Bubba's long, strange trip to the green jacket

By Jason SobelApril 11, 2012, 7:30 pm

Bubba Watson is the 76th Masters champion and he did it by making 350-yard drives and hooked wedges look easy on the behemoth that is Augusta National.

His road to the Champions Locker Room was anything but easy, though – and no, that doesn’t infer the literal road, Magnolia Lane, which could feel the wheels of his General Lee someday soon.

There’s an inside story behind Bubba’s journey from developmental tour golfer to PGA Tour member to Masters winner that hasn’t often been told.

Back in 2005, Watson was playing his third season on the Nationwide Tour. After finishing 63rd and 37th on the money list in his first two years, he was inching ever closer to one of what was then 20 guaranteed places on the PGA Tour for the next season.

In fact, entering the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship, he ranked 18th on the list, thanks to five top-10 results, including a second-place finish and a third. That week, though, he managed only a share of 48th place and was passed by three other players as he fell to 21st on the money list, $8,237 shy of Jeff Gove for that all-important final spot.

And yet, Watson was still given a PGA Tour card for the 2006 campaign.

It involved fate, luck, a little-known Nationwide Tour rule and the butterfly effect that tied them all together.

Earlier in the summer, Jason Gore made a name for himself as the Prince of Pinehurst, contending for a U.S. Open title while still a Nationwide Tour member. Most will recall the final-round 84 that he shot in the last pairing on Sunday that year, but few remember what happened in the aftermath.

Without gaining any sort of PGA Tour status from his three-day jaunt up the leaderboard, Gore went back to competing full-time on the Nationwide circuit. His next appearance was a tie for 10th place – and then something clicked. Gore won the Pete Dye Classic, the Scholarship America Showdown and the Cox Classic in successive starts to claim what was termed a “battlefield promotion” to the big leagues, locking up an instantaneous graduation with his third victory of the season.

Due to those performances, Gore was obviously and easily well inside the top 20 on the Nationwide Tour money list. Many believe it is because of this that officials went 21 deep when handing out PGA Tour cards for the next year.

The truth is that another spot wasn’t made available until mid-September, when Gore continued his winning ways on the PGA Tour, adding a victory at the 84 Lumber Classic. It was due to this win that he no longer needed qualification through the Nationwide circuit, so eligibility was then expanded to include the top-21 on the money list instead.

Which meant that by a whopping $2,680 over Tom Scherrer when the season concluded, Bubba Watson was a PGA Tour member.

And he never looked back.

In his first round as a full-timer, Watson posted a 3-under 67 at the Sony Open, his impressive length already the talk of the town in Honolulu.

“I don't think John Daly or Hank Kuehne or Scott Hend, I don't think they can hang with me when I'm hitting it, if I hit my best,” he said that day. “There's not too many people that can get within shouting distance.”

Watson finished in sole possession of fourth place that week – earning more than he had during the entire previous year on the Nationwide Tour – and added two more top-10s that season to easily keep his card for 2007.

The next three seasons elicited more success for Bubba, not in the form of victories, but in gaining experience and the knowledge that he could compete on the world’s most elite tour, as he finished between 55th and 60th each year.

His major breakthrough came in 2010, when he won the Travelers Championship title for his first career professional victory – anywhere. Watson had never won on the Nationwide circuit nor any other tour, but he wasn’t done with the one. In 2011, Bubba claimed the Farmers Insurance Open and Zurich Classic, becoming one of seven two-win players on the PGA Tour last season.

Now, of course, he’s elevated his status to another stratosphere. Along with his first major championship victory, Watson is now the fourth-ranked player in the world, the highest-ranked American and has likely solidified his place on a second consecutive United States Ryder Cup team.

Don’t look for Gore, who is now back on the Nationwide Tour, to take any credit for his success, though.

“He would have gotten onto the PGA Tour regardless,” Gore explains. “He’s just really good.”

As for Watson, mention Jason Gore’s name and he lights up, instantly recalling the story of how he helped him earn his first PGA Tour card.

“I sent his wife flowers,” Watson said last year with a smile, “and I sent him chocolates – because I knew he’d eat them all.”

If it wasn’t for fate, luck, a little-known rule and a torrid summer from Gore, there’s no telling what would have happened for Watson. Sure, he may have still earned PGA Tour playing privileges and claimed those victories and prevailed at Augusta National this past week.

The thing about the butterfly effect, though, is that you never know what would have taken place without the original butterfly.

Watson may have still found the success he’s enjoying right now. What we do know is that the journey there would have been much different.

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.