After Further Review: Bubba Golf built for Augusta

By Jay CoffinApril 14, 2014, 2:00 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. In this edition of After Further Review, our writers weigh in on Bubba Watson's second Masters victory in three years, what it means for him going forward and how tough scoring conditions this week could affect the future setup of Augusta National.

Never overlook Bubba Watson here at the Masters. Never. I did this year and am not sure why. When he won at the Northern Trust Open he jumped on an early Masters favorites list. But somehow, at least to me, when he withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational I erased him from my mind as a contender altogether. I was focused mostly on Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar. Never again. Doesn’t matter how he plays prior to this tournament, his booming drives and ridiculous shot-making ability will give him a chance to win more green jackets over the next eight years. Scary thought. – Jay Coffin

The cliché is, "the Masters doesn’t really begin until the back nine on Sunday." So the most disappointing part of this year’s Masters was just how dull it was on the back nine Sunday. That’s the exact opposite of how it’s supposed to go. The tournament is supposed to be set up for great television — birdies, eagles, water splashes, thrilling charges, epic collapses — but we got none of that. Bubba Watson shot par on the back nine and won easily. Nobody came close to making a run at him.

His challengers —  Jordan Spieth (1 over), Jonas Blixt (1 under) and Matt Kuchar (1 over) could not do ANYTHING interesting on the back.

The tournament committee has to think about this. There were just three eagles on No. 13 (none by contenders), zero eagles on No. 15, only a couple of balls in the water on No. 12 and then nothing too exciting at the usually thrilling holes like 11 or 16. It was just blah all the way around — Blixt would say, simply, “I didn’t feel like I got it close enough to the pins in order to make that many birdies.” There have been so many changes at Augusta the last few years, many of them necessary with the evolving equipment and talent of golfers. But I think they made it too hard this week. The thrill was gone. – Joe Posnanski

Bubba Golf, in all its unique quirkiness, is better than the sum of its parts. Say what you will about the two-time Masters champion, his victory lap on Sunday at Augusta National was textbook. For the week, Watson finished first in driving distance (shocking, right?), 13th in greens in regulation and 12th in putts per green in regulation. His high-flying game has already produced two victories in 2014, as well as two runner-up showings, and virtually assured him a spot on this year’s Ryder Cup team. He may not be the most orthodox player, either in form or fashion, but the days of doubting his resolve are over. – Rex Hoggard

We’re going to find out a lot more about Jordan Spieth during the next three major championships. Prior to a runner-up finish in his first Masters appearance, the 20-year-old was saddled only with his own expectations, not those of everyone else. Now the hype machine is going to be set to full power. All eyes will be on Spieth at Pinehurst and Hoylake and Valhalla, because in a game that desperately yearns for a youthful new superstar, he fits the bill. Indications are that he can handle the pressure - this is a kid who’s been immune to any bravado. The intensity of the spotlight will only shine brighter going forward, though. He’s handled everything in his career with an unusually mature attitude so far, but it’s only going to get more difficult from here. – Jason Sobel

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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.