Rose Wetterich Survive Difficult Opening Day

By Associated PressApril 5, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. --The cheers broke the morning calm at Augusta National when Arnold Palmer took a mighty swing at his ceremonial tee shot. For the next 11 hours Thursday, the Masters went mute.
 
Throw together a course that has grown 500 yards with brittle conditions, and there wasn't much to cheer.
 
Tim Clark
Last year's runner-up Tim Clark is one of only nine players under par after Rd. 1. (WireImage)
Justin Rose was as proud of his 15 pars as his three birdies in a round of 69, which left him atop the leaderboard with Masters rookie Brett Wetterich. It was the highest score to lead the first round at the Masters in eight years.
 
Tiger Woods tossed away a solid round with bogeys on his final two holes for a 73. Phil Mickelson shot a 76, his worst start at the Masters in 10 years, and still was optimistic about winning another green jacket. Never mind that no one has ever won the Masters after opening with a score worse than 75.
 
Then again, this was not the Masters everyone has come to embrace the last several years. Birdies were rare. And the so-called 'cathedral of golf' was every bit of that for one reason.
 
It was quiet.
 
'I was chatting with my caddie, and we were discussing how muted the atmosphere was,' David Howell said. 'But very pleasant.'
 
Maybe it was pleasant for the nine players who managed to break par, a group that included Howell and David Toms at 70, and Rich Beem, Tim Clark, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson and Augusta resident Vaughn Taylor at 71.
 
It was a nightmare for the dozen players who couldn't break 80.
 
The average score was 76.187, highest in four years.
 
And it wasn't much fun for just about everyone else who finally saw what Augusta National looks like at 7,445 yards in super slick and dreadfully dry conditions.
 
'It's hard. And when you start playing defensively, it plays harder,' Steve Stricker said after a 77. 'It's one shot after another where you're up against it. You're nervous on every shot.'
 
Rose hasn't played in five weeks while taking care of a sore back and put together the most remarkable round because it contained no bogeys. He hit a wedge to tap-in range at No. 3, holed a bunker shot on No. 5 and rolled in a 15-foot birdie from the fringe on No. 14.
 
'That's exciting to go bogey-free on any course on any day,' Rose said. 'But first round at Augusta on a day where obviously the scores are pretty high makes it a very pleasing round. Yeah, one that I'm very happy with, for sure.'
 
Wetterich can't relate to any of this as an Augusta National rookie. His experience comes from practice rounds, especially one with south Florida neighbor Raymond Floyd, a two-time Masters champion.
 
'I thought it was a good test of golf out there,' Wetterich said. 'To me, they don't have to do any changes.'
 
And then there was Toms, who last year said the Masters has so many rules that players 'walk around on egg shells.' If that had been the case Thursday, the sound would have been deafening.
 
This was about as exciting as the first round of the 2003 Masters, which was rained out.
 
Augusta National is renowned for its pockets of roars that resonate through Amen Corner and along the back nine. And there was cause for excitement, such as Howell narrowly clearing the pond on the 15th with his 3-iron for a short eagle putt, and Beem making eagle on the 13th with a 5-wood into the green.
 
Otherwise, it was a day to play defense.
 
'I would have liked to have made a birdie,' Dean Wilson said after a 73. 'But when you look up and no one else is doing it, it gives me a boost. I didn't hear the roars Augusta National is famous for.'
 
For the longest time, it looked as though Woods might go through the day without a birdie. His best putts were for par -- one was for bogey on the seventh hole -- until he hit a sand wedge into 4 feet for birdie on the 13th, and reached the par-5 15th in two for another one. Suddenly, he was 1 under and starting to challenge the leaders.
 
Then came a tee shot in the trees on the 17th, and an approach into the bunker on the 18th, and the streak was alive -- Woods has never broken 70 in the first round at the Masters, despite winning four of them.
 
'I threw away a good round of golf,' Woods said.
 
Still, it wasn't hard to find some encouragement. Not many had a good round to throw away.
 
'You're not going to go low,' Woods said. 'Low is only 69 today. That's some pretty good playing.'
 
Ernie Els opened with a double bogey, then took bogey on the par-5 second. He shot 42 on the front nine. U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was some 50 yards in front of the green on No. 2 when he hit wedge long into a bunker, then hit that shot back toward the fairway, finally pitched up to about 8 feet and three-putted for an 8. He also took a double bogey on the par-3 12th, but still managed a 75.
 
'You feel like the course is going to get you somewhere,' Ben Crenshaw said after a 76. 'It doesn't matter who you are.'
 
It got Mickelson just about everywhere.
 
Bidding to become only the fourth repeat winner at the Masters, he was even par through three holes and, after missing the green on the par-3 fourth, chipped to 4 feet. But he missed that putt, and it spiraled out of control from there. A muffed chip on the fifth led to double bogey, and he dropped shots on each of the next two holes.
 
Mickelson shot 40 on the front, and it got worse before it got better. Birdies on the 15th and 16th, and scrambling pars on the final two holes put him at 76.
 
'Even par is going to be in the hunt tomorrow,' he said. 'If I can go out there and shoot a solid 68, I'm in contention.'
 
He made it sound so simple. The course was anything but that on Thursday, and it doesn't figure to get any easier. Along with a dry forecast, the temperatures are supposed to get much cooler.
 
And if that's the case, the course will only get faster.
 
'The golf course is winning right now,' Billy Mayfair said after a 76. 'I expect it will probably win this week.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Masters Tournament
     
    Copyright 2007 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.”