Notes Brett Meet Tiger Caddie Gate

By Associated PressAugust 22, 2006, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)AKRON, Ohio -- Brett Wetterich will be on the plane Sunday night to Ireland with the rest of the Ryder Cup team, but first he has to take care of some business.
Like meeting Tiger Woods for the first time.

And perhaps getting some pointers on match play.
None of the Americans on this team are more unknown than Wetterich, who might be the first player to go from Q-school to making the Ryder Cup team in the same year.
'Thank God for the new points system,' he said Tuesday at the Bridgestone Invitational. 'I didn't have many points last year. I had a great year, and it worked out good for me.'
Know this about Wetterich -- he can hit it a mile and make birdies.
Wetterich is fourth on the PGA Tour in driving distance at 308.2 yards, and has decent accuracy for such power. Perhaps more importantly, he is third in making birdies, which should come in handy at The K Club.
The new points system emphasized this year's performance, and Wetterich earned his spot. He was fourth in New Orleans, won the Byron Nelson Championship and tied for second at Memorial.
He was 10th in the standings going to the PGA Championship, but two quadruple bogeys knocked him from the top of the leaderboard to a 76 in the first round, and he missed the cut. Wetterich spent Sunday watching the final round, paying close attention to Tim Herron, Steve Stricker and Davis Love III, the only players who had a remote chance of catching him.
'I was a little nervous,' he said. 'But there's nothing you can do. I played bad and I didn't do my part, so it wasn't up to me what was going to happen.'
Wetterich says he has never met Woods, the No. 1 player in the world, although he has passed by him in the locker room. It was surprising that he never played match play, even in the U.S. Junior Amateur or U.S. Amateur.
'Nope,' he said. 'I never qualified for match play. But I think I'll be good at it. I'll have some bad holes, but I usually make my share of birdies.'
Told that American teammate Vaughn Taylor also has not experienced match play, Wetterich smiled.
'I like Vaughn,' he said.
Michelle Wie fired her caddie despite have a chance to win three LPGA majors on the 18th hole.
Perhaps more surprising is Lorena Ochoa dumping her caddie while leading the LPGA Tour money list.
Golfweek magazine reported that Ochoa fired Lance Bennett after the Mexican star finished second to Sorenstam in Sweden. Ochoa now is No. 2 on the money list, a mere $1,017 behind Karrie Webb.
'I'm disappointed it ended the way it did because of all the success we've shared this year,' Bennett told the magazine. 'This is the last thing I ever believed would have happened. But hey, she has to do what she feels is best for her.'
Scott Verplank became the first captain's pick to have never played in a Ryder Cup in 2001. Two weeks later, he won the Canadian Open at Royal Montreal.
Stewart Cink was a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup in 2004, then won the next week at Firestone.
Is it merely a coincidence?
'No,' Verplank said. 'It's such an honor, and it's such a huge vote of confidence to be picked by a guy who's running the team. There's a lot of choices, and to be singled out ... that's a pretty ringing endorsement.'
Corey Pavin was last at Firestone in 1996 after winning the Colonial.
He returned this week having won the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, and so much has changed. It's now called the Bridgestone Invitational, a World Golf Championship event worth $7.5 million that pays $1.3 million to the winner and $30,250 for last place.
Pavin earned $60,900 when he finished ninth 10 years ago.
And then there's the course, one of the longest on tour 10 years ago at 7,149 yards. Now it measures 7,360 yards.
'They've taken a wealth of trees out of the golf course and they've added some length,' Pavin said. 'I'm not sure when they did that. It could have been eight years ago. It's as good as I can remember this course ever being.'
No one finished in the top 10 at all four majors this year. In fact, there were only 10 players who even made the cut in all four majors.
Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk were the only Americans to cash a check in every Grand Slam event. Tiger Woods won two majors and tied for third at the Masters, but he missed the cut at the U.S. Open.
The other eight players to make every cut in a major were U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Mike Weir, Robert Allenby, Adam Scott, Luke Donald and Ernie Els.
The PGA Tour allows a computer to crank out the pairings each week, but it sure didn't look very random at the International. With two events remaining to qualify for the Ryder Cup team, 10 of the top 20 players in the standings were either paired together or with captain Tom Lehman.
Phil Mickelson played with Lucas Glover and Davis Love III; J.J. Henry was in the same group as David Toms. John Rollins, 11th in the standings, somehow wound up with Lehman.
The PGA Tour tournament director that week, Slugger White, says it was truly a coincidence.
'The computer doesn't know the difference between the Ryder Cup and a coffee cup,' White said Tuesday. 'It was untouched by human hands, I promise you.'
Nine players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team once played on the Nationwide Tour, the exceptions being Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Scott Verplank ... The Byron Nelson Championship raised $6.33 million for charity, the fifth time that The Salesmanship Club Charitable Golf of Dallas (which runs the tournament) has crossed the $6 million mark. ... Comedian George Lopez will be celebrity host of the Bob Hope Classic. ... Woods' victory at Medinah gave him five this year on the PGA Tour, the seventh time he has won at least five. Sam Snead holds the record with eight years of at least five victories.
In winning his last three tournaments, Tiger Woods ranked No. 1 in driving accuracy at the British Open, driving distance at the Buick Open and greens in regulation at the PGA Championship.
'He's done so much winning and he's won so many different ways, there isn't any situation that catches him off guard.' -- Hank Haney, the swing coach for Tiger Woods.
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After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

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

Each week, 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.”