Blog Wie Back on PGA TOUR

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 22, 2008, 4:00 pm
Thought Wie were done with this
July 22, 2008
by: Mercer Baggs

 
Nothing like a little Michelle Wie news to revive a blog.
 
It was announced Monday that Wie was granted a sponsor's exemption to compete in next week's Legends Reno-Tahoe Open. This comes on the heels of her disqualification from the LPGA's State Farm Classic, where she was just one off the 54-hole lead.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie will being playing on the PGA TOUR while the LPGA is playing the Women's British Open. (Getty Images).
Faaantastic.
 
Blame the Wie camp for putting her once again in this position. Fault the people who run the tournament in Reno for allowing it to happen. It's a song we've heard before; just one we didn't think we'd hear again for a while.
 
If the event really wants extra publicity while being contested the same week as a WGC event, I say exempt a grizzly bear and give him some clubs and a leprechaun as a caddie. Id definitely tune in then.
 
But I'll still watch, because it's my job. And so, too, will many of you, because you're curious (even if it's a morbid curiosity).
 
People will click their remotes to watch her play and click on links to read her stories. No matter how much some may claim to loathe her, they just have to know all about her.
 
That's why during Open Championship week the most popular article on this Web site was the one about Wie being disqualified. And why she dominates talk in our discussion boards. And why the people in Reno want her to play their event.
 
Please add your comments below
 
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The Pak Factor
July 2, 2008
by: Mercer Baggs

 
Tiger Woods changed the game. He popularized it with the masses. Made TOUR players rich beyond their dreams.
 
Se Ri Pak
Se Ri Pak has 24 career LPGA Tour wins and is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. (Getty Images)
But no one, not even Tiger, has had the kind of impact as has Se Ri Pak.
 
Ten years ago there were no Kims or Parks on the LPGA. Just a Pak, a lone South Korean with full exempt status.
 
This year, 43 South Korean-born players began the season with some form of status on tour. Seventeen of them now have official victories.
 
In 1998, Pak won the McDonalds LPGA and the U.S. Womens Open to become the first major champion from South Korea. Those wins, particularly the latter, inspired countless girls from her native country to gain interest in golf, including Inbee Park, who just last week won the Womens Open herself.
 
Parks win gave South Korea seven major championship titles over the last seven years, compared to the Americans six. In fact, unless a Stateswoman wins the British Open, the Yanks will be shutout in the majors for the third time since 2001.
 
South Koreans have also claimed three of the last four LPGA events. The lone exception was Yani Tseng, from Taiwan, who won the McDonalds.
 
Fans might not be able to distinguish Seon Hwa Lee from Eun Hi Jee. And network execs might cringe at the thought of a Na On Min winning the Womens British in a runaway.
 
But this is the state of the LPGA. The best contingent comes from South Korea. The best player hails from Mexico. And only two of the top 10-ranked players in the world bleed Red, White and Blue.
 
Americans arent the best anymore in the womens game, and havent been for quite a while. Wonder what would have happened if Jenny Chausiriporn had beaten Pak in that 98 Open playoff?
 
Please add your comments below
 
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Buyer Beware (or be Dumb)
June 26, 2008
by: Mercer Baggs

 
If you've heard the one about some chucklehead paying 36 grand for the core of an apple eaten by Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open, don't buy it.
 
CNBC.com is saying that the eBay bid was fake. Of course, there is no proof that the core is real, just one man's word ... and a bunch of 'eye witnesses' he'll never be able to contact.
 
At the time of this posting there at 3,492 items on eBay involving Tiger Woods. Most of them are supposed autographed memorabilla. They range from an asking price of $20,000 (signed major championship flags from his Tiger Slam) to logoed TW ball markers for less than a buck.
 
There's a hat on there that someone claims Tiger wore during the 1996 U.S. Amateur Championship. Apparently, Tiger gave the hat to this guy's best friend when he asked for a souvenier after the first round at Pumpkin Ridge, where he won his third straight U.S. Am. The best friend 'has been wearing it in tournaments ever since.'
 
I'm pretty certain that negates any value the hat might have. People might want to buy a hat once worn by Tiger. But not by Tiger and then by someone named 'Deke.'
 
The seller and his buddy weren't going to part with this gem ... until they saw an apple core fetch $36,000. They figure they 'ought to be able to buy a beach house' with this hat.
 
Probably not. But, maybe they can make enough money to buy another item on eBay -- another Tiger apple core, this one from the Open playoff.
 
It's being stored in a vacuum-sealed bag to secure the core's ... integrity (it's hard to even write that without feeling like a loser). And don't forget about the possible DNA you may one day be able to use to clone your own Tiger.
 
And, with 3 days and 12 hours remaining on the auction, it's only going for $630.
 
Please add your comments below
 
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A Reason to Believe
June 23, 2008
by: Mercer Baggs

 
It's only fitting that Stewart Cink won the same week Tiger Woods announced he was taking the rest of the year off.
 
We wondered who would benefit most from Tiger's absence. We thought first about Mickelson, and then about players like Els and Garcia. We thought about players who had never won before on TOUR -- and players who have never before won a major. But we may have overlooked Cink.
 
Cink's wife told him he had to be willing to 'run across the green naked' in order to win an event, meaning he had to be willing to let it all hang out (no pun intended) down the stretch of a tournament.
 
Fortunately the hirsuite Cink, who may very well resemble Chewbacca from the neck down, kept his clothes on in winning this past week's Travelers Championship; though, he may well have danced naked around his hotel room when he heard Tiger was done for the remainder of 2008.
 
Already this year he finished in third place at the Buick Invitational, which Tiger won by eight shots, and he lost badly to Woods, 8 and 7, in the finals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
Add in a playoff loss at the 2006 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. where Tiger tried in vain to give the trophy to Cink, and Cink was on the fast road to becoming the next Davis Love III or Ernie Els as guys regularly stripped of titles and confidence by Woods.
 
But now Tiger is gone and Cink is again a winner. Don't be surprised, with Woods sitting on his couch, if you see a lot of other players on the course with aplomb invigorated.
 
Please add your comments below
 
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Don't Miss This One
June 19, 2008
by: Mercer Baggs

 
As Tom Abbott points out in his latest column there was a story glossed over, if not missed altogether, by golf fans recently.
 
One that may well be the best story of the year in this sport.
 
Tony Johnstone won the Jersey Seniors Classic on the European Seniors Tour two weeks ago. As Tom mentions, there is nothing too surprising on the surface regarding this victory: Johnstone was a six-time winner on the regular European Tour.
 
But here's the catch: Johnstone was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis four years ago and told he would never play golf again.
 
If you know of anyone with MS, you know how debilitating this disease can be as it wreaks havoc on the body's central nervous system.
 
Johnstone, 52, had to re-learn how to play golf. Read that again: Johnstone, at the age of 52, had to completely relearn how to play golf.
 
Now, he's not only playing the game, but he's a champion again. Said the South African: 'There are so many MS sufferers out there. Hopefully this win will show them not to give up hope. ...There is a lot being done in research and hopefully this will show people not to give up hope. Thats one of my goals really, to show MS sufferers its not the end of the road.'
 
With all of the talk about how golf has lost its significance with the loss of Tiger Woods, this is a reminder that there are a lot of great stories out there. And perhaps none, so far this year, better than this one.
 
Please add your comments below
 
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It Is What It Is
June 16, 2008
by: Mercer Baggs

 
Ive never been much for 18-hole playoffs. Always felt that a 3- or 4-hole aggregate session was sufficient to crown a major champion. But, I must admit, Im looking forward to this Tiger-Rocco battle.
 
It will certainly make the work day go by faster.
 
Now, had this been Westwood vs. Mediate, and I had the day off from work, Id probably get updates in between naps.
 
With the U.S. Open taking place in prime time it just seemed fitting that they called it quits last night and opted to continue play Monday at 12 p.m. High noon, of course, is East Coast time and I most certainly have an East Coast bias. It was late in the eastern p.m. when Tiger made that hair-raising putt to force the playoff. It felt, from an East Coast standpoint, time to call it a night and pick it up the next day.
 
Or maybe Im just old and it was nearing my bedtime.
 
Now, had the USGA played this U.S. Open the same way they had in the past, and had regulation ended at 7 p.m. ET, then I would much rather have seen something along the lines of what the Open Championship and PGA Championship use to crown a playoff champion.
 
Tiger likes to say, It is what it is. Which is really annoying, because what it really is, is that Tiger doesnt want to give a real explanation to a question and uses that answer as an all-too-frequent cop out (But thats an aside).
 
The USGA might also say something along those lines. Whether it was Tiger vs. Rocco, Westwood vs. Mediate, or Appleby vs. Els to see if either man could actually handle the pressure enough to break 80, this playoff was going to be 18 holes and it was going to take place on Monday.
 
Thats tradition. Thats the U.S. Open. It is what it is.
 
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Oh, the Humanity
June 5, 2008
by: Mercer Baggs

 
If you want to see the marquee grouping of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott at this years U.S. Open, but you dont have a ticket ' count your blessings.
 
Its going to be great TV. And a miserable live experience.
 
Thousands of people are going to be clamoring for a spot on every hole just to get a glimpse of the worlds top 3 players ' and thats just inside the ropes.
 
Actually, and literally, there will be well over 100 media members ' writers, photographers, officials, TV types ' with inside access, which only adds to the chaos of such a grouping.
 
Two years ago, I followed Masters champion Phil Mickelson, U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy and Open champion Tiger Woods in the same threesome over the first 36 holes of the PGA Championship at Medinah.
 
That opening round was mellow at the start, as they began at 8:30 a.m. and on the 10th hole, which was farther from the clubhouse than Iowa. But as the round progressed, the players closed in on home base, and media members got some breakfast in their stomachs, the inside gallery grew to upwards of 100.
 
Outside the ropes it was like ants at a picnic.
 
Expect it to be worse at this major.
 
Tigers return, combined with his and Phils histories with each other and at Torrey Pines ' not to mention the addition of heartthrob Scott ' will turn Thursdays 8:06 a.m. PT tee time into a rock concert.
 
Add a bunch of extra booze in the fans Friday during their afternoon playing (1:36 p.m. PT) and Id rather see Sex in the City than follow that threesome all day no, no I wouldnt.
 
Not that Im advocating your watching of other networks, but enjoy the 9 hours of live TV coverage, the 4 hours of Live From the U.S. Open on GOLF CHANNEL, and even the Golf Guys timeline and photo gallery of the trio on Thursday (that poor bastard).
 
And if youre going to Torrey Pines ' if you actually make it through traffic more clogged than a John Goodman artery ' there are 153 others in the field, 31 other groups. Find someone else to follow.
 
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No Age Discrimination
June 4, 2008
by: Brian Koressel

 
I just passed a milestone ' not a gall stone or a kidney stone mind you ' but the kind of stone that makes you take note nevertheless: an age stone if you will ' the Big 4-0.
 
Which of course brings me to the world of golf and its never-ending talk of young guns, players in their primes and those at the tail end of their careers.
 
For the most part, world-class athletics live in the zip code of the young.
 
But in golf, well, a better sport there is not when it comes to longevity for one's playing career. Consider at the moment:
 
  • Kenny Perry, 47-going-on 48, just won the Memorial Tournament.
     
  • Mark OMeara, 50, just qualified for the U.S. Open.
     
    So, does that make the game less in the eyes of many? Probably, especially with the young sports fans that think MMA is the end all and be all.
     
    Kimbo Slice versus Kenny Perry? Hell, sport Kenny with a full bag of over-sized drivers, 2-irons and a Red Bull-infused Stevie Williams and he still couldnt hold off Kimbo, the newest and greatest so-called athlete of our young generations time.
     
    But there again is why the game of golf - if not better than many sports ' is still the absolute coolest in an Indiana Jones kind of way - still able to top the box office as they grow older. And who cares if they have a box of Just for Men stashed next to the box of ProV1s in the golf bag.
     
    Jack won the Masters at age 46. Sam Snead won a PGA TOUR event at the tender age of 52.
     
    Justin Henin, the worlds top-ranked female tennis player, just retired at the age of 26. Good for her, I guess.
     
    But for me, Ill take my favorite golfers playing into their 60s.
     
    Age? Just a foolish little milestone.
     
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    For Your Information
    May 29, 2008
    by: Mercer Baggs

     
    Like a forgotten wedding anniversary the LPGA Tour's second major is unwittingly sneaking up on us. For those unaware, the McDonald's LPGA Championship will take place next week in Harve de Grace, Md (GC coverage Thurs. and Fri. at 12:30 p.m. ET).
     
    It's not overly surprising that this event has flown under the radar -- there usually isn't a lot of build-up to women's majors. But when the time comes, you're going to want to pay attention.
     
    In the main event, Lorena Ochoa will be vying for her third consecutive major championship victory. As a subplot, she pulled out of this week's Ginn Tribute to be with her ailing uncle in Mexico.
     
    Hoping to battle Ochoa on that main card is Annika Sorenstam. This may well be Sorenstam's best chance to win a final major. She's won this tournament three times from 2003-05, including once at this venue.
     
    Ochoa, on the other hand, has three top-10s at Bulle Rock, and another at the old venue, DuPont, but no victories.
     
    Then, of course, there are those hoping to pull off more than a supporting role: Creamer, Pettersen (defending champion), Webb, Gulbis, etc.
     
    Seems like I'm forgetting someone. Maybe someone who won a major last year? Maybe Cristie Kerr?
     
    I've seen more travels called in the NBA this season than I have golf balls hit by Kerr.
     
    The last we heard from her, she was playing in the final group in the final round of the Kraft Nabisco. And she was shooting 80.
     
    Of course, just to be on the safe side I decided to check and see how she was doing in the first round of Annika's event: 5 birdies, 0 bogeys, 5-under 67.
     
    Guess she snuck up on me unwittingly.
     
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    Enter Stage Lefty
    May 28, 2008
    by: Brian Koressel

     
    In a sports landscape filled with an unbelievable amount of story lines at the moment, leave it to 'Phil the Thrill' to somehow, someway, nudge himself into the spotlight.
     
    Consider the menu:
     
  • The NBA playoffs with MVP Kobe and Co. battling the defending champion Spurs, and KG and the Celtics going toe-to-toe with the veteran Detroit Pistons in conference finals.
     
  • 'Sid the Kid' Crosby in a dream match-up against Hockey Town USA in the Stanley Cup finals.
     
  • Federer and Nadal getting things started at the French Open.
     
  • Cancer survivor John Lester throwing a no-no for the Boston Red Sox.
     
  • Big Brown in the midst of a magical run for the rare Triple Crown.
     
  • The Indianapolis 500 ' 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,' replete with the pole-sitter winning the race and crazy, little Danica stomping around like, well, like only crazy, little Danica can do.
     
  • Syracuse winning its 10th title at the mens NCAA Lacrosse championships. OK, nobody really cares about that. Oh, I love to kid the Lacrosse fanatics.
     
  • And then, of course, Lefty goes Lefty at Colonial and puts golf squarely in the highlight reels.
     
    Phil fan or not, golf fan or not, you cannot deny the fact that Mickelson produces some of the best theater in all of sport. Good, bad and ugly. Check that ' spectacular, good, bad and ugly.
     
    I dont care for musicals, but I get a feeling someday Broadway will be clamoring for his story to be played out on stage. Yes, it will have to be a huge stage ' easily the biggest in Broadway history at over 500-yards long ' but it will be worth it.
     
    And that simply makes perfect sense, as Lefty is at his best ' and sometimes worst ' on the biggest of stages.
     

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    Bad News, Good News
    May 23, 2008
    by: Mercer Baggs

     
    There arent a lot of lines you can attribute to golf from the movie Pulp Fiction. Even fewer that you can actually print.
     
    But heres one:
     
    Enough talk about the poor unfortunate Mr. Floyd. Lets talk about the rich and prosperous Mr. Butch. ' Bruce Willis
     
    The circumstances are slightly different (no one got bludgeoned to death in a fight), but the premise works the same. Kind of.
     
    Phil Mickelson
    Phil is just heart broken Tiger will have to sit out another week.
    Enough talk about the poor unfortunate Mr. Woods. Lets talk about the rich and prosperous Mr. Mickelson.
     
    Friday, at 5 p.m. ET, Tiger Woods made it official that his first event since undergoing knee surgery would be at the U.S. Open. That means no Memorial Tournament, no primer before golfs biggest and toughest test.
     
    So who screamed the loudest when his name wasn't on the field list for next week: TV executives, Jack Nicklaus, or everyone in the TBD U.S. Open field whose chances of winning just greatly increased (see Mickelson)?
     
    Its bad news for the On-Air folks, who needed Woods to compete and contend to boost ratings. Its not-so-good for Nicklaus, either, who fails to get the games marquee player at his tournament for the second time in three years (not that the Memorial won't be well worth watching without him). And its down right atrocious no, wait, its not its tremendous news for those with a realistic chance to win the season's second major (again, see Mickelson).
     
    Two years ago, Tiger didnt play an event between the Masters and the Open, due to his fathers illness and subsequent death, and then missed his one-and-only cut in a major at Winged Foot.
     
    He faces a similar scenario this time around, though under very different circumstances.
     
    While he might be in a much better place emotionally this time around, he really needed that event in between. Something to fine-tune his game. A chance to play in a competitive atmosphere. An opportunity to see how his body ' and, perhaps more importantly ' his mind will behave after a third knee operation.
     
    Now he has to figure it all out at the Open. Granted, hes won the Buick Invitational six times at Torrey Pines South, including four in a row ' many times after an extended off-season.
     
    But going major to major, with nothing in between, is entirely different. Its certainly not beneficial to Woodss chances of claiming his 14th career major championship. But it is for Mickelson in trying to earn his fourth.
     
    Mickelson, a San Diego native, has won the Buick Invitational three times and is playing well this week at Colonial.
     
    Tiger will likely be the odds-on favorite yet again come Open week. But Phil may well be the player to beat.
     
    Of course, thats assuming he doesnt let the course beat him up in the meantime, like that bully Oakmont did.
     
    And assuming he plays a full 72 holes and not 71, like he did a Winged Foot.
     
    And assuming he doesnt grow another six inches between now and then, and have to change the fundamentals of his game.
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    After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 2:39 am

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


    On the horrifying car crash involving Bill Haas ...

    I spent a lot of time this week thinking about Bill Haas. He was the passenger in a car crash that killed a member of his host family. That man, 71-year-old Mark Gibello, was a successful businessman in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a new friend.

    Haas escaped without any major injuries, but he withdrew from the Genesis Open to return home to Greenville, S.C. When he’ll return to the Tour is anyone’s guess. It could be a while, as he grapples with the many emotions after surviving that horrifying crash – seriously, check out the photos – while the man next to him did not.

    The entire Haas clan is some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Wish them the best in their recovery. – Ryan Lavner


    On TIger Woods' missed cut at the Genesis Open ...

    After missing the cut at the Genesis Open by more than a few car lengths, Tiger Woods appeared to take his early exit in stride. Perhaps that in and of itself is a form of progress.

    Years ago, a second-round 76 with a tattered back-nine scorecard would have elicited a wide range of emotions. But none of them would have been particularly tempered, or optimistic, looking ahead to his next start. At age 42, though, Woods has finally ceded that a win-or-bust mentality is no longer helpful or productive.

    The road back from his latest surgery will be a winding one, mixed with both ups and downs. His return at Torrey Pines qualified as the former, while his trunk slam at Riviera certainly served as the latter. There will surely be more of both in the coming weeks and months, and Woods’ ability to stomach the rough patches could prove pivotal for his long-term prognosis. - Will Gray


    On the debate over increased driving distance on the PGA Tour ...

    The drumbeat is only going to get louder as the game’s best get longer. On Sunday, Bubba Watson pounded his way to his 10th PGA Tour title at the Genesis Open and the average driving distance continues to climb.

    Lost in the debate over driving distances and potential fixes, none of which seem to be simple, is a beacon of sanity, Riviera Country Club’s par-4 10th hole. The 10th played just over 300 yards for the week and yet yielded almost as many bogeys (86) as birdies (87) with a 4.053 stroke average.

    That ranks the 10th as the 94th toughest par 4 on Tour this season, ahead of behemoths like the 480-yard first at Waialae and 549-yard 17th at Kapalua. Maybe the game doesn’t need new rules that limit how far the golf ball goes, maybe it just needs better-designed golf holes. - Rex Hoggard


    On the depth of LPGA talent coming out of South Korea ...

    The South Korean pipeline to the LPGA shows no signs of drying up any time soon. Jin Young Ko, 22, won her LPGA debut as a tour member Sunday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and Hyejin Choi, 18, nearly won the right to claim LPGA membership there. The former world No. 1 amateur who just turned pro finished second playing on a sponsor exemption. Sung Hyun Park, who shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last year, is set to make her 2018 debut this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And Inbee Park is set to make her return to the LPGA in two weeks at the HSBC Women’s World Championship after missing most of last year due to injury. The LPGA continues to go through South Korea no matter where this tour goes. - Randall Mell

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    Nature calls: Hole-out rescues Bubba's bladder

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 2:20 am

    LOS ANGELES – Clinging to a one-stroke lead, Bubba Watson had just teed off on the 14th hole at Riviera Country Club and was searching for a bathroom.

    “I asked Cameron [Smith], ‘where's the bathroom?’ He said, ‘On the next tee there's one. Give yourself a couple more shots, then you can go to the bathroom,’” Watson recalled. “I said, ‘So now I'm just going to hole it and go to the bathroom.’”

    By the time Watson got to his shot, which had found the bunker left of the green, his caddie Ted Scott had a similar comment.


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “When he went down to hit it I said, ‘You know you haven’t holed one in a long time,’” Scott said.

    Watson’s shot landed just short of the hole, bounced once and crashed into the flagstick before dropping into the hole for an unlikely birdie and a two-stroke lead that he would not relinquish on his way to his third victory at the Genesis Open and his 10th PGA Tour title.

    “I looked at Teddy [Scott] and said, ‘You called it.’ Then Cameron [who was paired with Watson] came over and said I called it. I’d forgotten he and I had talked about it,” Watson said.

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    Bubba Golf takes long road back to winner's circle

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 1:55 am

    LOS ANGELES – Bubba’s back.

    It’s been just two years since he hoisted a trophy on the PGA Tour, but with a mind that moves as fast as Bubba Watson’s, it must have felt like an eternity.

    Since his last victory, which was also a shootout at Riviera Country Club in 2016, Watson was passed over for a captain’s pick at the 2016 Ryder Cup, endured a mystery illness, lost his confidence, his desire and the better part of 40 pounds.

    He admits that along that ride he considered retirement and wondered if his best days were behind him.

    “I was close [to retirement]. My wife was not close,” he conceded. “My wife basically told me to quit whining and play golf. She's a lot tougher than I am.”

    What else could he do? With apologies to his University of Georgia education and a growing portfolio of small businesses, Watson was made to be on the golf course, particularly a golf course like Riviera, which is the canvas that brings out Bubba’s best.

    In a game that can too often become a monotonous parade of fairways and greens, Watson is a freewheeling iconoclast who thrives on adversity. Where others only see straight lines and one-dimensional options, Bubba embraces the unconventional and the untried.

    For a player who sometimes refers to himself in the third person, it was a perfectly Bubba moment midway through his final round on Sunday at the Genesis Open. Having stumbled out of the 54-hole lead with bogeys at Nos. 3 and 6, Watson pulled his 2-iron tee shot wildly right at the seventh because, “[his playing partners] both went left.”

    From an impossible lie in thick rough with his golf ball 2 feet above his feet, Watson’s often-fragile focus zeroed in for one of the week’s most entertaining shots, which landed about 70 feet from the hole and led to a two-putt par.


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “His feel for that kind of stuff, you can’t go to the range and practice that. You can’t,” said Watson’s caddie Ted Scott. “Put a ball 2 feet above your feet and then have to hold the face open and then to swing that easy. That’s why I have the best seat in the house. That’s the essence of Bubba golf.”

    There were plenty of highlight moments on Sunday for Watson. There were crucial putts at Nos. 11 (birdie), 12 (par) and 13 (par) to break free of what was becoming an increasingly fluid leaderboard, and his chip-in birdie from a greenside bunker at the 14th hole extended his lead to two strokes.

    “It was just a bunker shot, no big deal,” smiled Watson, who closed with a 69 for a two-stroke victory over Kevin Na and Tony Finau.

    A player that can often appear handcuffed by the most straightforward of shots was at his best at Riviera, withstanding numerous challenges to win the Genesis Open for his 10th PGA Tour title.

    That he did so on a frenzied afternoon that featured four different players moving into, however briefly, at last a share of the lead, Watson never appeared rattled. But, of course, we all know that wasn’t the case.

    Watson can become famously uncomfortable on the course and isn’t exactly known for his ability to ignore distractions. But Riviera, where he’s now won three times, is akin to competitive Ritalin for Watson.

    “[Watson] feels very comfortable moving the ball, turning it a lot. That allows him to get to a lot of the tucked pins,” said Phil Mickelson, who finished tied for sixth after moving to within one stroke of the lead early in round. “A lot of guys don't feel comfortable doing that and they end up accepting a 15 to 30 footer in the center of the green. He ends up making a lot more birdies than a lot of guys.”

    It’s the soul of what Scott calls Bubba Golf, which is in simplest terms the most creative form of the game.

    Watson can’t explain exactly what Bubba Golf is, but there was a telling moment earlier this week when Aaron Baddeley offered Watson an impromptu putting lesson, which Bubba said was the worst putting lesson he’d ever gotten.

    “He goes, ‘how do you hit a fade?’ I said, ‘I aim it right and think fade.’ How do you hit a draw? I aim it left and think draw,” Watson said. “He said, ‘how do you putt?’ I said, ‘I don't know.’ He said, ‘well, aim it to the right when it breaks to the left, aim it to the left when it breaks to the right,’ exactly how you imagine your golf ball in the fairway or off the tee, however you imagine it, imagine it that way.”

    It’s certain that there’s more going on internally, but when he’s playing his best the sum total of Watson’s game can be simply explained – see ball, hit ball. Anything more complicated than that and he runs the risk of losing what makes him so unique and – when the stars align and a course like Riviera or Augusta National, where he’s won twice, asks the right questions – virtually unbeatable.

    That’s a long way from the depths of 2017, when he failed to advance past the second playoff event and dropped outside the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking. But then, Watson has covered a lot of ground in his career on his way to 10 Tour victories.

    “I never thought I could get there,” he said. “Nobody thought that Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Fla., would ever get to 10 wins, let's be honest. Without lessons, head case, hooking the ball, slicing the ball, can't putt, you know? Somehow we're here making fun of it.”

    Somehow, through all the adversity and distractions, he found a way to be Bubba again.

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    Spieth: 'I feel great about the state of my game'

    By Will GrayFebruary 19, 2018, 1:43 am

    LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth is starting to feel confident again with the putter, which is probably a bad sign for the rest of the PGA Tour.

    Spieth struggled on the greens two weeks ago at TPC Scottsdale, but he began to right the ship at Pebble Beach and cracked the top 10 this week at the Genesis Open. Perhaps more important than his final spot on the leaderboard was his standing in the strokes gained putting category – 12th among the field at Riviera Country Club, including a 24-putt performance in the third round.

    Spieth closed out the week with a 4-under 67 to finish in a tie for ninth, five shots behind Bubba Watson. But after the round he spoke like a man whose preparation for the season’s first major is once again right on track.


    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


    “I was kind of, you know, skiing uphill with my putting after Phoenix and the beginning of Pebble week, and really just for a little while now through the new year,” Spieth said. “I just made some tremendous progress. I putted extremely well this week, which is awesome. I feel great about the state of my game going forward, feel like I’m in a great place at this time of the year as we’re starting to head into major season.”

    Spieth will take a break next week, and where he next tees it up remains uncertain. He still has not announced a decision about playing or skipping the WGC-Mexico Championship, and he will have until 5 p.m. ET Friday to make a final decision on the no-cut event.

    Whether or not he flies down to Mexico City, Spieth’s optimism has officially returned after a brief hiccup on the West Coast swing.

    “For where I was starting out Phoenix to where I am and how I feel about my game going forward the rest of the year, there was a lot of progress made,” he said. “Now I’ve just got to figure out what the best schedule is for myself as we head into the Masters.”