Notes Gore a Surprise So Too Campbell

By Associated PressJune 17, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- This isn't the first time Jason Gore has led at the U.S. Open.
 
Seven years ago at Olympic, he holed out from about 60 yards for a birdie on the first hole, and since he was in the first group, his name went to the top of the leaderboard.
 
This time, though, it's a little sweeter: He's there after 36 holes.
 
The 31-year-old veteran of the Nationwide Tour shot a 3-under 67 Friday in the second to tie defending champ Retief Goosen and Olin Browne. They have a one-shot advantage over K.J. Choi and Mark Hensby.
 
'This is old hat for me,' Gore quipped.
 
He eventually missed the cut in 1998, his only previous Open. During two brief stints on the PGA Tour, Gore has a best finish of 18th in the 2001 Las Vegas Classic.
 
But most of his success has been one level down. He has three career victories on the Nationwide Tour - none since the 2002 Boise Open - and wouldn't mind leaving that tour for good.
 
'It's a great place, and don't get me wrong, I don't want to be there next week, but really, your golf game does your talking,' he said. 'That's really all there is. I haven't played well enough to keep my card. I've become a stronger person for that, and maybe that's all just starting to pan out.'
 
He started his round Friday on the back with a birdie at No. 10, lost a stroke to par on the next hole, then got two birdies in a row. After turning in 34, he closed with a 33 on the front, highlighted by a 2 at the difficult par-3 sixth.
 
'You know, I'll watch TV tonight and I'll get beat up by the press, but I really have nothing to do,' Gore said. 'This is really just an opportunity for me to play well. I'm the underdog and it's going to be kind of fun.'
 
CAMPBELL'S BEST:
Michael Campbell's season started terribly in Europe. He got back on form in time for a trip to the U.S. Open.
 
The 36-year-old New Zealander put together a morning round of 1-under 69 in the second round to move to even par for the tournament, tied for sixth and just two strokes off the lead.
 
'I teed off at 7:30 in the morning and it was very benign conditions and not much wind around, and the greens were pretty receptive out there, so you could attack them a little bit more,' Campbell said. 'Two shots easier today, definitely.'
 
After missing the cut in his first five European Tour events, he has four top-15 finishes in his past seven, including a tie for third at the Johnnie Walker Classic. This is Campbell's best showing in the Open since 2000, when he tied for 12th at Pebble Beach.
 
Of course, that's the year Tiger Woods blitzed the field by 15 shots. Now Campbell is challenging for the lead of a major for the first time since 1995, when he was the third-round leader at the British Open.
 
'Seems like a century ago,' he said. 'I know what it takes to win a major championship. It's nice to be up there amongst the best in the world now.'
 
FORE!:
Nick Jones' first trip to the U.S. Open was sure to be memorable - even before he made a strange triple bogey at the 18th hole.
 
On his approach shot, he and caddie Andrew Pfannkuche miscalculated the yardage a bit - OK, a lot - and the ball flew well over the green, struck the grandstands and bounced onto the roof of the stately clubhouse.
 
'We had no idea the ball was going to fly like that,' Pfannkuche said.
 
Jones thought he might still be in decent shape, since players who wind up behind the green have a drop area near the cart path, with no penalty stroke. But because his ball caught the metal stands first, he was forced to play from the other side of the green in the heavy rough, with very little green to work with.
 
'I dropped it in a bad spot,' Jones said.
 
It only got worse. He hit a decent flop shot that just trickled past the pin and continued to roll until it found its way into one of the many collection areas surrounding the greens at No. 2. This time, he played a bump-and-run with a mid-iron that appeared to be perfect.
 
Only this shot again kept going, ending up on the other side of the green. Jones finally reached the putting surface and took two more strokes to find the hole, ending with a 7.
 
'It's just an unfortunate break,' he said.
 
Jones did manage to steady himself after the debacle at 18 and finished with an even-par 35 on his final nine holes, completing a 75.
 
GOVERNOR'S VISIT:
North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley never had much luck driving a race car, and he wanted no part during a visit to Pinehurst on Friday.
 
During a celebration of motorsports earlier this year near the Capitol, he lost control of a race car and slid over a curb. He crashed at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 2003 when driving one about 120 mph.
 
'I've only had one wreck, and that wasn't my fault,' Easley said. 'The car was loose and it spun out a little bit. But that driving is very similar to my golf driving. The best part of my game is hitting out of sand traps because I do it a lot.'
 
DIVOTS:
Jay Haas made quite an improvement in the second round, finishing with a 70 after an 82 on Thursday. He still missed the cut by four shots. ... Peter Jacobsen, like Haas another 50-something player, hung around for the weekend after rounds of 72-73. Playing in his first Open since 1996, he got in via his victory in the U.S. Senior Open last year. ... After winning The Memorial last week, Bart Bryant never got comfortable on the tricky greens at No. 2 and wound up with a 13-over total of 153.
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - 105th U.S. Open
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

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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.”