going to have," Calcavecchia told reporters. "From what I heard, I think that might have been kind of a plan so nobody would be completely in a state of shock when they got here.

"The greens are going to be fine, honestly. Some of them don't look so good and there's some bare spots on them, but they putt very nice. They're closer to good than they are bad, let's put it that way."

Sabbatini said he thinks the only effect the greens will have on the tournament is that some of the traditional pin placements will have to be modified. Truth is, Sabbatini said, the greens at East Lake are probably no worse than what players encounter during the tour's early season West Coast swing.

"Traditionally some of the ones that we get to play earlier on in the year out in California get to be pretty severe and pretty testing of your patience," Sabbatini said. "The greens are just - they're a little softer and a little slower, but that's about it. I think they're going to be fine."

Sabbatini enters the Tour Championship as one of just five players eligible to win the $10 million deferred prize for taking the FedEx Cup. Tiger Woods owns a 3,133-point lead over second-place Steve Stricker in the FedEx Cup standings.

Phil Mickelson, K.J. Choi and Sabbatini are the only other players who can win the FedEx Cup as the field has been shaved to 30 players for the final playoff event.

"It's great to be in a position to have that opportunity," Sabbatini said. "I figure I'm just going to have to push Steve in the lake over by the range there and try and prevent him from playing well again.

"It's obviously going to be a tough week this week, and a lot of things have to happen for me to win the FedEx Cup. Golf is a strange game, so anything is possible."

Sabbatini could take the FedEx Cup if he wins the Tour Championship, Mickelson finishes worse than solo second, Stricker finishes worse than a two-way tie for second and Woods finishes worse than a two-way tie for 13th. The outspoken Sabbatini said he hasn't pondered all the possibilities.

"I figure I've just got to play well and everyone ahead of me has got to play badly," Sabbatini said. "That's about as simple as it gets."

September 13, 2007

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