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.

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Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

Playing with the pros

Tiger, DJ and Faxon

Article: Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

Article: After DJ and Tiger, Trump plays golf with Jack

Rory faces criticism

Article: Rory: Round with Trump about respect for presidency

Article: Rory: Round with Trump not a 'political statement'

President at the Presidents Cup

Video: President Trump makes the rounds at Liberty National

Article: President Trump presents trophy to U.S. team

Article: Stricker: 'Great thrill' to get trophy from Trump

Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

Article: Senator tweets Trump shot 73 in windy, wet conditions

Article: Graham offers details on Trump's round of 73

Cart on the green

Article: Trump appears to drive cart on Bedminster green

Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open

Article: Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

Article: Trump supporters, protesters clash near Women's Open

Article: UltraViolet takes protest inside Trump National

Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open

Trump golf properties


Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

Article: Man accused of vandalizing four Trump courses


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

Article: Eric Trump denies Russia helped fund golf courses

Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

Reportedly fake TIME covers

Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover

Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

Report: Trump's voter fraud claim tied to Langer

Langer: Trump 'apologized' for story mix-up

Pros comment on the president

Article: Players defend Trump at Senior PGA Championship

Article: Trump congratulates Daly; Daly congratulates Trump

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.