Watson sees opportunity in California desert

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2011, 6:24 am

Bob Hope ClassicLA QUINTA, Calif. – Many golfers no longer give a second thought to the Bob Hope Classic. The Palm Springs area’s venerable pro-am is too long, too complicated and not lucrative enough for most pros.

Don’t tell that to Bubba Watson, who sees a unique opportunity where so many golfers only see a hassle.

“I love playing golf. I play every day,” said Watson, who finished tied for second behind Bill Haas last year. “Me and my wife got here Saturday, played 30 holes on Sunday, played at a different course (Monday), and then she’s out playing right now.”

Watson, Matt Kuchar and the rest of the field are soaking up the Hope’s picturesque setting and classic vibe while preparing to meet the unusual challenges of the PGA Tour’s only 90-hole, four-course event with three amateurs playing alongside each pro.

Most players aren’t scared away by the prospect of playing on four courses. They’re not particularly challenging courses, and the tour record for birdies is annually endangered.

Many top pros instead shy away from the Hope because of its five-day format and the grinding pace that often leads to six-hour rounds – oh, and the glitzier Abu Dhabi Championship, which happens concurrently.

“I always used to skip the Hope because of that,” Kuchar said. “I felt like, how am I ever going to get practice rounds in? It seems like it’s just a little too much to handle.”

Kuchar changed his mind after making a preseason practice trip to Palm Springs a few years ago and loving the Coachella Valley.

“You wake up in the morning, and it feels like they’re pumping oxygen out there,” Kuchar said. “You feel like you’re playing inside a dome.”

Although the tournament still attracts an entertaining field of amateur playing partners – Kurt Russell, Kevin Nealon, Peter Gallagher and athletes ranging from Julius Erving to Evan Longoria are playing this week – it’s a far cry from the days when Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Clint Eastwood, Burt Lancaster and former presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford filled the field.

The Hope Classic has no title sponsor for the third straight year. Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson and a big chunk of the sport’s best players are in Abu Dhabi, while the Hope has just six of the top 50 – an improvement from last year, when No. 37 Mike Weir was the top-ranked golfer in Palm Springs.

Yet Watson favors the Hope because his wife, Angie, a 6-foot-4 former WNBA player and multisport athlete, is playing among the amateurs for the second straight year. He’s also looking forward to getting back on the tour grind after the death of his father, Gerry, from cancer last October.

Watson is coming off a breakthrough season despite his father’s deteriorating health. He notched his first PGA victory and won nearly $3.2 million while finishing eighth in the FedEx Cup standings and playing in his first Ryder Cup – albeit not playing very well.

“He was in the hospital getting fluids in him every day when I was at the Ryder Cup,” Watson said. “Not to bring that on the team, not to talk about it in the media, it was hard for me to go through, but it helped me because he wanted to see his son play in the Ryder Cup.”

Kuchar learned the benefits of playing a heavy early season schedule last year, when he followed up a third-place finish at the Sony Open with a second-place performance in Palm Springs.

“I always used to look at keeping my card early as one of my goals, always trying to make that number to stay in the top 125 and get somewhere close to a million dollars,” Kuchar said. “After a good week here at Kapalua and then a great showing at the Bob Hope (in 2010), it’s like, ‘All right, I’ve got that pretty well taken care of, and now moving onward to really try to have a great year.’ That was a confidence-booster, and a way to mark a notch off the checklist.”

After finishing tied for fifth at Kapalua last week, Kuchar is the highest-ranked player in the Hope field. He’s one of four Ryder Cup players along with Watson, Jeff Overton and Stewart Cink, who’s making his season debut at the Hope after a two-year absence from Palm Springs.

“It’s always good to come out and see the weather forecast and sunshine and zero percent chance of rain,” said Cink, who spent the past couple of weeks snowbound in Atlanta. “You know you’re going to play a lot of golf and get the repetitions in. It’s a great way to start the year, a good springboard.”

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.