Sabbatini facing probe

Brian Keogh in California

Conflicting reports explaining Rory Sabbatini's premature and controversial withdrawal from the Target World Challenge will be met with a full postmortem by tournament host Tiger Woods that looks certain to exacerbate their already strained relationship.

"I've heard he had shin splints," said a less than pleased Woods in his post-tournament press conference. "I heard he pulled out for personal reasons. He packed his locker up at 3 o'clock yesterday, I think headed to Hawaii.

"A lot of different things going on. And I'd like to try and get to the bottom of it when I'm done here, and we'll see what happens."

After opening with a 69, Sabbatini crashed to a second round 81 alongside Padraig Harrington before finishing a third round 76 with a quadruple bogey eight to lie 28 shots behind Woods in last place on 10 over par.

The world number 11 then proceeded to clear out his locker and did not inform tournament organisers he had pulled out of the event until Sunday morning.

The organisers were still looking for Sabbatini?s courtesy car late on Sunday evening, presuming he had left it somewhere at Los Angeles airport before catching a flight to Hawaii, where he regularly spends Christmas.

The South African still pocketed $170,000 for last place on his debut in the 16-man event with veteran Fred Couples urging him to donate his prize money to the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Sabbatini was scheduled to play with Brett Wetterich in the final round and the American wasted little time as he raced around Sherwood in 2 hours and 22 minutes en route to a closing 69.

Wetterich declined to comment on an early departure that Sabbatini put down to "personal issues" though his agent, Bud Martin, said his client told him he withdrew because of shin splints.

"He's messing with the wrong guy," added Couples, while Mark Calcavecchia pulled few punches, adding: "I think I could have toughed it out one more round. I don't think the fans missed him."

Jim Furyk felt Sabbatini should have stuck around and "rubbed a few elbows" for the sake of the sponsors.

Sabbatini rubbed Woods up the wrong way earlier this year, saying he looked "as beatable as ever" despite losing to him in the Wachovia Championship in May, adding: "I've seen Tiger when he hits the ball well. I've seen him when he figures it out. It's scary. I don't want to see that anymore. I like the new Tiger."

When the were paired together again in the final round of the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational Firestone, Woods turned a one-shot deficit into a seven shot lead by the turn and won by eight strokes.

"Everyone knows how Rory is, and I just go out there and let my clubs do the talking," Woods said at the time.