Watson captures Masters in playoff

By Associated PressApril 9, 2012, 12:24 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Bubba Watson started the day by watching the rarest shot in golf. He ended another thrill-a-minute Sunday at Augusta National with a signature shot of his own to win the Masters.

So deep in the trees right of the 10th fairway that he couldn’t even see the green, Watson hooked a wedge off the pine needles from 155 yards to about 10 feet from the hole. That set up a par, good enough to beat Louis Oosthuizen on the second playoff hole.

“If I’ve got a swing, I’ve got a shot,” Watson said.


Video: Watson's Masters news conference

Photos: Sunday at Augusta


It was Oosthuizen who set the tone for this wild day with a double eagle – only the fourth in Masters history – on the par-5 second hole when his 4-iron flew 210 yards to the front of the green and rolled some 90 feet into the hole for a 2.

“Somehow it fell in my hands today,” said Watson, who closed with a 68. “It’s amazing. It’s a blur, the last nine holes I don’t remember anything. Somehow I guess I cried all my tears out.”

He was blubbering hard on the 10th green, shoulders heaving, for so many reasons. Just two weeks ago, he and his wife adopted a baby boy, Caleb. The first person on the green was his mother – his father died right after the Ryder Cup in 2010. And suddenly, the powerful lefty with a million shots in the bag was a major champion.

“I never got this far in my dreams,” Watson said in Butler cabin, where defending champion Charl Schwartzel helped him into the green jacket. “It’s a blessing. To go home to my new son, it’s going to be fun.”

Oosthuizen was trying to join Gene Sarazen in the 1935 Masters as the only major champions to win with a double eagle in the final round. The former British Open champion made one clutch putt after another on the back nine, none more important than a 4-footer on the 18th for a 69 to force the playoff.

Both had a good look at birdie at No. 18 on the first extra hole and missed.

Watson, dressed all in white and using a pink driver, hooked one into the trees and it appeared he would have no shot at reaching the green. Oosthuizen followed him, clanged off a Georgia pine and was left with 231 yards to the green. His approach came up short.

That’s when Watson, who rarely hits a shot on a straight line, came up with the most magical shot of his life.

“I was there earlier today, during regulation,” he said. “So I was used to it. I knew what I was facing there. I had a good lie, had a gap where I had to hook it 40 yards or something. I’m pretty good at hooking it.”

Oosthuizen was in the fairway. All he could see was a corridor of fans leading into the woods.

“I had no idea where he was,” Oosthuizen said. “Where I stood from, when the ball came out, it looked like a curve ball. Unbelievable shot. That shot he hit definitely won him the tournament.”

They finished at 10-under 278, two shots ahead of four players who kept it close and made the Masters as compelling as ever.

Phil Mickelson, playing in the final group for the fourth time, recovered from a triple bogey on the par-3 fourth hole and still managed to stay in the game. He could only make two-putt birdies on the two par 5s on the back and shot 72.

“It’s disappointing that I didn’t grab that fourth green jacket,” said Mickelson, whose wife and three kids flew in from San Diego on Sunday. “It’s disappointing that I didn’t make it happen on the back nine and get the putts to fall, even though I felt like I was hitting them pretty good. I gave them all good chances. I just couldn’t quite get them to go.”

Lee Westwood ran off three straight birdies, but the last one hurt. He had an 8-foot eagle putt to tie for the lead on the 15th and missed it, and a final birdie on the 18th gave him a 68 and only made it look close.

“I don’t feel like giving up just yet,” said Westwood, who had his seventh top-3 finish in a major since the 2008 U.S. Open.

Matt Kuchar tied for the lead with a short eagle putt on the 15th, then bogeyed the 16th for a 69. Peter Hanson, who had a one-shot lead going into the final round, didn’t make a birdie until the 15th hole. He closed with a 73.

Gerry “Bubba” Watson, a 33-year-old from the Florida Panhandle, won for the fourth time in his career and moves to No. 4 in the world, making him the highest-ranked American in golf.

And he created a legion of fans – especially in Georgia, where he returned to school to get his degree – who chanted, “Bubba! Bubba! Bubba!” as he hugged everyone he could find on the 10th green.

Tiger Woods used to play practice rounds with Watson at the majors because he was intrigued how a guy who has never had a coach could make the ball move any direction he wanted.

Woods was among those who congratulated Watson on Twitter before the trophy presentation.

“Congrats (at)bubbawatson. Fantastic creativity. Now how creative will the champions dinner be next year?” he tweeted.

Oosthuizen was trying to become only the sixth player to have won majors at Augusta National and St. Andrews – two of the most revered courses in golf – and almost got it done.

He stayed in the lead with a tricky par putt from 10 feet on the 14th and a 7-foot birdie putt on the 15th, but Watson caught him by making his fourth straight birdie on the back nine, a tee shot into 4 feet on the 16th.

Both hung on for pars the rest of the way.

Woods went from the favorite to not even a factor on the weekend. He closed with a birdie on the 18th for a 74 and had his highest score ever at the Masters as a pro, finishing at 5-over 293 – 15 shots out of the lead.

This, from a guy who only two weeks ago won by five shots at Bay Hill, presumably signaling a return.

“It was an off week at the wrong time,” Woods said.

He tied for 40th with U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, also favored to contend. McIlroy was one shot out of the lead after two rounds, then had a 77-76 weekend.

Woods and McIlroy were expected to be a big part of the show. This being Augusta, the show managed to go on. There simply is no greater theater in golf than the Masters, and it lasted all day.

An ace for Bo Van Pelt on the 16th – the second straight year he has made two eagles on the back nine – for a tournament-best 64. An ace for Adam Scott on the same hole, sending him to a 66.

The loudest cheer was for the rarest shot in golf.

Hanson was sizing up a difficult chip from right of the first green when Augusta erupted in cheers from down below. No one was sure what it meant until Hanson and Mickelson hit their tee shots on the par-5 second, glanced over at the white leaderboard behind the eighth green and saw that Oosthuizen had gone from 7 under to 10 under ahead of them.

Hanson made two quick bogeys and never caught back up. Mickelson’s tournament might have ended on the fourth hole with one swing, one bad bounce off the bleachers, and two straight right-handed shots that led to triple bogey.

“Oh, no,” Mickelson said as his tee shot struck the grandstand and caromed into the woods. He could have gone back to the tee and played his third shot. Instead, he tried to chop out of the trees from the right side and barely moved it a yard. He tried the same shot again and slapped it to a muddy patch of grass. From there he went into the bunker, and triple bogey was the best he could do.

Kuchar made a late run, but this back nine – plus two extra holes – ultimately belonged to Watson and Oosthuizen.

Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.

Amen.

The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.



Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”