Notes Seve Returns Early Exit for Faxon

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- Three-time champion Seve Ballesteros returned to the British Open for the first time in five years on Thursday and was relieved to walk off with a 2-over 74.
 
After 10 years without making the cut in a major, Ballesteros feared he might not break 80.
 
Even more pleasing than his score was being joined by his 15-year-old son, Baldomero, who is his caddie this week.
 
To walk on the fairways in the Open with my son was fantastic and I played a little bit better than I expected. I didnt have much confidence, said the Spaniard, whose last round in a major was an 85 at the Masters three years ago.
 
Troubled by persistent back injuries and a horrendous slump Ballesteros hasnt been competitive since his last victory in the 1995 Spanish Open. Although he started with a bogey and collected three more, he made back-to-back birdies on the par-3 ninth and par-5 10th.
 
Playing in the Open there is a lot of pressure and I was nervous, obviously, mainly because I have not competed for a long time and the practice days didnt make me feel very optimistic, he said.
 
But I played with the heart as always and 74 is a good round.
 
EARLY EXITS
Jesper Parnevik and Brad Faxon mingled outside the Royal Liverpool clubhouse at dawn Thursday morning, looking like two guys who were the first to arrive with hopes of getting a tee time.
 
Thats exactly what was on the line at the British Open, and both left disappointed.
 
They were the first two alternates, needing players to withdraw to get one of the 156 spots in the field. After waiting for nearly 11 hours until the last group went off, they packed their bags and headed home.
 
Parnevik interrupted a vacation in Sweden when he learned he was first alternate. Faxon was sixth in line, but figuring the others wouldnt show up, he flew Monday from Rhode Island and took his chances.
 
I thought hed still get in, Faxon said of Parnevik. I think he did, too.
 
Faxon warmed up in the morning, then headed to the range again to take a nap in the Titleist trailer. His only hopes of players pulling out were Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer because of their bad backs. There were doubts about Seve Ballesteros, but he went off early and shot 74.
 
Compounding the disappointment for Faxon was finding a flight home Friday.
 
Everything is sold out, he said. Im going to have to check around with other airports.
 
Faxon recalled being first alternate in the 1986 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, and two guys who were injured tried to play and later withdrew. He wound up going to the Providence Classic, which he won.
 
Maybe this will bode well, he said. Something good will come out of this.
 
Faxon lost his chance to play first by having a pedestrian year that caused him to slip in the rankings. Then, the U.S. qualifier was washed out, and he didnt get a chance to qualify.
 
He likes the idea of the British Open expanding its criteria to get a stronger, more diverse field. But he questioned criteria that allows the top finishers from the last three PGA TOUR events to qualify'Hunter Mahan (tied for second in Hartford), Mathew Goggin (tied for second at the Western Open) and John Deere Classic winner John Senden.
 
I still dont think the qualifying procedure is perfect, he said. Why doesnt winning a tournament get you in, but finishing fourth does?
 
Faxon won the Buick Championship at Hartford last year.
 
FASHION STATEMENT
About the only distraction Seve Ballesteros faced Thursday was playing with Ian Poulter of England, who wore bright red pants with sequins down each side and a logo of the claret jug on each leg.
 
Ballesteros, ever the traditionalist, wore a white shirt with dark pants.
 
Something different, Ballesteros said. He looks to me like a Spanish matador. But he should not be in red, because the bull always goes for red.
 
Poulter certainly didnt find red numbers on the scoreboard. He wound up one shot behind Ballesteros, at 3-over 75. And the gallery didnt think much of his wardrobe, either.
 
Oh my God, look at what hes wearing! a female fan blurted out as Poulter walked toward the third green. Isnt that ridiculous? Elvis lives!
 
RETURN ON THE INVESTMENT
Fred Couples is a fan of Royal Liverpool, and he couldnt figure out why the R&A waited 39 years to bring the British Open back to the course. Someone told him the layoff was due mainly to the infrastructure.
 
I guess so, Couples said. I mean, Im paying 14,000 pounds for my house this week, so they must have known we were coming. They had a few years to prepare for this week.
 
EASY TARGET
Tom Lehman is getting plenty of attention this week, and not because this is the 10-year anniversary of his British Open victory.
 
This is a Ryder Cup year. He is the U.S. captain.
 
Thats almost all I hear about, Lehman said after a 68.
 
Nearly every person over here is saying, We wish you luck this week, but not in September. Thats been the standard comment Im getting -- 100 a day, 200 a day or maybe more.
 
Lehman talked earlier this year about playing his way onto the U.S. team'there hasnt been a playing captain since Arnold Palmer in 1963. But he has largely given up on that though, although a victory this week would easily put him into the top 10.
 
If Im in contention, its because Im playing well. Its not Ryder Cup related, I can assure you, Lehman said.
 
He would prefer to see Americans atop the leaderboard to earn points for the team, although that didnt happen Thursday. The top American was Tiger Woods, who already is assured a spot on the team.
 
CLARKES DETOUR
Darren Clarke stepped up to the fourth tee box, and pulled out his putter.
 
Huh?
 
When Clarke yanked his second shot at the third hole far left of the green, the ball wound up on the tee for the next hole. He considered chipping toward the flag, then decided the putter was the best way to get through a patch of beaten-down rough between the tee and the green.
 
Only one problem: there was a red power chord running between the two holes. So he pulled that out of the way, and finally got down to a most unusual putt.
 
Unfortunately for Clarke, he didnt swing hard enough to get the ball through the rough, up a ridge and onto the green. He wound up making bogey, one of his few mistakes on the way to a 3-under 69 that left him only three shots off the lead.
 
DIVOTS
Tom Lehman and Graeme McDowell were the only players who did not make a bogey in the first round. ... U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy birdied the last hole for a 1-under 71. ... Davis Love III is 11th in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings and sure didnt do himself any favors Thursday, opening with a 75 that could send him home early for the second straight major. ... Jarrod Lyle, diagnosed with leukemia seven years ago, shot 74.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 135th Open Championship
  • Course Tour - Royal Liverpool
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    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

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.

    Getty Images

    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.”