Tiger Bad for the Game

By Brian HewittMay 23, 2008, 4:00 pm
The Comebacker this week is a decidedly mixed bag. Weve got Sergio in the Publix; a conditional marriage proposal for Annika and a little Tiger bashing of sorts.
Without further ado:
Bryce writes: I heard someone on the Golf Channel comment that Kenny Perry got a bad break when his ball hit the tree. Yes, you are correct that the safe miss is to the right of the green. However, Kenny's ball was 50 yards off line and sailing beyond the safe area when it hit the tree. That was not bad luck, it was a bad shot. Bad shots are seldom rewarded.
The Comebacker
Correct. Any time you hit a ball to a place where a bad break is a possibility, you should not complain about the result. Hogan, you may remember, didnt get too many bad breaks.

James writes: When Kenny Perrys ball hit the tree and rolled over the green into the hazard, why did he drop in the fairway when the ball crossed the green before rolling into the hazard, don't you drop where the ball enters the hazard?
The Comebacker
As it was explained to me, the stakes were yellow which means the player has to drop on the side of the hazard he originally crossed.

Barrie writes: As much as I admire Tiger and enjoy watching him come up with impossible shots, I like tournaments without him. The reason? You never know who will win. I love it when on a Sunday there are seven guys within a shot of the lead. The winner could be anyone. There is often a playoff and there is drama. If Tiger were in the field and within a few shots of the lead, I would assume that he would win. It almost feels inevitable when Tiger is in such a spot and it is that inevitability that destroys any sense of drama for me.
The Comebacker
Blaming Tiger for being a buzzkill is like blaming the Johnstown Flood on a leaky faucet in Altoona.

Esteban writes: Just a quick anecdote of Annika to portray just why she'll be so missed: During a practice round in Bosque Real in Mexico City a few years ago, I caught Annika walking with her head down, completely absorbed in thought and a bit troubled. Since she was coming off the range, I assumed she was thinking about some aspect of her swing. I was hesitant to approach her so as not to disturb her when just then a group of people came up to her, and in stumbling English asked if they could take a picture with her. Immediately she changed her frown to a sunny, sincere smile, and posed for a bunch of photos. She was patient and friendly all the while. They thanked her profusely, and as soon as they were gone, her frown of concentration came back, and she kept walking, staring at the ground. I never got my autograph, but the memory of that moment will stay with me forever!
The Comebacker
Not enough stories like these make the printed light of day.

Michael writes: I try not to judge people until I have seen and talked to them in person. I met Sergio on Monday before the tournament at the Publix store where I work in the Produce department at Sawgrass near the Players club...Nobody but me recognized him as he was pushing a cart and buying his own groceries. I must preface this saying that Sergio is my favorite golfer...Seve was but he retired (not on top of his game like Annika). I introduced myself and we had a great 10-15 minute conversation. He's not used to Americans who appreciate how great a player he is and don't look for ways to criticize his putting or his attitude or the way he has helped the Europeans kick butt in the Ryder Cup over and over again. He could not have been nicer and I told him that the only person he needed to listen to was his father Victor and that he should have confidence after finishing 2nd last year. We talked about bullfighting, winning the Irish Open in 1999, and orange juice. He likes Tropicana Valencia which his roommate Camilo Villegas bought for him later that night. I realized that I had my golf bag in my trunk and so I got my EL TORO bull headcover that I have on my driver and he signed one of the horns.
The Comebacker
Was that orange juice no pulp, some pulp, or lots of pulp?

Wayne writes: I'd be more than willing to quit my current job to become Mr. Mom to Annika's offspring, however, I have a few demands...1) A daily golf lesson while baby is sleeping, in lieu of pay if necessary. 2) I don't cook so take out is mandatory, unless of course she enjoys barbequed steak/burgers/sausages everyday? 3) I refuse to field calls at 2 am from Lorena, who keeps saying No Mas and begging Annika to return so she has some real competition. 4) Includes me in her early Monday morning foursome with Tiger and Stevie so her (sic) and I can and work their wallets (don't forget, she's semi-retired now and will need the cash), while Mr. Sorenstam watches the kid(s). Those are my terms and they aren't negotiable.
The Comebacker
Sorry, Wayner, word out of the Sorenstam camp is that Annika isnt real big on barbecue.

Joel writes: I haven't seen this slant on Annika's retirement. If this is her farewell tour, think of the crowds that will be at the events. Crafty on her part. Sergio is, was, and will be a chump. When will you in the media stop doing the following: 1. Act as if anyone under 20 who wins is the next Messiah (sorry God). 2. Using the phrase good golf shot. With apologies to Bill Engvall, of course it's a golf shot because you are playing golf. DUH. You never hear a baseball announcer saying it was a good baseball shot or baseball catch. You also never hear a hockey announcer talk about a good hockey shot.
The Comebacker
Actually, the one thats been making me a little crazy lately is when basketball announcers talk about a player having the ability to score the basketball. Hubie Brown, who should know better, is especially guilty of this particularly annoying example of sportspeak.

Steve writes: I call him Garcia, not Sergio, because I don't believe he's earned, and I don't believe he deserves the one-name moniker our beloved athletes are sometimes known by, like Tiger, Annika, Phil, Arnie, Jack, etc. He has a lot to prove to me before I accept him as an athlete worth considering for such sentiment. He is, to put it bluntly a petulant brat and his post-game comments did nothing to sway me..He needs to grow up, humble himself and show respect for the game and his competitors. Until he does, I will root against him.
The Comebacker
So Im guessing, Steve, you wont be asking Sergio to sign your headcover any time soon.
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    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

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    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

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    “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.

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    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.

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    “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.

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    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

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    “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.”