Notes Campbells Big Week Leftys 4-Wood
Campbell received a five-year exemption for winning at Pinehurst last year, but chose not to join the PGA Tour because he didn't want to commit to 15 tournaments.
As a nonmember who was penalized for not playing 15 times in 2003, he is allowed only 10 starts -- four majors, three World Golf Championships and three regular events. He already has played the Mercedes Championships, and has selected Bay Hill and The Players Championship.
But there's a catch.
If he earns the equivalent of 150th place on the 2005 money list -- $485,343 -- Campbell can get unlimited sponsor's exemptions the rest of the year. That would enable him to play in the Memorial and in the Barclays Classic, which he has mentioned as preparation for the U.S. Open.
Campbell already has made $287,500, and he has three tournaments -- Bay Hill, The Players Championship and the Masters -- to earn $197,843 and get the unlimited exemptions.
The next two weeks loom larger for two PGA Tour rookies.
J.B. Holmes, who won the FBR Open, is No. 10 on the PGA Tour money list by about $58,000 over Davis Love III. Holmes needs to stay in the top 10 the next two weeks to get an invitation to the Masters.
Camilo Villegas is in a more precarious position. He is 14th on the money list and needs to get in the top 10 after this week to become eligible for The Players Championship. That would require at least a fourth-place finish at Bay Hill, and a third-place finish if Holmes makes the cut.
If the 24-year-old Colombian does not get into The Players Championship, he has no chance of going to the Masters.
The statistic making the rounds the last few weeks was that David Toms had never won a PGA Tour event in Florida. His tie for third in the Honda Classic makes him 0-for-53.
It was a peculiar stat because Toms has no ties to the Sunshine State, and he doesn't have the worst record. Tom Watson was 0-for-76 during his PGA Tour career in Florida. Jay Haas is 0-for-98 in Florida tournaments.
Since neither is from Florida, odds are neither was asked about his inability to win there.
Such a statistic became popular with Tom Kite, who was raised in Texas and sent his entire PGA Tour career without ever winning in his home state. Kite was 0-for-101 in the Lone Star State.
Toms is from Louisiana, and he won in New Orleans five years ago.
The hybrid craze hasn't reached Phil Mickelson, and he doubts it will.
Mickelson carries a 3-wood and a 4-wood at most tournaments, using the 4-wood at Baltusrol last year in the PGA Championship to tap the Jack Nicklaus plaque in the 18th fairway, then hitting it in the collar of the green to set up his winning birdie.
The 4-wood was on display at Doral, when he hit it into 8 feet for eagle on the par-5 eighth that earned him a share of the 36-hole lead.
'I'm taking the 3-iron out more and more because I'm able to hit the 4-wood about a 3-iron distance, but I also have a lot more variety of shots with it,' Mickelson said.
Lefty said he struggles with a hybrid, although he has tried.
'I found the hybrids hit one shot really nice, but whether it's a draw or a fade, it's not a versatile club for me. I can only hit one shot,' he said. 'With woods, I don't know if the weighting is different or what exactly, but I find that I'm able to hit many more shots.'
A testament to The Players Championships might be how many European players come over early to prepare when it moves to May next year. If that's the case, it could put a strain on the Wachovia Championship, which is the week before TPC and already is one of the most popular stops on the PGA Tour.
Tournament director Kym Hougham is talking to tour officials about getting a few extra exemptions for international players, similar to what the BellSouth Classic now gets a week before the Masters.
'We're talking to the tour now to find out our options,' Hougham said. 'A lot depends on who has tour membership. But we know the foreign contingent will be a lot bigger.'
The tour allows BellSouth up to four extra exemptions that are restricted to players who are qualified for the Masters and are in the top 100 in the world rankings.
The Players Championship usually gets seven or eight players who fall under that category.
Wachovia now is allowed four unrestricted exemptions, and two additional exemptions can be designated by the commissioner for international players. Without a few extra picks, Hougham said exemptions to Wachovia 'probably will not go to people who normally would get them.'
Golf's richest tournament now offers a discount for two-man teams willing to take a risk.
The Big Stakes Match Play Golf Championship, to be held May 20-28 at Paiute Golf Resort in Las Vegas, pays $2 million to the winning team and is eligible to anyone who is not exempt on the PGA, European, Nationwide or Champions tour. The entry fee for each team is $100,000.
This year, however, the tournament will have a qualifier that costs only $30,000 to enter. The 16 teams who win two matches advance to the main event in Las Vegas without having to pay the $100,000 fee. Organizers say the qualifier will be March 27-29 at Stonebridge Ranch outside Dallas and will have up to 64 teams.
John Strege has won the USGA International Book Award for 'When War Played Through: Golf During World War II,' which looks at the war's impact on golf. Strege is a senior writer for Golf World magazine. ... Daisuke Maruyama and Shigeki Maruyama were paired for the first time on the PGA Tour in the third round of the Honda Classic. They are not related. ... Australian rookie Steven Bowditch has started the year with three missed cuts, three disqualifications and one withdrawal. He has gone home to sort out his game, and will play this week on a developmental circuit in Australia.
STAT OF THE WEEK
According to ShotLink statistics, there have been 828 drives of at least 350 yards on the PGA Tour so far this year. Tiger Woods has only one of them.
'They used to say only three guys could win there -- Tiger, Tiger and maybe Phil.' -- Jesper Parnevik, on the Bay Hill Invitational.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord
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
Nature calls: Hole-out rescues Bubba's bladder
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.
“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.
Bubba Golf takes long road back to winner's circle
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.
“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.
Spieth: 'I feel great about the state of my game'
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.
“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.”