Watson shelves 'Bubba Golf' at bunker-laden Lytham

By Doug FergusonJuly 16, 2012, 5:55 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Another major championship has Masters champion Bubba Watson feeling a bit perplexed.

Only this time, it's not just because of the golf course.

'I haven't seen the water yet,' Watson said Monday after his first practice round at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. 'We're really close to the water. My house is close to the water. But the water seems like it's way away from the shoreline – like miles. Why is the water so far away? Like the beach goes for miles, and then the water is way out there. Can you answer that one?'

In these parts, that's known as the tide.

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This was Bubba having some fun on the first official day of practice, and he did well to escape the water that matters – the rain. Wet weather is in the forecast for much of the week in what has been a miserable summer of rain even by British standards, and Watson managed to get in 18 holes before the first big downpour.

He's really not concerned about finding the water in the Irish Sea. The bigger worry is trying to navigate through 206 bunkers that are littered across Royal Lytham & St. Annes, so many of them that Watson recited a few numbers that showed how much he was paying attention.

'Not that I counted, but there's 17 (bunkers) on 18, and there's nine on No. 1,' he said.

Watson only found two of them Monday, but it shaped his thinking for the week. He said he spent much of the practice round thinking about where to hit the ball, not how far. That pink driver on display at Augusta National didn't come out of the bag that much. In its place were a variety of irons, anything to stay short of the bunkers.

'It looks like we're going to hit a lot of irons off of tees, try to play safer, smarter – whatever you want to call it – and just have a longer shot into some of these holes,' Watson said. 'The par 5, No. 7, I'm going to hit iron off that tee even though I could reach it if I hit it in the fairway with a driver. I have to figure out a way to lay back and just have a longer shot into some of these holes.

'That doesn't mean I'm going to be able to do that,' he added with a smile. 'That's my goal.'

Even with four wins – including his first major in April – and talking about the unique style of play he calls 'Bubba Golf,' Watson feels he has a lot to learn, especially in the majors. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open playing with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, saying even before it started that Olympic Club was too hard for him.

Lytham is hardly a pushover.

The bunkers can be so severe that defending champion Darren Clarke predicted some players might have no choice but to take a penalty drop because there's no way out. Because of the wet spring, the native grass framing the fairways is so tall and thick that spotters have had a hard time finding the golf ball. Even if they do happen to find it, odds are the next shot won't go far.

That's why 'Bubba Golf' this week might look a little conservative.

'I learned a lot at the U.S. Open watching Tiger, watching Phil, learning about strategy,' Watson said. 'You know, the game is a tough game, so you've just got to learn and process this information and move on. I missed the cut there, but I feel good. I finished second the week after the U.S. Open. My game feels where it needs to be, but it's all about executing the right shots at the right time and hitting them in the right place.'

The key is for his head to be in the right spot.

Watson likes to make fun of himself when it comes to his mental game, saying time and again that 'I've got issues.' At home, he's still finishing up the paperwork on the adoption of his son, Caleb, who came into his world right before he won the Masters. Watson gets distracted easily, whether it's deciding what he wants for dinner or what video game he's going to play that night. Part of his charm is that he acts like a kid.

'When I focus right, I play pretty good,' Watson said. 'And when I don't focus right, I miss the cut pretty quick.'

His focus at Lytham is being in the short grass.

There are a few holes, such as the 336-yard 16th hole with the wind from the Irish Sea at the players' back, where they might be tempted to go for the green. Some of them tried on a more pleasant afternoon on Sunday, though the risk is to catch the bunkers short of the green. From there, players might need to two more shots just to get on the green.

Watson was asked if he can overpower the golf course in good weather.

'It's a trick question because yes, I can,' he said. 'But I've got to hit every fairway, and with the driver sometimes I get a little wild, as we know. The high rough – it's not like our rough in the U.S. This is hay that is 15 yards off the fairway, 10 yards off on some of the holes, and you might not find your ball. You have to play smart. This golf course, and the U.S. Open, they make you play to a strategy and have to play a certain way, so you have to do that.

'There could be a day out of four days that I can just beat driver everywhere and play great golf,' he said. 'But four days in a row to get that lucky, to not have a bad lie or find all my balls, that would be tough to do.'

Watson missed the cut at Turnberry and St. Andrews in his first two trips to the Open. A year ago, he improved to a tie for 30th. It's not the best record so far, though his head appears to be in the right place. Unlike Olympic, where he didn't like his chances upon seeing the course with so much slope in the fairways, he loves links golf.

Watson already has played Royal Birkdale and St. Annes Links before showing up at Lytham. He loves the creativity required, the bounces on the turf, the imagination. It's different, but it's fun.

'I think that's why it gets so difficult for me is because there's so many shots you can play,' he said. 'But I love it. I love coming over here. It's sad that it's one week out of the year to play links golf for us from the U.S. But it's fun. You can come over here and create shots that you don't normally do.'

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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”