Bubbas Boo-Boo Spoils Solid Round

By Associated PressJune 16, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 U.S. OpenOAKMONT, Pa. -- This was one time Bubba Watson, the longest hitter on the PGA TOUR, should have kept his distance.
 
Watson, a consistent top-10 finisher but never a winner since a 2004 Hooters Tour event, led by one stroke at the U.S. Open on Saturday when he confronted the kind of shot that can lose a championship. Or, in his case, cause a temper to be lost.
 
Watson couldn't get the ball out from the thick rough on the left edge on the 477-yard, par-4 ninth and his pitch shot traveled only a few feet in the scruffy rough.
 
The pin remained a few dozen tempting feet away, so instead of calming down and preparing himself for another difficult pitch, he rushed up to the ball and hit a pop fly that carried across the green -- leaving him more than twice as far from the flag as he was to start with. Watson needed three to get down, giving him a triple bogey 7 on a hole he figured to bogey at worse.
 
'It was the same shot, it was just five feet closer to the green,' Watson said, denying he didn't take enough time. 'I knew exactly what I had -- a tough shot -- and it wasn't that I was impatient or anything, I went from tough to tougher, I guess. ... If you've had a hard shot before, it doesn't matter if you take your time or not.'
 
The blowup caused Watson to go from one up to two down and, given the 28-year-old's relative inexperience, could have caused his round to fall apart. It didn't. He steadied and had only one bogey on the back nine of his 4-over 74, which left him three behind leader Aaron Baddeley.
 
'It showed that I can do it,' Watson said. 'I hung in there. I've got 18 holes, and if I play some of the best golf I've ever played, I could be walking home with the trophy.'
 
By merely being in contention, one of the most chromatic PGA TOUR players has written an intriguing Sunday story line.
 
Watson doesn't have a swing coach, therapist, masseuse or sports psychologist. He learned the game mostly from a father who shoots in the 80s. Bubba is left-handed and father Gerry is right-handed, so Dad used a mirror to demonstrate technique.
 
Despite never winning on the developmental Nationwide Tour, Watson is making a steady living on the PGA TOUR with finishes of second, fourth, fifth and eighth this season and is 33rd on the money list.
 
He's an acknowledged good ol' boy, too, growing up in tiny Bagdad, Fla., population 1,490, near the Alabama border. He went to the same high school as Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum, and the USGA paired Watson and Weekley for the first two rounds at Oakmont.
 
Watson also adds color to a sport where personalities aren't always appreciated. He wears his BW initials on his belt buckle and averages 316 yards off the tee -- almost eight yards longer than anyone on tour -- using a driver with a pink shaft.
 
His reaction to those who make fun of his driver? Take yours and see if you can outdrive him.
 
Watson's personality and persistence gained Tiger Woods' attention, and the two sometimes share those 7 a.m. practice rounds that Woods prefers. Watson dares Woods to try to outdrive him but also picks the brain of golf's biggest star for tips.
 
'He's been nothing but nice to me. I don't know why,' Watson said. 'Who knows why? Maybe he feels sorry for me.'
 
Woods enjoys Watson's company and appreciates his ability, saying, 'He's got so much talent and if he would just understand how to play strategically ... '
 
Woods also constantly reminds him to be patient. For one hole Saturday, he probably didn't.
 
'One bad swing, that's all it takes,' Watson said. 'I swung as good as I can hit the ball, that's how good I hit it today. But I still had that one triple that derailed me a little bit.'
 
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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."