Dynamic Duo Mickelson Furyk Lead at Pebble

By Associated PressFebruary 9, 2007, 5:00 pm
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson is so enthused about how well he is hitting the ball that he was looking forward to tough, windy conditions along the ocean Friday at Pebble Beach.
 
He didn't get what he wanted, and had few complaints.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson made four birdies over his final six holes to tie for first place.
Mickelson only had to cope with the cold and rain -- but not much wind -- and that helped him sail to a 5-under 67 and a share of the lead with Jim Furyk at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
 
'It was a good day. We got a pretty good draw,' Mickelson said. 'It was a little windy the last three or four holes, but I'm not going to complain. We had a great day to take advantage of scoring.'
 
He had chances to score even lower, but three straight birdies on the back nine at tame Pebble Beach, and a simple up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 18th enabled him to catch Furyk and reach 12-under 132.
 
Furyk also was pleased to see the flags drooping instead of flapping when he arrived at Poppy Hills, especially after seeing a forecast of 15 mph wind and heavy rain. The rain was brief and light, and he birdied all but one of the par 5s on his way to a 65.
 
'I think we got out of it pretty good today,' Furyk said. 'Hoping for the same tomorrow.'
 
That gave the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am a good 1-2 punch at the top from two of the highest-ranked players in the field.
 
Furyk (No. 2) and Mickelson (No. 6) had a three-shot lead over rookie John Mallinger and Kevin Sutherland, who turned in the best round of the dreary afternoon by firing off 10 birdies for a 63 at Spyglass Hill.
 
Sutherland thought briefly about the course record of 62 at Spyglass, just long enough to snap-hook his 3-wood into the trees and out of play on the par-5 seventh. He reloaded with a two-stroke penalty, reached the green in two, escaped with a bogey and didn't let one bad hole take away from his round.
 
'Spyglass is one of my favorite courses in the world,' said Sutherland, who has played it countless times dating to his amateur days in Northern California. 'I'd rather play there than Pebble Beach. But a 63 was not the score I was thinking about when I teed off.'
 
Sutherland plays his best golf on the West Coast -- his only victory was the 2001 Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa -- and was in the final group two weeks ago at Torrey Pines until he finished in a tie for 14th. The attention that week was on Tiger Woods, who isn't at Pebble again.
 
The names atop the leaderboard were still enough to get his attention, especially since Mickelson is a two-time winner at Pebble Beach.
 
'I'm very much aware I need to make a lot more birdies,' Sutherland said with a smile.
 
Davis Love III made a quiet climb into contention with a 67 at Pebble Beach, but perhaps the biggest surprise came from the group behind Mickelson -- 57-year-old Tom Watson, playing this tournament for the last time.
 
Watson asked to play with his son, Michael, and the old man showed he still has a few tricks. He birdied three of his first four holes, and showed that he wasn't out for a few laughs after slapping his thigh in disgust when he missed birdie putts inside 8 feet on the sixth and seventh holes.
 
He also made birdie on the par-3 17th, but not with a chip from behind the green, as he did in 1982 when he won the U.S. Open. The flag was on the other side of the green, and Watson only had to make a 15-foot birdie putt.
 
It led to a 68, leaving him six shots behind at 6-under 138.
 
'He's playing great,' Mickelson said. 'I saw him birdie 17, which was nice.'
 
This tournament still won't come into clear view until after Saturday, when everyone completes the three-course rotation. Mickelson heads to Spyglass Hill, where he opened with a 62 two years ago on his way to a wire-to-wire victory. Furyk takes on Pebble Beach, and he can only hope the wind stays away for one more day. Pebble is a beast when the wind blows, a pushover when it doesn't.
 
Sutherland gets Poppy Hills, but he pays so little attention to these matters that his only concern is getting on the right shuttle.
 
'Is Poppy notoriously the easiest of the three?' he asked.
 
That's usually the case, although without the wind, Pebble was the place to be on Friday. It was the only course in the rotation that played under par (71.66), and Mickelson did his best to take advantage.
 
He birdied his first two holes, picking one up on the par-5 second with one of those shots created years ago in his backyard. He had to play a flop shop over the bunker, with the green running away from him and only 10 feet between the fringe and the cup. Mickelson hit it some 5 feet to the left of the flag, and it spun sideways to about 20 inches.
 
But he missed good opportunities at the fourth, fifth and sixth holes and dropped a shot on the ninth when he missed the green. Then came his three straight birdies on the back, finishing with a slick downhill putt on the 15th that went in from the side.
 
'I probably let a few shots go in the first nine or 10 holes, and I picked up some shots on the last eight or nine holes that I probably shouldn't have,' Mickelson said. 'So it was a good day.'
 
Divots:
Not only is Tom Watson in a tie for eighth, he is tied for second in the pro-am competition with his son. Watson is heavily involved with Michael, coaching him after a duffed chip at No. 6 and picking clubs and yardages for him. 'Play it like it's 95 yards,' he intently told Michael on the seventh tee, and the son obliged by hitting it to 4 feet. 'Atta boy!' Watson shouted, showing that gap-tooth grin. On the next tee, Watson walked up to his son and told him, 'It's 230 yards to the cliffs -- hit your hybrid 2, take it just off the right of that tan house,' he said.
 
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    After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 2:39 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.


    On the horrifying car crash involving Bill Haas ...

    I spent a lot of time this week thinking about Bill Haas. He was the passenger in a car crash that killed a member of his host family. That man, 71-year-old Mark Gibello, was a successful businessman in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a new friend.

    Haas escaped without any major injuries, but he withdrew from the Genesis Open to return home to Greenville, S.C. When he’ll return to the Tour is anyone’s guess. It could be a while, as he grapples with the many emotions after surviving that horrifying crash – seriously, check out the photos – while the man next to him did not.

    The entire Haas clan is some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Wish them the best in their recovery. – Ryan Lavner


    On TIger Woods' missed cut at the Genesis Open ...

    After missing the cut at the Genesis Open by more than a few car lengths, Tiger Woods appeared to take his early exit in stride. Perhaps that in and of itself is a form of progress.

    Years ago, a second-round 76 with a tattered back-nine scorecard would have elicited a wide range of emotions. But none of them would have been particularly tempered, or optimistic, looking ahead to his next start. At age 42, though, Woods has finally ceded that a win-or-bust mentality is no longer helpful or productive.

    The road back from his latest surgery will be a winding one, mixed with both ups and downs. His return at Torrey Pines qualified as the former, while his trunk slam at Riviera certainly served as the latter. There will surely be more of both in the coming weeks and months, and Woods’ ability to stomach the rough patches could prove pivotal for his long-term prognosis. - Will Gray


    On the debate over increased driving distance on the PGA Tour ...

    The drumbeat is only going to get louder as the game’s best get longer. On Sunday, Bubba Watson pounded his way to his 10th PGA Tour title at the Genesis Open and the average driving distance continues to climb.

    Lost in the debate over driving distances and potential fixes, none of which seem to be simple, is a beacon of sanity, Riviera Country Club’s par-4 10th hole. The 10th played just over 300 yards for the week and yet yielded almost as many bogeys (86) as birdies (87) with a 4.053 stroke average.

    That ranks the 10th as the 94th toughest par 4 on Tour this season, ahead of behemoths like the 480-yard first at Waialae and 549-yard 17th at Kapalua. Maybe the game doesn’t need new rules that limit how far the golf ball goes, maybe it just needs better-designed golf holes. - Rex Hoggard


    On the depth of LPGA talent coming out of South Korea ...

    The South Korean pipeline to the LPGA shows no signs of drying up any time soon. Jin Young Ko, 22, won her LPGA debut as a tour member Sunday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and Hyejin Choi, 18, nearly won the right to claim LPGA membership there. The former world No. 1 amateur who just turned pro finished second playing on a sponsor exemption. Sung Hyun Park, who shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last year, is set to make her 2018 debut this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And Inbee Park is set to make her return to the LPGA in two weeks at the HSBC Women’s World Championship after missing most of last year due to injury. The LPGA continues to go through South Korea no matter where this tour goes. - Randall Mell

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    Nature calls: Hole-out rescues Bubba's bladder

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 2:20 am

    LOS ANGELES – Clinging to a one-stroke lead, Bubba Watson had just teed off on the 14th hole at Riviera Country Club and was searching for a bathroom.

    “I asked Cameron [Smith], ‘where's the bathroom?’ He said, ‘On the next tee there's one. Give yourself a couple more shots, then you can go to the bathroom,’” Watson recalled. “I said, ‘So now I'm just going to hole it and go to the bathroom.’”

    By the time Watson got to his shot, which had found the bunker left of the green, his caddie Ted Scott had a similar comment.


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “When he went down to hit it I said, ‘You know you haven’t holed one in a long time,’” Scott said.

    Watson’s shot landed just short of the hole, bounced once and crashed into the flagstick before dropping into the hole for an unlikely birdie and a two-stroke lead that he would not relinquish on his way to his third victory at the Genesis Open and his 10th PGA Tour title.

    “I looked at Teddy [Scott] and said, ‘You called it.’ Then Cameron [who was paired with Watson] came over and said I called it. I’d forgotten he and I had talked about it,” Watson said.

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    Bubba Golf takes long road back to winner's circle

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 1:55 am

    LOS ANGELES – Bubba’s back.

    It’s been just two years since he hoisted a trophy on the PGA Tour, but with a mind that moves as fast as Bubba Watson’s, it must have felt like an eternity.

    Since his last victory, which was also a shootout at Riviera Country Club in 2016, Watson was passed over for a captain’s pick at the 2016 Ryder Cup, endured a mystery illness, lost his confidence, his desire and the better part of 40 pounds.

    He admits that along that ride he considered retirement and wondered if his best days were behind him.

    “I was close [to retirement]. My wife was not close,” he conceded. “My wife basically told me to quit whining and play golf. She's a lot tougher than I am.”

    What else could he do? With apologies to his University of Georgia education and a growing portfolio of small businesses, Watson was made to be on the golf course, particularly a golf course like Riviera, which is the canvas that brings out Bubba’s best.

    In a game that can too often become a monotonous parade of fairways and greens, Watson is a freewheeling iconoclast who thrives on adversity. Where others only see straight lines and one-dimensional options, Bubba embraces the unconventional and the untried.

    For a player who sometimes refers to himself in the third person, it was a perfectly Bubba moment midway through his final round on Sunday at the Genesis Open. Having stumbled out of the 54-hole lead with bogeys at Nos. 3 and 6, Watson pulled his 2-iron tee shot wildly right at the seventh because, “[his playing partners] both went left.”

    From an impossible lie in thick rough with his golf ball 2 feet above his feet, Watson’s often-fragile focus zeroed in for one of the week’s most entertaining shots, which landed about 70 feet from the hole and led to a two-putt par.


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “His feel for that kind of stuff, you can’t go to the range and practice that. You can’t,” said Watson’s caddie Ted Scott. “Put a ball 2 feet above your feet and then have to hold the face open and then to swing that easy. That’s why I have the best seat in the house. That’s the essence of Bubba golf.”

    There were plenty of highlight moments on Sunday for Watson. There were crucial putts at Nos. 11 (birdie), 12 (par) and 13 (par) to break free of what was becoming an increasingly fluid leaderboard, and his chip-in birdie from a greenside bunker at the 14th hole extended his lead to two strokes.

    “It was just a bunker shot, no big deal,” smiled Watson, who closed with a 69 for a two-stroke victory over Kevin Na and Tony Finau.

    A player that can often appear handcuffed by the most straightforward of shots was at his best at Riviera, withstanding numerous challenges to win the Genesis Open for his 10th PGA Tour title.

    That he did so on a frenzied afternoon that featured four different players moving into, however briefly, at last a share of the lead, Watson never appeared rattled. But, of course, we all know that wasn’t the case.

    Watson can become famously uncomfortable on the course and isn’t exactly known for his ability to ignore distractions. But Riviera, where he’s now won three times, is akin to competitive Ritalin for Watson.

    “[Watson] feels very comfortable moving the ball, turning it a lot. That allows him to get to a lot of the tucked pins,” said Phil Mickelson, who finished tied for sixth after moving to within one stroke of the lead early in round. “A lot of guys don't feel comfortable doing that and they end up accepting a 15 to 30 footer in the center of the green. He ends up making a lot more birdies than a lot of guys.”

    It’s the soul of what Scott calls Bubba Golf, which is in simplest terms the most creative form of the game.

    Watson can’t explain exactly what Bubba Golf is, but there was a telling moment earlier this week when Aaron Baddeley offered Watson an impromptu putting lesson, which Bubba said was the worst putting lesson he’d ever gotten.

    “He goes, ‘how do you hit a fade?’ I said, ‘I aim it right and think fade.’ How do you hit a draw? I aim it left and think draw,” Watson said. “He said, ‘how do you putt?’ I said, ‘I don't know.’ He said, ‘well, aim it to the right when it breaks to the left, aim it to the left when it breaks to the right,’ exactly how you imagine your golf ball in the fairway or off the tee, however you imagine it, imagine it that way.”

    It’s certain that there’s more going on internally, but when he’s playing his best the sum total of Watson’s game can be simply explained – see ball, hit ball. Anything more complicated than that and he runs the risk of losing what makes him so unique and – when the stars align and a course like Riviera or Augusta National, where he’s won twice, asks the right questions – virtually unbeatable.

    That’s a long way from the depths of 2017, when he failed to advance past the second playoff event and dropped outside the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking. But then, Watson has covered a lot of ground in his career on his way to 10 Tour victories.

    “I never thought I could get there,” he said. “Nobody thought that Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Fla., would ever get to 10 wins, let's be honest. Without lessons, head case, hooking the ball, slicing the ball, can't putt, you know? Somehow we're here making fun of it.”

    Somehow, through all the adversity and distractions, he found a way to be Bubba again.

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    Spieth: 'I feel great about the state of my game'

    By Will GrayFebruary 19, 2018, 1:43 am

    LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth is starting to feel confident again with the putter, which is probably a bad sign for the rest of the PGA Tour.

    Spieth struggled on the greens two weeks ago at TPC Scottsdale, but he began to right the ship at Pebble Beach and cracked the top 10 this week at the Genesis Open. Perhaps more important than his final spot on the leaderboard was his standing in the strokes gained putting category – 12th among the field at Riviera Country Club, including a 24-putt performance in the third round.

    Spieth closed out the week with a 4-under 67 to finish in a tie for ninth, five shots behind Bubba Watson. But after the round he spoke like a man whose preparation for the season’s first major is once again right on track.


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “I was kind of, you know, skiing uphill with my putting after Phoenix and the beginning of Pebble week, and really just for a little while now through the new year,” Spieth said. “I just made some tremendous progress. I putted extremely well this week, which is awesome. I feel great about the state of my game going forward, feel like I’m in a great place at this time of the year as we’re starting to head into major season.”

    Spieth will take a break next week, and where he next tees it up remains uncertain. He still has not announced a decision about playing or skipping the WGC-Mexico Championship, and he will have until 5 p.m. ET Friday to make a final decision on the no-cut event.

    Whether or not he flies down to Mexico City, Spieth’s optimism has officially returned after a brief hiccup on the West Coast swing.

    “For where I was starting out Phoenix to where I am and how I feel about my game going forward the rest of the year, there was a lot of progress made,” he said. “Now I’ve just got to figure out what the best schedule is for myself as we head into the Masters.”