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Published: Friday, 6/3/2005

Sabbatini can't hide his true colors

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DUBLIN, Ohio - Soldiers wear camouflage to blend in with their surroundings. Rory Sabbatini wears camouflage pants on the golf course and stands out, especially when he shoots a 66 as he did in yesterday's first round of the Memorial at Muirfield Village.

His fashion statement is all for a good cause.

Sabbatini supports a charity called the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. He wears the pants on Thursdays and pledges $250 for every birdie and $1,000 for every eagle he scores in tournament play.

"It was started up to raise funds for families of men and women that were killed in action over in Iraq or Afghanistan," he said. "Basically, the compensation [from] the government is pretty pitiful when it comes to helping support families that have had men and women fall in action.

"The fund provides living arrangements for families, education funding, and the like. I do this to help them get some more recognition."

Sabbatini, a native of South Africa who now lives in the United States, first wore camouflage pants earlier this year at the Phoenix Open, but the PGA Tour questioned whether his original choice was acceptable golfing attire.

He and the tour worked together to find satisfactory colors and patterns, and Sabbatini has been wearing them once a week since the Players Championship.

The material in the pants he wore yesterday "actually came from the military. This is the new Marine jungle print camouflage that they wear. It's the same material, heavy cotton, which is not exactly the most comfortable material."

It didn't seem to bother him, though, as Sabbatini positioned himself one shot off the lead entering today's second round of the Memorial.

SKY MILES: Defending champion Ernie Els used driver on the par-4 sixth hole and hit his tee shot 351 yards.

"I don't know where that came from," he said. "That was miles. I had 105 to the flag."

His playing partner, tournament host Jack Nicklaus, joked with Els that he'd hit from the same spot many times, "but that it's my third shot."

Els told Nicklaus that, "30 years ago, you were even longer than that."

Els shot a 1-over 73 and said: "I hit it OK. I'm just making silly mistakes and I left a lot of shots out there today."

CUT SHOT: Nicklaus had three birdies and was even par after 11 holes, but "limped in" and finished with a 75.

Nicklaus' tee shot on No. 9 hit a spectator standing up against the ropes in the right rough.

"I hit him right here and put a pretty nasty cut below his mouth," Nicklaus said. "He seemed all right. I know he had some stitches put in and he's not going to be real happy later. He's a big guy too."

NO BARK: Rookie Sean O'Hair managed a 3-under 69 despite a double bogey on the 11th hole when his tee shot caromed off the cart path and went out of bounds.

"The ball had to go by about 50 trees to go out of bounds," O'Hair said. "It didn't touch one of them. So that was a little bit of bad luck. But I made a couple of putts I probably shouldn't have made, so it all equals out."

One of those putts was a 40-footer for birdie at No. 7. He also chipped in from 30-plus feet for a birdie at the 18th.

DEVILISH: Early starter Jonathan Kaye nailed a 27-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to cap a round of 5-under 67, then asked for a little help from above, or below, by saying loudly, "Come on, wind."

"It's the devil in me," Kaye explained.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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