The Highs and Lows in Golf

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 21, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Front 9 and Back 9, our staff will showcase the highs and lows from the world of golf. We start with the Front 9, which offers up the top moments and stories from this previous week, and then make the turn for the lowlights.
Front 9 Hole 1
THE HITS KEEP ON COMING: Zach Johnson shocked the world just over a month ago when he stepped out on golf's biggest stage and captured the Masters Tournament. As time goes by that win in Augusta may start to seem a little less shocking if Johnson continues to notch PGA TOUR victories like the one this past week in the AT&T Classic at the TPC Sugarloaf. Next up on Johnson's to-do list: try and get a win outside the state of Georgia.
Hole 2
VALIDATION STATION: Since supplanting all-time great Annika Sorenstam last month as the women's world No. 1 player, Lorena Ochoa hasn't had the results for which she was looking. Until Sunday that is, when the Mexican star shot a bogey-free 4-under 68 in the final round of the Sybase Classic to overcome rising star Sarah Lee. In addition to it being her first victory as the No. 1 player in the Rolex rankings, it also marked Ochoa's first-ever career title defense.
Hole 3
THE FAMINE IS FINALLY OVER: Not since John O'Leary back in 1982 had an Irishman won their national open. But lo and behold, Ireland's favorite golfing son, Padraig Harrington, finally came through in a big way on Sunday when he won the Irish Open in a playoff, ending the 25-year drought. The 35-year-old Harrington had twice finished runner-up in the event before finally hoisting the crystal trophy, much to the delight of the thousands of fans in attendance.
Hole 4
WARNING: DIRTY MATERIAL: Well, in nickname only, as Brad Bryant survived a wild shootout at the The Regions Charity Classic at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Ross Bridge. Bryant, affectionly known as 'Dr. Dirt' due to his reputation for hitting a lot balls on the range, fired a closing-round 7-under 65 to repeat as champion. Included in the win was a tense three-hole playoff with R.W. Eaks, when Dr. Dirt rolled in a 12-footer for birdie to seal the deal.
Hole 5
SEEING GREEN: As good as it gets when it comes to hosting a tournament - and it being the Masters no less - Augusta National Golf Club also does a fine job of giving back to charitable causes. Club chairman Billy Payne annouced last week that the club will be donating over $3 million to charitable foundations, including The First Tee national youth development program, which will receive $1 million; and the Community Foundation for the Central Savannah River Area, which will receive $1.25 million.
Hole 6
STAR POWER: This weeks Nationwide Tour event was a major of sorts with the fifth-largest purse for an event this season at $650,000. It also had a major caliber field ' at least in the amateur portion on the pro-am. The celebrities included sports stars Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, John Elway and Sterling Sharpe; comedians Cheech Marin and George Lopez; and actor Kevin Costner. Oh, and a couple model/actresses in Catherine Bell and Joanna Krupa.
Hole 7
OPTIMISTIC BULLDOG: Corey Pavin isnt yet qualified for this years Open Championship ' not that it matters. Pavin will not be in Carnoustie for the seasons third major. Instead, he will be defending his title at the U.S. Bank Championship. People that aren't going to play the British Open have a very nice alternative to come here and play, Pavin said.
Hole 8
DADDY NEEDS A NEW PAIR OF SHOES!: It was just a matter of time before the poker craze hit the golf course. The inaugural World Series of Golf was held this week outside of Las Vegas. The event, which used poker-style betting in place of traditional scoring, was won by Mark Ewing, a 31-year-old entrepreneur and day trader. The 10-handicapper from Newport Beach, Calif., knocked out two professional poker players, an electrician and a former railroad conductor at the end of the three-day tournament for the $250,000 first-place prize.
Hole 9
PLAYOFFS? WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS?: Mr. Harrington and Mr. Bradley Dredge got things going Sunday when the two went into extra holes at the Irish Open. Brad Bryant and R.W. Eaks then got involved in a three-hole tango on the Champions Tour. Next up, Zach Johnson and Ryuji Imada figured 72 holes weren't enough, so into a playoff they went. The Duramed FUTURES Tour? Playoff. The Ladies European Tour? Playoff. Somewhere, Jim Mora must have been rolling over on a couch. But for golf fans, there's nothing better than playoff drama.
Back 9 Hole 10
RHYMES WITH...: Scott Hoch, poor Scott Hoch. Infamously remembered for his missed 2-footer that allowed Nick Faldo to win the 1989 Masters, again saw the short putt demons creep back into his head. Holding a two-shot lead around the time he was making the turn in Alabama, Hoch missed a handful a short putts that became, lets say, very uncomfortable to watch. After one short miss late in the round, Hoch apparently had enough as he tossed his putter toward his golf bag and mumbled, 'Next week.'
Hole 11
BITTER TASTE - PART I: Michelle Wie hasnt played a womens event all year, but she has some ladies all riled up over a potential tournament in which she may be competing in October. Wie has accepted an invitation to play in the Samsung World Championship, which begins on her 18th birthday, Oct. 11. The field is limited to only 20 players and it has some quite upset about her inclusion. People aren't very happy,' Brittany Lincicome said in The Star-Ledger. 'It's tough to accept. We're out here working our butts off to get a spot in that tournament and it's just handed to her.
Hole 12
BITTER TASTE - PART II: For the second week in a row, Korea's Sarah Lee held the 36-hole lead at an LPGA event. And, for the second week in a row, Lee couldn't hang on for her break-out victory. Two weeks ago at the Michelob Ultra Open, Lee posted an over-par score on Sunday that left her out of a playoff and this past week she again shot an over-par final round that let Ochoa pass her by and get the win. But if she can keep getting herself in contention, perhaps a certain well-known company may give her an endorsement offer.
Hole 13
1988 WAS A LONG TIME AGO: Despite closing with a respectable 1-over 73, Seve Ballesteros, whose last major came at the 1988 British Open, couldn't overcome a horrendous start in his Champions Tour debut. He opened with a 78 and followed that with a dreadful 9-over 81 that eventually left him tied with Lee Trevino at the bottom of the 78-player field at 16-over 216. 'My game is not there,' said a disappointed Ballesteros. 'I'm very disappointed with my performance.'
Hole 14
DARK SIDE OF THE MOONEY: Northern Irishman Damian Mooney had what can only be described as an unpleastant first round at the European Tour's Irish Open. In a round that saw him make more bogeys or worse than pars, Mooney shot 92 and hit for the cycle and then some. His scorecard showed a bogey, a double, a triple, a quad, and a quintuple bogey - and possibly ruining any chances of him starring in any of the PGA TOUR's future 'These Guy are Good' commercials.
Hole 15
BAD STREAK, GOOD GUY: For the third straight week, Darren Clarke had to withdraw from an event. This time he was forced to do so from the Irish Open. Clarke pulled out of his national Open due to a hamstring injury that isnt healing properly. He also had to withdraw from the PGA TOURs Wachovia Championship and THE PLAYERS Championship. He hopes to return for this week's BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event on the European Tour.
Hole 16
BAD KARMA?: On the eve of hosting the Champions Tour's first major of the year, the $22 million new clubhouse at Kiawah Island Golf Resort was rocked by a gas explosion inside the kitchen, resulting in four construction workers being injured, two of whom were taken by helicopter to a hospital burn unit in Augusta, Ga. The Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course already has a reputation as being unfair, now it looks as if the clubhouse may be viewed the same way.
Hole 17
A COURSE WITH A VIEW: The field for the Barclays Classic will get a good view of Manhattan when the PGA TOUR moves the tournament to Jersey Citys Liberty National Golf Club in 2009. The tournament has been held at Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y. since its inception in 1967 and is currently the first event in the PGA TOURs playoff series. Not everyone, however, is a fan of the move. 'TOUR players don't care about the views,' said Joey Sindelar to The Journal News.
Hole 18
TOO BAD FOR TWO GLOVES: The Big Break's Tommy Gainey has been making news the last couple of weeks and for several different reasons. First, he Monday qualified for the Wachovia Championship but failed to make the cut. He also made it to the finals of The Big Break VII: Reunion in an episode that aired last week. But that paled in comparison to what transpired in the BMW Charity Pro-Am at the Cliffs. Gainey, who got into the event on a sponsor's exemption, held a share of the lead after 36 holes and was just a shot back heading into Sunday. But the fairtale run unfortunately ended there; a 5-over 77 on Sunday dropped Gainey all the way down into a tie for 30th, with the top 25 getting into the following week's field.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - AT&T Classic
  • More Headlines
  • Getty Images

    G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 2:12 am

    LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.

    Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.

    “I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.

    “Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”

    McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.

    Getty Images

    Bubba on McGrady block: 'Just trying not to get hurt'

    By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 1:56 am

    LOS ANGELES – A detour to the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game didn’t keep Bubba Watson from leading this week’s Genesis Open, although an on-court brush with Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady nearly derailed his chances for a third tournament win.

    Watson enters the final round at Riviera with a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay after firing a 6-under 65 in the third round. The day before, the southpaw left the course around lunch time and headed across town to participate in the All-Star festivities, where during the celebrity game he tried to score 1-on-1 over McGrady.

    Watson’s move into the lane went about as well as you’d expect given their five-inch height disparity, with McGrady easily blocking the ball into the stands. According to Watson, he had only one thought as McGrady came barreling towards him across the lane.

    “When I saw him, all I saw was, ‘This is my moment to get hurt,’” Watson said. “This big tank is about to hit me, and I was like, ‘Just knock it into the stands. Just don’t touch me.’ So it worked out, he didn’t touch me so it was good.”

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Watson’s attempt went against his wife Angie’s advice to avoid the paint area, but it provided a fun moment for a player used to carving up fairways and greens – not to mention the guy who played 15 seasons in the NBA.

    “Well, he’s got like just under 800 blocks for his career, so I gave him one more, you know?” Watson said. “It was just, it was a blast. I wanted to see how good he was, see if he could miss it. He hasn’t played in a while.”

    Watson took some heat on Twitter from his PGA Tour peers for the rejection, but few were still laughing as he rocketed up the leaderboard Saturday with five birdies and an eagle. Now he has a chance to win this event for the third time since 2014 – even if he doesn’t plan to go toe-to-toe with McGrady again anytime soon.

    “Some guys wanted to try to win MVP, so I was trying to pass it and let them have their fun and their moment,” Watson said. “I was just trying not to get hurt.”

    Getty Images

    Spieth on third-round 69: 'Putter saved me'

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:37 am

    LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth has spent the last few weeks talking about his putting for all the wrong reasons.

    Two weeks ago when he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open he lost 3.76 shots to the field in strokes-gained putting, and last week he wasn’t much better.

    It looked like more of the same at the Genesis Open when he lost about a half stroke to the field on Day 1 with 29 putts, but since then his fortunes on the greens have gotten progressively better.

    “I thought each day last week I progressed,” said Spieth, who needed just 24 putts on Friday and moved into a tie for 20th after taking 26 putts on Day 3.

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Spieth said he started to feel things turn around at Pebble Beach after working with his swing coach Cameron McCormick and Steve Stricker, who has become something of a putting sounding board for players on Tour.

    “I got set up really nice. I got really comfortable on the greens even though they were very difficult to putt last week and this week,” said Spieth, who rolled in a birdie putt of 14 feet at No. 12 and a par putt of 35 feet at No. 14. “Any putt, I either made it or I left it just short today. It was one of those days that with the way I struck the ball, it was an off day, but that putter saved me and allowed me to shoot the lowest score so far this week.”

    Spieth’s third-round 69 is his best of the week and moved him to within seven strokes of the lead, which is held by Bubba Watson.

    Getty Images

    Bouncing back: Watson seeks a third Riviera win

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:25 am

    LOS ANGELES – Yeah, but can Tracy McGrady smoke a 7-iron from 203 yards to kick-in range for eagle on Riviera Country Club’s opening hole?

    The way Bubba Watson’s mind drifts there’s no telling if, as he began his day at the Genesis Open, he revisited his play from Friday night at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. If he did, it would have been an apropos conclusion after McGrady sent his weak floater into the cheap seats midway through the second quarter.

    Either way, Watson made it clear playtime was over on Saturday. The eagle at the opening par 4 ½ sent Watson on his way to a third-round 65 and the outright lead at the Left Coast event that’s starting to feel like a second home for the lefthander.

    In 11 starts at Riviera, Watson already has two victories. A third on Sunday could get folks talking about renaming the layout Bubba’s Alley. Or not.

    What is certain is that Watson has emerged from a funk that sent him tumbling outside the top 100 in the world ranking and he’s done it in quintessential Bubba style.

    If Friday’s detour to the celebrity game received worldwide attention it was only a snapshot of Watson’s Tinseltown itinerary. He taped a segment for Jay Leno’s Garage show, visited with Ellen DeGeneres and watched a taping of The Big Bang Theory. You know, L.A. stuff.

    Oh, and he’s curved and carved his way around Riviera with signature abandon.

    “You've got to hit shots from every different angle, you've got to move it right to left and left to right, so it's just fun,” said Watson, who also led by one stroke when he won here in 2016, his last victory on the PGA Tour. “Then the greens are the equalizer so it makes me look like I putt as good as the other guys.”

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    He “hammered” a 7-iron from 203 yards at the first to 1 ½ feet for his opening eagle, chipped in at the sixth to begin a run of four birdies in five holes and played the three par 5s in 3 under to move into a familiar spot after enduring his worst season on Tour in 2017 when he failed to advance past the second playoff event.

    That he’s turned the tide in Los Angeles is as predictable as it is peculiar. Despite Watson’s record at the Genesis Open, Riviera wouldn’t seem to be the tonic for all that ails Bubba.

    Ask a player - any player will do - the keys to playing Riviera and the answers range wildly from it being a bomber’s course to the need for ball-striking precision. But the word that comes up with regularity is "patience."

    “Patience and pretty much just not being stupid, to be honest,” Justin Thomas said when asked the key to his third-round 67 that left him tied for eighth place. “Just stop trying to hit at pins with 5-irons and 6-irons, and when I hit in the rough, realize just try to make a par. When I get in places, when I'm out of position, realize that sometimes even bogey is what I need to make.”

    While that thought dovetails with conventional wisdom, Watson’s not exactly known for his patience.

    “Oh, for sure I do. Haven't you seen me in the last 12 years?” Watson laughed when asked if he had patience on the course. “The tougher the golf course, the more focus I have. The tougher the shot, I've been able to focus better. When I get my mind on something, I can focus and do pretty well at the game of golf.”

    While Bubba drifts between artist and antagonist with ease, both on and off the golf course, his primary challenge on Sunday is the picture of thoughtful composure.

    Patrick Cantlay, who returned to the Tour last season after struggling with back issues for years, began the third round with a share of the lead but quickly faded on the front nine. He rallied on the closing loop with birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 18, where he capped his day with a 54-footer that assured him a spot in Sunday’s final threesome. Although he’s just 25 and playing his first full season on Tour, Cantlay’s approach to the game is patently different from Watson’s.

    “I feel like if I can just engage and not worry about where I am on a particular hole or what's going on and I just engage and stay present in whatever I'm doing at that particular time, it all turns out better than what you would expect,” explained Cantlay, who attended nearby UCLA and played dozens of practice rounds at Riviera. “Making sure you stay present and having that confidence in yourself that if you just click in and focus, it all will be good and that's kind of the head space I'm in.”

    It will be a clash of wildly contrasting styles on Sunday – Watson, who admitted he “(doesn’t) focus very well,” and Cantlay, whose approach to the mental side of the game borders on the clinical.

    One player relishes the challenge of hyper-focus, the other is Bubba, but that’s not to say Watson is void of patience, only that he needs to be properly motivated.

    “Like last night when Tracy McGrady was coming at me, I was focused on not getting hurt and I didn't, so it worked out,” Watson smiled.

    And besides, T-Mac can’t bomb it like Bubba.