There's another side to Bubba Watson

By Jason SobelJanuary 31, 2014, 10:01 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Here in the middle of golf’s biggest party, somewhere within the maelstrom of debauchery and frenzy and madness, amongst the inebriated masses and around the overzealous partygoers, a shocking contradiction sits atop the leaderboard.

Bubba Watson is a favorite of these jam-packed galleries. He’s a former resident of the area, a Masters champion, an absurdly long hitter, an outwardly emotional soul and – let’s face it – who doesn’t like rooting for a dude named Bubba?

And yet, if the thousands of fans loudly chanting his name think they’re simply cheering a guy like them, one who would join the party if he weren’t performing in front of it, they’re highly mistaken. That’s because as the festivities rage on, Watson has used this week as his own personal paean to their antithesis.

On Monday, there he was at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, checking out the state’s first pediatric gait lab, for which Ping Golf had donated $250,000 last year from a campaign developed around Watson. When it was found the project was still $110,000 short of its goal, Watson chipped in the remainder of the funds.


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On Thursday, while tipsy fans crowed for his autograph nearby, he cited Bible verses as reasoning for being, as he called it, content with his circumstances.

On Friday, he met with two families, winners of the “Bubba Fan Flyaway” contest on Twitter, each – like Bubba and wife Angie - with an adopted child, their stories serving as inspiration to him as much as the other way around. After that, he was off to the Phoenix-based Desert Mission Food Bank, where along with friends and relatives he would put together snackpacks for schoolchildren whose families didn’t have the means to feed them nutritious meals during the weekends.

“Instead of giving money,” he said after hearing about the program, “I wanted to do it, too.”

In between all of these charitable endeavors, Watson also played a little golf, following an opening-round 64 with a 66 to grab a share of the Waste Management Phoenix Open lead alongside Matt Jones.

While it’s easy to spot the contrast between the legions of spectators using the tournament as just a warm-up act for the Birds Nest nightlife and Watson’s contributions, he points out that they’re all part of the same end goal.

“I think if you really look deep into it and not worry about what people are doing, the money that is being raised for charity at this event equals out to the same thing I'm doing,” he said. “I think this is one that's giving away a pretty good lump sum of money for charity.”

“That’s why the Thunderbirds do all of this; I think a lot of people lose sight of that,” agrees Angie. “What goes on at 16 raises more money for charity than any other hole on the PGA Tour. That’s really what it stands for.”

Maybe the abundance of off-course diversions this week has helped on the course for Watson, who has confessed a self-diagnosis of attention deficit disorder.

In Friday’s second round, he carded seven birdies against just two bogeys in his continuing search for another victory following the Masters triumph of two years ago. That’s what happens when you pair leading the field in driving distance (at a whopping 340 yards per drive) with a second-place position in putting average – a symbiotic combination if ever there was one.

“Everything is clicking right now,” he explained. “I played really well last week, just didn't make the putts. This time I'm playing well and some of the putts are dropping.”

“He’s doing everything well, honestly,” concurred Ted Scott, his longtime caddie. “There’s really no weakness in his game right now. He’s thinking well, hitting well, chipping well, putting well. Those two bogeys we had, we thought both of them were great shots. Good chips, good putts – sometimes they just don’t go.”

As Watson ruminated on his place on the leaderboard, he appeared fatigued, melancholy, maybe even a bit agitated.

“No, I'm just tired,” he allowed. “Very happy where I am. Who would not be happy? There's a lot of guys going home who wish they were right there. I'm very happy with that. Just tired.”

It’s a feeling with which plenty of people here at golf’s biggest party can relate. As the debauchery and frenzy and madness swirls all around him, though, the man who shares the midway lead is keeping himself busy in much different ways.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”