Bubba going for two straight majors at U.S. Open

By Associated PressJune 10, 2014, 8:25 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – Bubba Watson has one thing going for him: So far, nobody else has a better chance at winning a second major this year.

''I've already got one,'' he quipped Tuesday.

The two-time Masters champion came to Pinehurst this week for the U.S. Open hoping to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to win the year's first two majors.

''Any time you have that chance, it's been a good year, because that means you've done well early,'' Watson said.

The world's third-ranked player is trying to join that short list of players to win both the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year. It's only happened six times and before Woods, nobody had done it since Jack Nicklaus in 1972.

Watson is certainly hoping this attempt goes better than the last one. Two years ago at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, he missed the cut after shooting an 8-over-par 78 in his opening round.

Through the years, the U.S. Open has provided a particularly vexing test for Watson, who has missed the cut in three of his seven Opens.

His only top-10 finish came in 2007 when he tied for fifth at Oakmont – perhaps the toughest of the courses that have staged golf's national championship.


U.S. Open: Articles, videos and photos


''A U.S. Open brings out challenges that we're not used to, challenges that we can only take once a year or we would all find new jobs if we had to do it every week,'' Watson said.

And a different set of them awaits this week at the revamped Pinehurst No. 2 course that looks nothing like it did when Payne Stewart (1999) and Michael Campbell (2005) won Opens here.

Watson it called ''a second-shot golf course'' and said it bears no resemblance to the Augusta National course he's twice conquered ''except it's 18 holes, that's about it.''

The multi-million-dollar restoration to Donald Ross' original design, removed the rough and left only two cuts of grass - fairway and green.

Birdies figure to once again be rare at the U.S. Open, where bogeys aren't necessarily bad and the winner is often the one who takes the smartest shots and makes the fewest mistakes.

He'll find out over the next few days if his daring ''Bubba golf'' style will work on a course that has only two par-5s.

Watson leads all PGA Tour players with an average driving distance of 314 yards – a distinct advantage at the various courses on the Tour – but maybe not at Pinehurst No. 2, where sandy hardpan, wiregrass and weeds make up what used to be the rough.

''It's all about the tee shots. I'm going to try to lay farther back than normal, because it's still iffy hitting in that – I don't know what they call it, rough, dirt, sand. ... But it's going to be iffy. You don't know what kind of lies you're going to get.''

Get through that and out of the fairways, and those notoriously tricky turtleback greens – which a smiling Watson repeatedly called ''unfriendly'' – await.

The ''U.S. Open is challenging you at all levels. If you want to be a man and hit driver off that tee, you can,'' he said. ''If you want to lay back and try to play smarter, you can. ... You have the ability to do it, now can you do it at that moment, is what the key is.

''So I think the U.S. Open is doing that, it's just that's what they're trying to create,'' he added. ''They're trying to create a challenge for everybody, and you can play it aggressively or you can play it smartly.''

Getty Images

Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x