Watson faces career-defining questions after win

By Jay CoffinApril 14, 2014, 7:15 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Bubba Watson, what will you do next?

Will you go on a winless drought like you did immediately following your first Masters victory, or will you use the next five years of your golfing prime to mow down foes the way you do at Augusta National?

With two major victories will your career ultimately resemble John Daly, who lost form following major success and is widely considered an underachiever, or Hale Irwin, who was a wizard in winning three U.S. Opens but added 20 PGA Tour victories to a resume that earned entrance into the World Golf Hall of Fame?

There is evidence to suggest any scenario is possible.

Watson, 35, always has been a work in progress. He’ll admit as much.

The aftermath of the first Masters victory two years ago was difficult. He and wife Angie had just adopted their baby boy, Caleb, and Bubba was learning how to be a father while dealing with the newfound attention that goes along with wearing a green jacket.

He handled it best he could, but his golf suffered.

Watson didn’t practice as diligently – which is understandable – and he dropped to 50th on the PGA Tour money list. Once a mainstay inside the top 10 in the world ranking, he plummeted to No. 30. The expectations that came with major glory coupled with fatherhood weighed heavily. So much so that his next victory after that 2012 Masters win came 22 months later at this year's Northern Trust Open.

“Last year was a big adjustment,” said Ted Scott, Watson’s faithful caddie. “You win a major, it changes everything. It changes the way the press see you, the media, the fans, everything. It just changes your whole world. So that’s a big adjustment for anybody. That’s one of his greatest assets is that Bubba does evaluate things and see how he can improve.”

Watson is back to playing Bubba Golf this year, which is impossible to describe but easy to notice once you see it. Essentially, it is Watson’s long-bombing, shot-making, go-for-broke, creative, swashbuckling style that endears him to galleries far and wide.

Scott simply calls Watson a “freak show.”

The purpose at the Masters this year for Watson was simple: He wanted to be Augusta National’s alpha male again.

“I didn’t know how to handle it the best way, so I didn’t play my best golf last year,” he said after his second-round 68 on Friday. “I was in awe when I was a champion … you know you’re sitting there amongst the great champions, and this year I got to be just a bystander.

“I’m coming back with the take that I want the jacket again. I’m coming back with a different mindset, full of energy.”

Watson, of course, accomplished his goal. He recorded a 366-yard drive on the par-5 13th hole that made patrons gasp, and he blistered an iron shot between trees and over water on the par-5 15th while attempting to protect a late lead. The latter shot caused announcer David Feherty to proclaim, “Oh, he’s lost his marbles!” It all worked, though, and Watson shot a final-round 69 to cruise to a three-shot victory over 20-year-old Jordan Spieth and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt. It’s his sixth-career Tour victory.

Even though this year produced the same result as 2012, the way Watson went about it was different. He was calm during the storm, not fidgety and agitated like he has been so often in the past. During a third-round 74 that could’ve dashed Watson’s hopes of victory, he stated that he was pleased that the round wasn’t much worse.

“If somebody told me on Monday I’d have 74 and still be tied for the lead, I’d have taken it all day long,” Watson said.

Scott confirmed, saying: “When things weren’t going well, I was in his ear saying, ‘Come on, man.’ And he said, ‘I got it, man. I’m fine.’

“I didn’t have to cheer him up, I didn’t have to pump him up, I didn’t have to encourage him. He was flat pretty much as far as his attitude, taking the good with the bad.”

Those close to Watson see that continued transformation off the course as well.

“He’s always going to be a kid at heart,” Rickie Fowler said. “But mentally and with his golf game as a dad and person he’s definitely grown up. I think he understands what’s going on.”

For Watson, what’s going on now is extremely heady stuff. It’s rare air. He just became the 17th man in history to win more than one green jacket. Of the 16 previous, only Tiger Woods is not in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Let’s go out on a limb and assume that’ll be a done deal when Woods is eligible in two years.

Chumps don’t win the Masters on multiple occassions.

The list: Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, Phil Mickelson, Horton Smith, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ben Crenshaw, Jose Maria Olazabal and now Watson.

Right now Watson is the new king of Augusta National. Woods was on the disabled list and Mickelson failed to see the weekend for only the second time in his career, all while Watson was making the hallowed grounds his personal playground. Scary to think that Watson has the game to contend – and dominate – at the Masters for another 7-8 years, essentially from now until he is Mickelson’s current age.

Lest you think Watson is a one-trick major pony who only plays well at the Masters, remember that he lost in a playoff to Martin Kaymer in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and was in contention late at the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont.

Right now, though, none of that matters to Watson. There’s no looking back.

“Everything’s a go,” Watson proclaimed. “We are trying to make the Ryder Cup team. We are trying to win the next tournament, the next tournament we play in, trying to make the next cut. So it’s a lot different situation now than it was back then.”

But we must see that this will be different. Now is the time for Bubba to build on Masters momentum. All eyes will be on him.

What will he do next?

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.