Critics of Bubba's absence are way off base

By John FeinsteinMay 11, 2012, 8:31 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Bubba Watson is not at The Players Championship this week. He is the reigning Masters champion and golf’s newest star. There are people who are not happy with his decision to skip an event that many consider the most important non-major.

When the subject came up last Saturday during CBS’s telecast of the Wells Fargo Championship, Nick Faldo was vehement about how wrong he thought Watson was to take a pass on The Players.

“Very surprised at that,” Faldo said. “You’re the Masters champion. It’s The Players Championship. You really should be there. The way that course is set up, it’s always tough and breezy. He could be one of the favorites. So I would say that’s a poor decision.”

Seriously?

Watson chose to skip The Players to spend time with his wife Angie and their newly adopted son Caleb. The Watsons adopted Caleb the last week in March. Less than a week later, Angie Watson pushed her husband out the door because she wanted him to prepare for the Masters properly, not just parachute in and play in the tournament without any practice rounds. Remarkably, Watson won, pulling off one of golf’s all-time pressure shots to win a playoff against Louis Oosthuizen. He then spent several days away on the victory tour most Masters champions make.

After that he was home for a few days before going to play in New Orleans because, as the defending champion, he felt obligated. He made the cut tied for 18th and then – finally – went home to be with his wife and child.

For anyone – and Faldo was not alone in criticizing Watson – to question Watson’s decision is remarkably insensitive. Unless you have been through the adoption process there is no way to understand how painful it can be. There’s a saying among adoptive parents that the only good thing about the process is the end result.

I say this based on personal experience. I have been fortunate to become a father both biologically and through adoption. The only thing about the two that is identical is the way you feel: there isn’t a shred of difference in how much you love them.

Virtually everything else is different. You do not have nine months to prepare for the baby’s arrival. Sure, once you begin the adoption process you can buy all the requisite baby materials, but if you believe in karma even a little bit, you’re almost scared to do so.

More important, there is no way to prepare for the emotional roller coaster. There are almost always false starts: You think you’re going to get a baby and then, often at the last second, you don’t. Adoption laws have changed through the years to give adoptive parents more rights, but there are still cases where adoptive parents hold a child in their arms, instantly fall in love and then are told, “sorry, this isn’t your child.”

Thank God I never went through that, but I do know people who have. I can promise that every prospective adoptive parent lies awake at night worrying that it might happen to them.  

The joy and relief you feel when you do get a baby is about the only thing that gets you through the fear, the exhaustion and the suddenness of it all. Frequently, a call comes and you are told: Come NOW. Not after you get a chance to get organized, to collect your thoughts, to take a deep breath and say, “OK, I’m ready.” No. NOW.

The Watsons said they had two false starts. They had been working on adopting for four years. A couple of weeks before they adopted Caleb, Watson was asked if he thought they were close to getting a baby. “It could be two weeks,” he answered, “or it could be two years.”

He wasn’t being flip. That’s the way it works.

Players, media and fans who have criticized Watson simply don’t understand what this time is like in his life. One colleague said to me, “Well if he can’t play, what was he doing at a basketball game the other night?”

Taking a quick break for a couple of hours is the answer. He wasn’t leaving home for five or six days, he was catching his breath. When my son was born my wife ordered me to go to a basketball game one night because she needed a break from me. Others have said since the Watsons can’t leave Florida with Caleb, they should have just brought him to The Players.

Delightful idea. Angie and the baby can hang out in an expensive hotel room all day while Bubba is playing, practicing and dealing with media obligations for about eight hours each day. What fun. What bonding for father and son.

“I wish Bubba was here,” Zach Johnson said Wednesday here at The Players. “He’s my friend and I like to compete against him. I know the fans love seeing him play. But he’s going to play in The Players a lot the next few years. He’s never going to become a father for the first time again.”

He paused for a moment, thought and then said: “In the end, my opinion doesn’t matter. Neither does yours or anyone’s – except for Bubba and Angie. They’re the ones who have gone through this together.”

Exactly.

A couple of weeks after my son was born, I was talking to my editor at the Washington Post on the phone. The baby was asleep and my wife had gone out for a walk. While we were talking, my son started to cry.

“George, I have to go,” I said. “The baby is waking up.”

“John, he’s not the first baby ever born you know,” he said.

“I know that,” I answered. “But he’s the first baby ever born that I’m responsible for.”

There are a lot of people at The Players Championship this week who are parents. They know and understand a lot of what Bubba and Angie Watson are feeling. If they have never adopted, they know far less about what they are feeling and what they went through to finally reach this point.

And, whether they have adopted or not, they can’t possibly know exactly what the Watsons are feeling. Which is why, as Johnson says, their opinions don’t matter. They should simply wish the Watsons much joy, good luck and Caleb good health and a wonderful life.

Period.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.


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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.