Notes Ryder Cup Points Controversy
What it failed to do was distinguish between strong and weak tournaments.
That came under serious scrutiny Sunday, when John Rollins earned more Ryder Cup points (375) for winning the watered-down B.C. Open than Chris DiMarco earned (360) for being runner-up at the British Open.
DiMarco nearly chased down Tiger Woods at his best, making four birdies and two clutch par saves on the back nine at Royal Liverpool to close with a 68 and finishing two shots behind.
Across the ocean at the B.C. Open, a tournament rife with Nationwide Tour players and those without full status in the big leagues, Rollins rolled in a 5-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a one-shot victory over Bob May.
PGA president Roger Warren knew there was potential for such a scenario, but offered no apologies.
It has drawn a lot of attention because it actually occurred, Warren said Monday night from Kiawah Island, S.C. The interpretation of that as good or bad, Im not going to get into that. The system was designed to make sure we had those players who were playing well in this year receiving points higher than the first year, so as to reward good play. And we wanted to make sure we placed a value on winning.
Both got into the top 10 in the U.S. standings'DiMarco went from 21st to sixth place, while Rollins went from 39th to 10th. Four tournaments remain before the team is announced.
Asked whether the B.C. Open should be worth the same points as The Players Championship or the Wachovia Championship or other strong fields, Warren said winning is difficult anywhere and should be rewarded.
We didnt want to be in the business of evaluating different fields and different events, he said. We realize the reality that the players in the field are different, but we placed the value on winning. It still should be a high priority to win.
DiMarco, who started the year at No. 4 in the standings, earned points for only the second time this year. He also had an eight-way tie for ninth by reaching the quarterfinals of the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Rollins had a strong spring. He tied for fourth at the Buick Invitational, one shot out of a playoff won by Woods. He tied for fifth at the Nissan Open and tied for eighth in The Players Championship. Then he missed seven out of his next 10 cuts, not finishing better than 42nd, until winning the B.C. Open.
Rollins had only 37.5 points at the start of the season. He earned those last year by tying for second in the B.C. Open.
Warren, meanwhile, said it would be best to wait until after the team is set'and after the Ryder Cup'to judge the new system.
I dont think anyone can make a determination that its right or wrong, that its working or not working, he said. If we win, it will be the greatest system ever used. If we dont, there will be a number of questions about why we didnt stick with the old system.
SEE YOU SOON, HOYLAKE
No contracts have been signed, but Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson made it clear that Royal Liverpool will not have to wait another four decades to host the British Open.
He said it was the first time he could recall not hearing one complaint from the players.
We have seen absolutely nothing that would prevent us coming back, certainly before another 39 years have elapsed, Dawson said Monday. In our view, it was a wonderful Open played on a course that was long overdue to host the Open. I think it will go down as one of the best weve ever staged.
The British Open has nine courses on its rotation, with St. Andrews getting the tournament every five years.
R&A officials said the success at Hoylake would have no bearing on the British Open held up the road at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Some fear the R&A might not want three courses'the other Royal Birkdale'within an hours drive in northwest England.
BRITISH CAMERA INVASION
This might have been the most photographed British Open ever.
Thats not necessarily a good thing.
Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia had to back off nearly every shot in the final round because of fans taking pictures, mostly with cell phones. Marshals asked repeatedly for fans to adhere to the policy of no cameras, and the fans blatantly ignored them.
I confess that it does concern us, Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson said Monday. I didnt like what I saw on the golf course yesterday. We have to get our thinking caps on as to how to deal with this better.
Dawson said British laws make it difficult to confiscate cameras, as the PGA TOUR has done at some tournaments. The other option is to check for cell phones and cameras at the gate, a process that could clog up the entry.
And even that might not be the best way to go.
David Hill, the R&As director of championships, said an elderly man died of a heart attack during the practice rounds. He was declared dead upon arrival at a hospital, although paramedics arrived within two minutes because someone called on a cell phone.
You have to consider that people like to have mobiles with them for matters of urgency, he said.
But it might be up to the fans whether they get to bring cell phones to the course switched off or on silent mode.
Tiger Woods victory means Americans have won 10 of the last 12 times in the British Open. The international winners were Ernie Els in 2002 and Paul Lawrie in 1999, the last European to win any major. ... Carnoustie already is gearing up for the British Open next year, with three minor changes to holes and the removal of trees to give it a more open feel. ... Woods now has won professional titles in 12 countries: the United States, Canada, Argentina, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Dubai, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods became the first player to win consecutive titles in three majors'the Masters (2001-02), the British Open (2005-06) and the PGA Championship (1999-2000).
FINAL WORD: I was getting bigger cheers than Tiger on some of the holes, and that was a great thing for me to experience. Thats why this is my favorite event.'Sergio Garcia, who played with Woods in the final round of the British Open.
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.”