Notes Second Fiddle for Euro Tour Tiger in Vogue

By Associated PressFebruary 28, 2006, 5:00 pm
MIAMI -- Now that the PGA Tour schedule is set for 2007, the European Tour has its work cut out.
The Players Championship moving to May cuts into a prime portion of the European schedule, including the British Masters. Of greater concern is the FedEx Cup championship series that begins in August, when top players are expected to compete in four straight tournaments concluding with the Tour Championship.
European Tour executive director George O'Grady met with two dozen of his members on the eve of the Match Play Championship, mainly listening to their ideas as he formulates a plan.
'We've got to think outside the box,' O'Grady said in an interview last week. 'I won't stand here and say it's all rosy. We do have challenges, but they are challenges that can be met.'
O'Grady was pleased by the attendance; only two players were missing, both with prior commitments. He described it more as a briefing than a lecture, and when asked for the central message, O'Grady replied, 'That the European tour is worth fighting for.'
The focus was on top players who are members of both tours, such as Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Darren Clarke, David Howell and Padraig Harrington. Europe requires players to compete in at least 11 tournaments, which isn't asking much considering seven are taken up by the majors and World Golf Championships.
O'Grady said the British Masters, traditionally held in early May, likely will move to September and played at The Belfry. The challenge will be what to do with events held in late August and early September, such as the Omega European Masters in Switzerland.
'We can't move some of them to October because the courses will be under snow,' he said.
Els already has suggested moving the Arab swing -- Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai -- to the end of the year, giving Europe a blockbuster finish to its season. O'Grady said it took him a 'nanosecond to realize it was a good idea,' but it might clash with the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, and affect some tournaments Els plays in South Africa.
O'Grady is working with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem -- he knew ahead of time The Players Championship was moving to May -- although he has made the point that Finchem doesn't work for Europe.
'We tell the tour what we need, and either we get it or we don't,' he said. 'That's business.'
Andrew Magee felt soreness in his left hip last month and had an MRI to see what was wrong. Three weeks later, Magee had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his left kidney.
Dr. Indebir Gill said 15 percent of the kidney was removed Feb. 18 with 'excellent margins,' and that no radiation or chemotherapy would be needed. He said it was serendipitous that the tumor was caught at an early stage.
'I'm very fortunate that we caught this early and very thankful for the tremendous care I've gotten,' Magee said in a statement.
Magee, 43, is recovering at home in Arizona. He hopes to return to practice in as early as six weeks.
Tiger Woods prefers to wear a green jacket in the spring. He slipped on a plaid jacket to appear on the cover of Men's Vogue magazine in its spring issue.
Woods said in the interview that he has given up Starbucks decaf hazelnut lattes until the Masters if his friends will give up french fries, ice cream and sodas. He also talks about his ability to hit shots at the most crucial time.
'I do think that when I am in that moment when my concentration is the highest, when it's at its peak, I see things more clearly, and things happen slower,' he said. 'When that moment happens, it's like it's magic.'
What stands out more than the words are the photos, taken by Annie Leibovitz. Along with shots of Woods on a jet ski (in a business suit) is one of him by the pool in a bathrobe, Nike cap turned backward, cooing to his Border collie puppy (Taz) that wife Elin bought him for Christmas.
The rookie year of Stephen Bowditch is not only miserable, it's peculiar.
The 22-year-old Australian, who earned his card through the Nationwide Tour, has yet to earn a dime in seven starts. Worse yet, he has only completed three tournaments.
Bowditch has been disqualified three times -- from the Sony Open, FBR Open in Phoenix and the Nissan Open, where he opened with a 78 and walked off the course after nine holes without telling anyone. He withdrew after one round of Tucson after shooting 78.
He missed the cut at the Bob Hope Classic at 12-over 300, and at Pebble Beach after rounds of 79-79-80.
Tiger Woods now has lost in every round of the Match Play Championship except the semifinals, and the running joke has been that if he ever gets knocked out in the semifinals, more people might watch the consolation match than the championship match.
Worse yet is what happened Sunday.
Geoff Ogilvy and Davis Love III had to wait as long as 10 minutes over their shots while waiting for Tom Lehman and Zach Johnson in the consolation match.
Both had to stand in the par-5 eighth fairway waiting for the green to clear to hit a scary shot with water on the right. Love, after a birdie on the 15th to keep alive his slim hopes, strode to the 16th tee and had to wait.
It got so bad that Love asked rules official Mark Russell if he and Ogilvy could play through.
'It wasn't relentless waiting, but it was enough to be waiting,' Ogilvy said.
Tour officials wanted to allow fans to see both matches in succession, although it might be prudent to send the consolation match off 20 or 30 minutes ahead of the match that matters.
Michelle Wie's third-place finish at the Fields Open moved the 16-year-old up to No. 2 in the women's world ranking, which is sure to raise even more questions about the LPGA allowing for a minimum of 15 tournaments over two years. If the men had a 15-tournament minimum instead of 40, J.B. Holmes would be No. 11. ... Fry's Electronics has agreed to be the title sponsor of the PGA Tour event in Las Vegas this year. ... Geoff Ogilvy joined Jeff Maggert as the only players to win a World Golf Championship in their first start. Maggert won the inaugural WGC event at La Costa in 1999.
Geoff Ogilvy played more holes in one week (129) than Fred Funk has in seven years (114) at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
'If I ever reach a par 5 in two, they change it to a par 4.' -- Fred Funk.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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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.”