Highlights: Bubba's surprise visit to 'Morning Drive'

By Ryan LavnerApril 15, 2014, 1:03 pm

Some surprises are better than others – like Bubba Watson unexpectedly arriving in the Golf Channel parking lot, ready to hop on “Morning Drive.”

That’s what happened Tuesday, as the newly crowned Masters champion arrived on set wearing his green jacket, green Masters tie and white Augusta National dress shirt – the same outfit, he said, that he wore last week at the Champions Dinner. This was his one and only media appearance before heading to The Greenbrier for a family vacation.

For about a half hour, Watson discussed everything from how he “blacked out” on the second nine to how he didn’t notice Jordan Spieth’s boiling frustration to how he’s better equipped to deal with major No. 2. 

Here are some of the highlights:

• Much was made of Watson’s mammoth drive Sunday on 13, but the former University of Georgia player said that he’d hit wedge into that green before, back in college. “This time I hit sand wedge, though,” he said, “so I guess I’ve improved a little bit.”

• Watson always had a dream to walk up the 18th fairway high-fiving fans, but was advised by caddie Ted Scott to “make sure you get this victory first.” Bubba settled for high-fives around 18 after holing out and hugging his family behind the green.

• Watson on his birdie attempt on 18, which he could four-putt and still win: “I told (Scott) to read it, because I couldn’t see anything right now.”

• When asked how his young son, Caleb, has turned him into a different man, Watson joked: “I don’t know if I’m a man yet – I still cry a lot. I need to be more manly about that, I guess.”

• Watson won’t go on a media tour after this Masters victory. Instead, he and his family are heading to The Greenbrier for a vacation, and they plan on hosting a party on Friday. He also hopes to take his green jacket to the Florida Panhandle, where he grew up, and maybe throw out the first pitch for the minor-league team in Pensacola.

• What Watson thought as he watched the kids compete in the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship prior to the Masters: “This is an inspiration. The game of golf, it grew on Sunday. It grew when these kids were there. … It’s going to grow more when families get involved, when parents spend more time with their child (on the course). It’s going to grow y’all closer together. The game is frustrating, but they’re learning together.”

• On whether he wants Caleb, 2, to someday compete in the Drive, Chip & Putt: “I would love it. That’d definitely be better than me winning again. It’d be an honor and privilege for my kid to perform there.”

• Some have criticized runner-up Jordan Spieth for his behavior during the final round. Watson, however, said he didn’t notice: “I didn’t have any idea any of that was going on. I don’t think he was immature. Who doesn’t get mad? He’s 20 years old, trying to win. He just gets excited. He’s going to improve on it. It didn’t bother me at all. I love the kid to death. It’s one of those things where he’s trying to win a green jacket.”

• Watson says he gets “overwhelmed” when people praise him: “The first time I won (the Masters), it was overwhelming. It might not seem like it, but I shy from (praise). It really gets under my skin and I don’t know how to deal with it. But the steps I’ve made in my life, I’ll handle it a little better. I still might not play good golf, but I think my emotions will be a lot better; my drive is a lot different now. Everything is different in my life, and it’s going in a direction that I want it to go in.”

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.