Watson wins WGC-HSBC in playoff thriller

By Doug FergusonNovember 9, 2014, 9:32 am

SHANGHAI - Even in the midst of a meltdown, Bubba Watson never lost hope Sunday in the HSBC Champions.

He stood on the 16th tee with a two-shot lead. He trudged off the 17th green facing a one-shot deficit behind five players suddenly tied for the lead. And right when it looked as though Watson had blown it, he delivered a finish that not even the creator of ''Bubba golf'' could have imagined.

From some 60 yards away in a bunker left of the green on the par-5 18th hole, Watson blasted out of the sand and watched his ball roll 25 feet before it dropped for eagle. Watson was so stunned that his eyes widened and he screamed. He didn't know what else to do.

Moments later, he rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th in a playoff to beat Tim Clark and capture his first World Golf Championship.

''You never know what he's going to do,'' said Rickie Fowler, who watched it all unfold at Sheshan International.

Watson closed with a 2-under 70, a score that doesn't even begin to describe his wild ride - an eagle, birdie, par, bogey and double bogey filled his scorecard over the last five holes.

The two-time Masters champion looked like a lost cause when he stood in the bunker on the 18th in regulation, waiting his turn to play. That's when he turned to his caddie and told him, ''It's been a miserable couple holes here, but this will change everything if it goes in.''

Talk about a Shanghai surprise.


WGC-HSBC Champions: Articles, videos and photos


''You always joke about holing it,'' Watson said. ''And then it actually went in. I didn't know how to react and so I just kind of screamed, and I lost my voice a little bit. It was one of those shots, a one-in-a-lifetime kind of shot. And so it was pretty neat.''

The 10th edition of the HSBC Champions was the most memorable one yet.

Clark made a 5-foot birdie on the final hole for a 69 to join Watson at 11-under 277. Fowler's hopes of joining them ended when he tried to hit a 5-wood from 228 yards over the water to a back pin position. The ball didn't make it over the front bank and rolled back into the water. He scrambled for a par and a 70.

All three players in the final group had a chance at birdie to join the playoff.

Graeme McDowell, who led after each of the three rounds, missed a 12-foot putt and shot 73. Hiroshi Iwata of Japan, the mystery guest on a world-class leaderboard, narrowly missed from 8 feet. U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer hit a wedge that bounded off the green and into the water, leading to double bogey and a 73.

In the playoff, Clark had a 25-foot birdie putt that stopped a few inches short.

''I knew I needed to birdie that playoff, especially with him being able to reach,'' Clark said. ''I'm pleased overall. Obviously, disappointed to be that close.''

Watson wound up in the same bunker in the playoff, and while he blasted out 20 feet short, the birdie putt was on the same line as the bunker shot he holed in regulation. He knew the speed and the break. The only difference was when he holed the winning putt, he didn't have a voice to scream. He bent his knees and repeatedly pumped both arms.

Watson became the 14th player to win a major and a World Golf Championship. Watson moved to No. 3 in the world, making him the highest-ranked American, and it was his seventh career win. Sweeter yet, he picked up a trophy far away from home.

''Being able to win outside the U.S., I just want to be able to travel and get through the jet lag, get through all the things and still perform at a high level,'' Watson said. ''So for me to win out here, this is very big. This is very special for me.''

That the other five players even had a chance was a bonus.

Watson was 89 yards away from the 16th green when he hit a lob wedge heavy and missed the green, such a bad spot that he did well to keep his chip on the green about 20 feet away. He two-putted for bogey. Then, he found a bunker left of the green on the par-3 17th and couldn't negotiate the soft sand. Using a 56-degree wedge, he left the first shot in the sand. His next one went off the green and onto the fringe, and he two-putted for double bogey.

When the final group behind him walked onto the 16th green, they were so stunned to see a five-way tie for the lead, they asked to make sure it was accurate.

''That's why I went for the green on 16,'' Kaymer said. ''I thought if I can make 3 there, I can square with Bubba. And I saw that he made double bogey on 17, so all of a sudden, there were five guys in the lead.''

Watson at that moment appeared to be the least likely of the bunch to hold the trophy. It only made sense later when he was asked why fans find him so intriguing.

''They never know what they're going to get,'' he said.

Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.