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.”


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.”


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.


Getty Images

Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

Getty Images

Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”