Watson leads by 1 at Memorial

By Doug FergusonMay 31, 2014, 10:11 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – Bubba Watson has been coming to Muirfield Village ever since his rookie year on the PGA Tour. Nine years later, he might have finally figured it out.

He had only five rounds in the 60s in his previous eight trips. Even with a bogey on his final hole Saturday, he had a 3-under 69 for his third straight round in the 60s this week. Watson is 11 under on the par 5s, the key to scoring.

Best of all, he walked off the course with a one-shot lead over Scott Langley in the Memorial. Not bad for a guy who has never finished better than a tie for 23rd.

''It's all about maturity,'' Watson said. ''Thinking around the golf course a lot better – it's my ninth year on Tour, so better thinking on the golf course is creating better shots. Hitting a lot more greens. Hitting a lot more fairways. Putting a little better this year. When you add all that up, it turns into better scores.

Watson was at 12-under 204 and in position for his third win of the year.

''I have a shot,'' Watson said. ''I'd like the same score tomorrow and let the boys beat me if they can beat me.''

Plenty of them should have a chance. With a bogey on the final hole, Watson's lead shrunk to one shot over Langley, who had a 67 to make it an all-southpaw final pairing Sunday. Langley has not been in the final group since his rookie debut two years ago in Honolulu.

The most famous Lefty, Phil Mickelson, had a 72 and was 10 shots out of the lead while coping with reports he is involved in a federal investigation of insider trading. Mickelson confirmed that FBI agents approached him after the first round this week. Otherwise, he went about his business on the golf course.


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''It's not going to change the way I carry myself,'' Mickelson said. ''Honestly, I've done nothing wrong. I'm not going to walk around any other way.''

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan made birdie on his last hole for a 69 and was two shots behind. Adam Scott, the No. 1 player in the world and coming off a win at the Colonial last week, made eagle on the 15th that sparked another surge up the leaderboard. With a bogey on the last hole, he had a 68 and still was only three shots behind.

''It's going to be tough,'' Scott said about his three-shot deficit to the Masters champion. ''He's playing great this year, and I just have to post a number. I'm in a good position where I can possibly post a number, and that makes life a little harder for the leader.''

The 36-hole leader had a tough enough time. Paul Casey, who started Saturday with a three-shot lead. That was gone in three holes when Watson made a pair of birdies, and Casey missed more than his share of putts that keep rounds together. He ended with a double bogey for a 76. He still was in range, however, part of a large group at 8-under 208 that included Jordan Spieth (67), Charl Schwartzel (67) and Byron Nelson winner Brendon Todd (69).

Watson already has won at Riviera and Augusta National this year. He has tried to make it a point of keeping golf fun – Bubba Golf, he likes to call it – instead of getting wrapped up in expectations.

His performance on the par 5s took a slight hit on the 11th hole when his drive found the water, he chose to lay up because of the front hole location and missed his 12-foot par putt. He followed by missing birdie chances of 7 feet on the 13th hole and 3 1/2 feet on the 14th hole, a chance to build some separation.

But he rolled in a 12-foot birdie on the 15th and was back in control until the 18th. Watson pulled his approach well right of the green, and his chip ran through the green and into the fringe against the collar. Using a fairway metal to chip, it appeared that the club moved his ball before the stroke, though Watson says he didn't touch it and television replays made it clear that the ball didn't leave its position.

Langley doesn't hit the ball as long as Watson. His game is about efficiency and control, and he has shown that by taking a streak of 40 straight holes without a bogey into the final round. Much like Watson, he saw the simple pleasures of a round at Muirfield Village.

''Any time you shoot in the 60s here, pretty happy about it,'' Langley said. ''Tough place.''

Langley grew up in the Midwest and went to school at Illinois. He has played plenty in the Columbus area in college and says he ''never cracked an egg'' whether he was at the Scarlett Course at Ohio State or Scioto. The good news for Langley? Muirfield Village is in Dublin.

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”

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McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:18 pm

The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.

McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.” 

And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.

“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.” 

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Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 12:44 pm

No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.

Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.

With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.

“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”

Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.