Notes Ode to La Costa Lehmans Rules

By Associated PressFebruary 21, 2006, 5:00 pm
2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayCARLSBAD, Calif. -- Players weren't always pampered on the PGA Tour.
There was a time when they had to buy a bag of range balls, share the cost of rental cars and even pay for their meals before tournaments started to treat them like royalty.
That's what made La Costa Resort so special.
'This was where you wanted to be,' Davis Love III said. 'They were the first ones who really made it a special week for your family, because it was a great place to stay, they treated the wives great with all the shops and spas, we had courtesy cars. You wanted to start your year at La Costa.'
The resort has been part of the PGA Tour landscape since 1969 when it hosted the Tournament of Champions. It later became the Mercedes Championships and stayed until 1999. The tournament moved to Kapalua that year, and La Costa became home to the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Now, that's about to end.
The Match Play Championship is expected to move to Tucson, Ariz., next year. If La Costa gets another professional tournament, it won't be the PGA Tour.
'It's just unfortunate they couldn't work a deal out,' said Tiger Woods, a three-time winner at La Costa. 'It has a lot of sentimental value to me.'
Memories for the current crop of players are of rain delays and flooded fairways. The first round was postponed a year ago because the ninth fairway turned into a lake; when the tournament began Thursday, the par-4 ninth was played as a par 3 the first three rounds.
As for the pampering, that has become the norm on the PGA Tour.
Love said he still will miss La Costa, especially the oil paintings of all past champions that hung on the walls in the lobby leading to the locker room. Love won in 1993 by one shot over Tom Kite.
'I think they changed artists the year I won,' he said.
Like it or not, Tiger Woods can sleep in during practice rounds at the Ryder Cup.
Woods caused a minor stir at The Belfry in 2002 when he played a practice round for the Ryder Cup at 6:30 a.m. and was finished by the time fans were allowed in the gates.
U.S. captain Tom Lehman said that won't be the case at the K Club in Ireland.
'We'll practice as a team, without question,' Lehman said last week. 'Whether it's three, foursomes or one twelvesome is yet to be seen. But we will be together. No wiggle room.'
Woods played with Mark Calcavecchia that morning, so he wasn't by himself. But Lehman believes fans who pay to see practice rounds deserve to see the best.
'Whether we tee off a bit early, or a bit later, we will play it together,' Lehman said. 'We want to make sure that the folks that are spending all of that money to buy tickets, making an effort to get there, do get to see the team play and practice.'
That means Phil Mickelson probably won't get any time off. Lefty was ridiculed at Oakland Hills in 2004 when he took Wednesday off from practice, then played an adjacent course Thursday to practice with Woods' golf ball, knowing they would be paired together the first day.
As for teeing off with all 12 players?
'I'm not kidding about that,' Lehman said. 'We will probably play a twelvesome one day and just have some fun playing alternate shot. Just all tee it up on the first tee together, and away we go.'
Colin Montgomerie is aware that a European has not won a major since Paul Lawrie at the 1999 British Open, and he think he knows why.
'Tiger takes two of them,' he said. 'So that only leaves two for everyone else.'
Woods has won nine of the 25 majors since Lawrie last won at Carnoustie. Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson each have won two majors during that stretch.
'If you give one to Phil, Ernie (Els) and Vijay and Retief, that only leaves one, doesn't it?' he said. 'It's tough now, isn't it? If you look at it statistically, that's what should happen. So it's difficult. You've only got one to go with. And it's got to be your day, your time.'
Steve Flesch is coming off his worst year on the PGA Tour, finishing 95th on the money list. Of greater concern was pain in his right shoulder, which he described as a rubber band on the verge of snapping.
He tried to let it heal through rest, taking November off. But when he went to a charity event in Florida in December, it wasn't getting any better. The southpaw from Kentucky had an MRI on Dec. 22, and had arthroscopic surgery the next day to treat decompression in his shoulder.
'They basically cleaned it out,' Flesch said. 'There was no room for anything to move.'
Doctors told him he would be back hitting balls in three weeks, and sure enough, he played in the Bob Hope Classic.
The biggest difference?
'If I wanted to go out to the range and hit a few drivers, I had to stretch to get it loose,' Flesch said. 'Now I can start hitting right away.'
When the PGA Tour released its 2006 schedule last fall, it listed the Las Vegas Invitational on Oct. 12-15. Without any announcement, it appeared in the media guide as the Bose Championship at Las Vegas.
So, did the Las Vegas event get a new title sponsor?
Not yet.
Turns out the deal with Bose fell through after the book went to the printer, although Las Vegas is still safe.
'We're in some negotiations now and getting things moved around,' tournament chairman Charlie Baron said. 'We'll have a title sponsor squared away in a week or so.'
Kapalua announced in January that it will continue to host the season-opening event for the next four to six years. The title sponsor will stay the same, too, as Mercedes renewed its deal through 2010. ... Ian Poulter went to the Scotty Cameron studio over the weekend to sort out his putting, and watched video of Tiger Woods' stroke in slow motion -- 250 frames per second. 'It's no wonder why Tiger Woods is the best putter in the world,' he said. 'When you see his putter in slow motion, it's perfect.' ... David Duval already has seven rounds in the 60s this year, compared with four rounds in the 60s all of last year. His scoring average (70.54) is an improvement of more than five shots per round.
Five of the top 20 players in the world ranking are in their 20s, although none is an American -- Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Luke Donald, Rory Sabbatini and Henrik Stenson.
'If I play, there will be 10,000 people there. If Tiger Woods plays, there will be 100,000.' -- Stephen Ames of Trinidad & Tobago on whether he will play in the World Cup in Barbados.
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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.”