Trevor Tiger and Taxes

By Dena DavisApril 16, 2008, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: As a part of the creative braintrust in the GOLF CHANNEL news department, Dena Davis thrives on uncovering compelling stories in golf for our shows, and finding unique, fresh ways to give viewers their golf news. These are her weekly thoughts, some random musings, and even a few programming notes. And she would like you to remember: It's all said in good fun.
Feeling Green:
Its highly possible that the self-professed sports fanatic Trevor Immelman was a tad disappointed, and perhaps even bored, by the lack of player star-power and intrigue at the sporting event the other day. No, not at Augusta on Sunday. (That was me.) Im talking about Tuesday nights Boston/New York match-up at Madison Square Garden. I doubt Immelman envisioned taking in an NBA game to watch the magnificent hoop stylings of one Tony Allen ' rather than Ray Allen. Nor was he itching to see Kendrick Perkins, James Posey and Leon Powe play, I imagine. Doc Rivers had benched the Big Three (no, not Palmer, Player and Nicklaus) for the entire game while the freshly-minted, newly-cloaked Masters champ sat on his own bench, the celebrity court-side one, watching the makeshift Celtics team beat a beleaguered lame-duck Knicks club 99-93. The South African was making the requisite and well-deserved victory rounds in the Big Apple, with this particular stop as the special guest of his Lake Nona, Fla., neighbor Coach Rivers. And keeping with the prevalent coaching trend of having random celebrities give half-time speeches (Im thinking Rich Rodriguez will NOT be asking Russell Crowe back to Ann Arbor this fall.), the green-jacketed hero apparently energized the green jerseyed Cs scrub squad in the lockerroom with his champion-like feel, whatever that means.
It was great, Rivers said. Half the guys didnt know him. It was really cool. (This is where I lose him. How is his anonymity cool?) They all gave him a nice standing ovation and shook his hand. We wanted everyone to touch what a champion felt like.
Yeah, because we all know Larry Bird is not walking through that door! Kevin McKale is not walking through that door! Robert Parrish is not walking through that door!
Chalk it up to Karma:
Maybe it was too much to ask from the sports gods to be blessed with a crazy, improbable Super Bowl, an incredible NCAA Championship title game (even if was all-chalk), AND a compelling Masters all within the first few months 2008. As sports fans, inherently, we really are a greedy, gluttonous breed. We want theatre. We want unpredictability. We want astonishing feats, last-second heroics, sexy story-lines, records broken. All of it. If our favorite players or teams cant win, at the very least, we want the game or event to hold our attention. Make it interesting, we say, We want a close one. So going into this week, I was praying for a half-dozen of the world's top golfers all tied for the lead with a few holes on a late Sunday afternoon. I was holding out for some Mario Chalmers-like antics on the back-nine sending the action into overrrrrr-time. (Especially in this, the only major with a sudden-death play-off system!) But as it turned out, Billy Packer could have called this one early on Sunday. Shoot, maybe we all could have predicted it on Saturday when Immlemans third shot somehow stopped on the bank of the 15th green, in what would turn out as the ONLY really memorable shot of the entire tournament. But despite the dearth of drama, despite all the missing elements we lust and long for in our championships -- because these supposedly define THE BEST -- and separate the rest -- what we had left standing on Sunday was a hero in every sense of the word. And we didnt need an on the-edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting ending to enhance or validate this victory. Because in the end, there stood a true, courageous, humble champion in Trevor Immelman and that was more than enough. (And who, apropos of nothing, could probably fall back on acting or modeling if this golf gig doesnt pan out. Can we start running that FedEx commercial again with him and Vijay where hes talking into his brush in the mirror? People will recognize him now!)
I heard the news today, oh boy:
Why is it that upon hearing the news of Tiger Woods knee surgery and his subsequent 4-6 week stint on the DL, my thoughts immediately jumped to two South Africans, but for two different reasons: Trevor Immelman and Ernie Els. Id like to not be a cynic here, but does Tiger realize how the timing of this news looks, only two days after he back-doored a second-place finish at Augusta, thanks in part to some choking newbies in front of him on the leaderboard. And does he realize it might be a slight slap in the face to the newly-crowned Immelman?
The Masters champ barely had 48 hours to soak in the glorious rays of triumph and heres Tiger taking the spotlight away. Oh, yeah, you won Trevor, but let me throw out a subtle disclaimer that I had a bum knee all along, not exactly full-speed, partner. Did Tiger REALLY need to release this information THIS week. Curiously, his swing coach Hank Haney didnt even know about it until we did, when it hit the wires. On another note, Ernie Els had to be rejoicing -- and licking his chops -- with the possibility of a few imminent non-Tiger tournaments he can win now with his buddy side-lined. Just the other night, I told my dad that Els would never win another major as long as Tiger was in the field, because the Big Easy was just too much of a head-case at this point -- and far from being a closer on a big stage. HOWEVA, if he could pull it off (without Tiger in the field), THE PLAYERS could now be a huge confidence-breeding win for Ernie before heading to San Diego for the U.S. Open. By that time, Tiger will have just returned from rehabbing the knee, and Butch Harmon will have had time to work his magic (still skeptical) with his newest pupil. Might be perfect timing for Els to win his first major in over five years! Naw, what am I saying? The last time Woods had knee surgery, he came back and won three of his first four tournaments, starting with the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, just one of the six times hes one at that venue in the last four years.
What I learned this week:
  • Nothing is certain but death, Tigers inability to come from behind to win a major, and taxes.
  • I would rather Billy Payne televise the Masters Champions dinner than the Par-3 tournament. That has GOT to be more riveting, entertaining, and enlightening. Toddlers in cute caddy outfits pal-ing around with their dads is indeed awfully precious, but THREE HOURS gets old real fast. On the other hand, imagine being a fly on the wall at the Champions dinner! It would be golfs version of Big Brother for CBS. That might grow the game.The kids sure seem to be fond of that show for some reason.
  • As I turns out, doo-rags and denim are acceptable attire at Augusta National. However, I did notice that the universe WILL punish you for these flagrant style fouls. Yes, were looking at you, Mrs. Sabbatini with the biker bandana in your hair at the Par-3 tournament and Mr. Justin black jeans Rose. Just because the course played unreasonably rough, doesnt give you permission to dress that way.
  • As heard on the Masters broadcasts nat. sound (TV term), the most vociferous, garrulous birds in the world, apparently, all reside in Augusta, Ga.
  • Never underestimate an adult dogs (with behavioral problems) uncanny ability to find -- among a haystack of papers in a bookbag, no less -- a single W-2 form and proceed to chew it to pieces. (Is there a dog eating homework category as a reason for filing an extension?)
  • Talking about how freakin sweet it was that I managed to snag Johnny Cueto and Evan Longoria for my fantasy baseball team before anyone else, is probably not the best conversation topic on a first date. (Editors note: No, he hasnt called yet.)
  • Jim Nantz must be off his game, as of late. First, in the National Championship title game he used this weak line: Rock Chalk Championship as Kansas captured the title in San Antonio. And then on Sunday at Augusta, after waxing poetic about Tiger all week and droning on about circles of life, he chose the no-call silence for Trevors tap-in at the 72nd hole for the green jacket. We were looking for something like: from one Player to an Immel-MAN or some reference to the 30-year anniversary of Gary winning and the passing of the South African torch. We would have also accepted a Gus Johnson-like excitable stream of incoherent audio. Really, anything to have woken us up from our slumber would have been appreciated, so we knew it was over. Hello? Hello friends? Is this thing on?
  • The spicy chicken sandwich from Wendys is neither spicy nor chicken. Make of that what you will.
  • It was rather premature and pointless this past week for us to chatter so much about the surprising demise of the Detroit Tigers, the curious success of the Royals, and the foregone conclusion of a Tiger Woods calendar Grand Slam. With baseball only completing around 10-12 of their 162 games at the time and with Woods not yet even teeing it up in the first major of the season, it was all silly and unfounded speculation. The truth of the matter is, this far out, for both the Tigers and the Royals the World Series is still within reason and the only verifiable slam within reason in the golf world involves Lorena Ochoa, who, after her most recent win now has enough points earned for the LPGA Hall of Fame at age 25. In what Im dubbing as the Senorita Slam (you cant go wrong with alliteration, folks), Ochoas impressive domination (see her 8.5-shot average margin of victory in her four 2008 wins) will continue this summer in Maryland and then at Interlachen, and finally in Berkshire, England. Now, THAT'S a potential grand salami home run to talk about.
    Course of Life:
    I am a lifetime member of Kountryside Golf Course in Cope, S.C. This may not mean anything to anyone else, but to me, it means more than I could have ever imagined. Its value cannot be measured with a paycheck. And Augusta National couldnt begin to come close to matching the special nature of Kountryside. A pocket-sized laminated card bearing my name and this honor given to me by two of the most unique, honest, hard-working people I have ever come across, hangs in my office proudly on display. And I look forward to using it one day soon. You see, I have never even set foot in Cope, S.C. I have yet to play a single hole on the charming track there. But I cannot wait for the day I get to do just that. Moreover, I am most eager to meet the owners, Bobby and Len Kilgus, in person. Because it was their remarkable story that I found last fall while searching the Internet ' a tale of making something out of nothing in pursuit of a dream ' which ended up touching me and inspiring me in ways I had not expected. Not only did we get to cover their course for 'Golf Central,' everyone involved in the shoot, Rich Lerner on down to the camera man there, to the producer and editor back in Orlando, we all got to know the Kilguses and the lovely people of Cope. And we all became better for it. Bobby and Lens story reminds me every day at work how blessed I am to do what I do -- and how fun and rewarding my job is when I get to meet folks like them. You just never know when you might have the chance to strike up a friendship of a lifetime.
    Rich Lerners 3-part feature on Kountryside Golf Course airs this weekend on 'Golf Central' Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
    Email your thoughts to Dena Davis
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    After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 2:39 am

    Each week, 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

    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.

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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.

    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.

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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

    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.”