Watson set for encore performance at the Zurich Classic

By Associated PressApril 25, 2012, 10:12 pm

AVONDALE, La. – As Bubba Watson walked off a course carved from cypress swamp toward the TPC Louisiana clubhouse, his path was lined by autograph seekers who held out yellow pin flags bearing the emblem of a golfing shrine hundreds of miles away in the pine-covered hills of Georgia.

The buzz from Watson's Masters triumph at Augusta National has followed him to his first encore performance in New Orleans, where he'll begin the defense of his Zurich Classic victory in the tournament that opens Thursday.

He was already a crowd favorite in the Big Easy, having grown up a Saints fan three hours away in the Florida panhandle. He calls New Orleans' PGA Tour stop his ''home tournament.''

Now that he owns a green jacket, he's trying to learn how to handle the heightened demands on his time, a task made even more difficult by the fact that he's a new father.

''I'm pretty exhausted for this week,'' Watson conceded after his pro-am round Wednesday with a group that included New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. ''I've been playing pretty solid all year; my worst finish is 18th. So the advantage is I'm just playing good right now.''

Watson said he didn't really need to get back on the tour so soon after winning his first major tournament on Easter weekend, at least as far as his golf career is concerned. Watson wasn't thinking about it like that, though. For him, his new status as Masters champion only raised the imperative to show up in a city he cares about and do what he can to help New Orleans maintain the momentum it has gained in its recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

''I thought it was the right thing to do,'' Watson said shortly before patiently signing dozens of the yellow Masters pin flags. ''Some people were saying that, you know, I could take time off, spend time with family, but I just felt like it was the right thing to do for everybody involved with the tournament, the volunteers, everybody that's put the effort in for this week, the charities that are affected by this tournament.

''Just as defending champ, I felt like it was right for me to be here. Winning the Masters, I know it's going to be even harder. It's going to be different, tired, all those things, but all great things at the end.''

In some ways, Watson's game is made for the par-72, 7,425-yard TPC Louisiana. The course favors long hitters.

''If I'm hitting the ball straight and in the fairway, then obviously length is a big factor,'' Watson said. ''It's going to help out a lot. It makes the par 5s a little bit easier, makes the shorter holes that much better, makes the medium holes that much better.''

On the par-4, 372-yard eighth hole during his pro-am round, the left-handed Watson ripped the fat pink head of his driver through the ball and sent a screaming liner bending slightly around a pair of cypress trees on the right side of the course. The ball bounded down the fairway to about 25 yards from the front of the green.

If he can keep making shots like that when it counts, he's bound to be in the hunt come Sunday.

Who else will there at the end is anyone's guess at this tournament, where six of the last 10 winners had never won a PGA Tour event before. They include K. J. Choi in 2002, Tim Petrovic in 2005, Nick Watney in 2007 and Andres Romero in 2008.

Last year, Webb Simpson nearly won his first PGA Tour title before falling to Watson in a playoff. Simpson might have won in regulation had he not demonstrated ultimate sportsmanship, notifying officials that his ball moved on the green while his putter was touching ground inches away. By rule that was a stroke penalty at the time - but not anymore. Seeing a moment like that potentially cost Simpson a title led to a rule change.

Simpson, who went on to register his first two PGA Tour wins since, is back this year, joining a solid field that also includes Keegan Bradley, Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Peter Hansen, Choi, Watney, David Toms, Rickie Fowler and Ben Crane.

There are 14 major winners in the field, including Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Ernie Els and Geoff Ogilvy.

Bradley won the last major of last year, the PGA Championship, and he came to New Orleans exuding confidence.

''I absolutely love coming here; I love the golf course,'' said Bradley, second at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles in February. ''My game is in a very good place. ... I'm starting to prove that I can play out here.''

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


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Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


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J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''