Not-so-elementary, my dear Watson

By Jason SobelJuly 26, 2011, 10:13 pm

It’s a golf writer’s equivalent to booing Santa Claus or kicking puppies, but I was fully prepared to bite the bullet and shoulder all criticism for my opinion.

I was going to rip Tom Watson.

Well, not Tom, exactly. I mean, it’s difficult to pick on a 61-year-old at his peak of popularity not only for the way he seems to contend at the Open Championship every year, but for how he treats his fans, how he deals with the media and how he generally comports himself on a week-to-week basis.

No, I’ve got no beef with Watson. I marvel at his accomplishments – the eight major championships and six senior major titles among them – like everyone else. I’ve spoken with him enough to times to know his words are genuine. The man owns a precise manner of making his feelings known without pushing those views upon anyone else.

Instead, I was going to chastise him for his decision-making – this week’s decision, in particular. That’s because rather than compete in the upcoming U.S. Senior Open, he chose to play in the second edition of the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic.

Here are the facts: Though there is a glut of senior majors – five of ‘em, at last count – the Senior Open may be the most prestigious of all. While he’s never missed the cut in 11 tries and owns six career top-five finishes – including a solo second at this week’s host venue Inverness back in 2003 – the hardware has eluded Watson every year since turning 50.

For a guy who plays his best golf in majors, this may be his last – and best – chance to win this one.

The Greenbrier hardly has such stature. In its inaugural turn on the schedule last year, Stuart Appleby posted a final-round 59 to prevail in what had become a festival of birdies for four sun-drenched West Virginia days.

Watson, though, is the pro emeritus for the resort, having taken over that role after native son Sam Snead passed away. While there may not be any appearance fees on the PGA Tour, there certainly are sponsorship incentives – and this decision to compete in his first non-major since 2007 reeked of a player choosing potential monetary gain over the honor of playing in one of his country’s national championships.

So yes, I was all prepared to reprimand Tom Watson. Until I heard his reasoning behind the decision.

“I didn't play in the first Greenbrier Classic last year, because it conflicted with the U.S. Senior Open, as it does this year,” Watson said during a Tuesday news conference. “I was conflicted again about coming here, and Jim [Justice, owner of the resort] gave me a call earlier in the year and asked if I would play and I said, ‘Sure, Jim. It's not a question I'll play. Without batting an eye.’”

Then things changed – or at least, they would have changed if this scenario had happened to another player.

Watson won the Senior PGA Championship, finished T-22 against the flatbellies at Royal St. George’s and shared third place at last week’s Senior British Open.

Most other players – any other player – would be issuing a mea culpa for the late turn of events. ”I know I said I’d play your event. I really wish I could. But doggone it, I’m just playing so great right now and the U.S. Senior Open is a biggie for me. I’m sorry, but I just won’t be able to make it. Good luck, though!”

That’s not the way Watson works. Even when given an out by the tournament host.

“I called Tom,” Justice recalled, “and I said, ‘Listen, Tom, if there's any part of you that wants to go to the U.S. Seniors, you go, because I would surely understand.’”

Watson turned down the offer quicker than it was proposed.

“Very simply I said, ‘Jim, I made a commitment to you and I'm sticking to it,’” Watson explained. “So here I am.'

There are many things that can be said about Tom Watson. He is, without a doubt, one of the best players of his generation. He is kind, cordial and congenial. And he’s not afraid to speak his mind.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about him, though, is that Watson is a man of his word. On the surface, it may seem a bit irrational to forgo a major championship in favor of helping out a sponsor.

But that’s just Watson honoring a commitment.

Tough to criticize a decision like this one. In fact, maybe we should stand and applaud.

Hey, it’s sort of like cheering for Santa Claus.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm