Scott gives a nod to Norman after Masters win

By John FeinsteinApril 15, 2013, 7:14 pm

On Sunday night, wearing the green jacket Greg Norman never got to wear, Adam Scott talked emotionally about the influence Norman had on his career and his life.

“He inspired a nation of golfers, anyone near to my age, younger or older.” he said, his voice filled with emotion and exhaustion less than an hour after he had become the 2013 Masters champion. “He’s an icon in Australia not only because he was the best player in the world but because of the way he handled himself with so much grace through the years. He was incredible to have as a role model.

“Part of this is for him. I drew on him today. He’s given me a lot of time and he’s given me inspiration and belief through the years.”

As Scott was saying those words, Norman was celebrating Scott’s victory with his son Gregory at his home in Florida.

“I shed more than a few tears,” he said Monday morning. “Gregory and I watched all day. At one point I was so amped up I had to go to the gym to work up a sweat. When Adam made the putt at 18 and I thought he had won I was on my knees crying because I thought an Aussie had finally won the Masters.

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“Then Angel (Cabrera) hit that amazing shot and I thought, ‘are the golf gods ever going to let an Aussie win?’ I’m not sure I could have taken it for much longer if Adam hadn’t made that putt at 18. What a moment that was.”

It can be argued that Norman’s most remarkable moment of grace came 17 years ago, sitting in the exact same place where Scott was sitting on Sunday evening. He had just blown a six-shot lead on the last day of the 1996 Masters, shooting 78 while Nick Faldo shot 67 to blow by him and beat him by five shots.

Norman sat and answered every question that day. He never snapped at anyone, he never squirmed or asked that the session be cut short. Sadly, the one quote that people remember from that press conference is when he said he was consoled by the fact that he had just completed a $40 million business deal.

Except that’s not what happened.

Half-joking, half trying to ease the tension, the late, great Furman Bisher of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said to Norman, “Well, Greg, at least you made 40 million dollars this week.”

Norman forced a laugh and shook his head. “You’re right Furman,” he said. “I guess I can console myself with that.”

To everyone in the room, Norman’s point was clear: No amount of money was consolation for losing the Masters. But people reading the transcript didn’t see his face or hear his voice and thought he was being serious.

Sunday morning, before the leaders teed off, Norman was being serious when he said he believed Scott would win.

“I honestly think this is his time,” he said. “Most of the great players have to lose majors before they win them. I think Adam’s experience there two years ago (when Charl Schwartzel blew past everyone with four closing birdies to win, leaving Scott tied for second with fellow Australian Jason Day) and at Lytham (when he bogeyed the last four holes last year to lose the British Open to Ernie Els by a shot) will help him down the stretch.”

He paused. “I like the look I’ve seen in his eyes all week. I think he’s ready to do something special today. I truly hope he wins. He’s a wonderful guy.”

To some degree that has been the knock on Scott: too wonderful a guy; no killer instinct. Sunday, when he had to make killer putts, he made them – especially the last one on the second playoff hole to beat Cabrera.

“I knew that was really my chance,” he said, pausing to smile. “It was getting too dark to play any more. I had to finish it.”

When he did, millions of Australians, watching on a Monday morning, were undoubtedly cheering and crying at once. None more so than the Australian living in Florida who inspired all three Australians – Scott, Day and Mark Leishman – who were on the leaderboard.

Norman won two majors – the 1986 and 1993 Open Championships. He is probably remembered more, though, for the majors he didn’t win, most notably here in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in on him on the second playoff hole (the 11th in those days) and in 1996 when Faldo caught him or he came back to Faldo – depending on your point of view.

Scott’s loss at Lytham was as memorably sad as any of Norman’s losses in majors. He played superbly for 68 holes and stood on the 15th tee on Sunday afternoon with a three-shot lead on Ernie Els. The only reason Els was that close was that he had managed to shoot a 32 in difficult conditions on the back nine.

Scott would have won the tournament if he had played the last four holes in 2 over par. He would have been in a playoff if he had been 3 over par. He did neither, making four straight bogeys, his last putt on 18 for par and a playoff just sliding past the hole from 8 feet away.

Sunday, he was resolute down the stretch, making a 25-footer that he thought for a moment had made him the champion on 18, then making the winner on No. 10 – the same hole where the last three Masters playoffs have been decided.

Scott feathered – his word – a gorgeous 6-iron from the fairway to about 12 feet after Cabrera had hit his second shot to about 18 feet. As he walked down the hill to the green, Cabrera turned and gave Scott a thumbs-up. Scott waved and returned the gesture. Given the tension of the moment, it was a remarkable gesture by Cabrera and by Scott too.

After Scott had made the winning putt, Cabrera hugged him and told him, “I’m happy for you. You deserve this. I knew you were eventually going to win one. It was just a matter of time.”

Although Cabrera’s English is limited and Scott’s Spanish is more limited, the two men have become friends through the years having played against one another and together as teammates on Presidents Cup teams.

In 2009, when Scott’s game was at a nadir, he played with Cabrera on the International team in the Presidents Cup that was held in San Francisco. Scott remembers Cabrera calling him aside to talk one day.

“Angel is a great man and I’ve gotten to know him a fair bit through the years,” he said. “He said a great thing to me in 2009 at the Presidents Cup before we all left. I was a captain’s pick there and my form was struggling but he pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re a great, great player.' That’s something I didn’t forget. He’s a great guy and that was a really nice gesture going down 10.”

Scott was on that Presidents Cup team because the captain that year believed he could still compete against the world’s best players even though he’d had the worst year of his career.

That captain was Greg Norman.

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After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 2:39 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the horrifying car crash involving Bill Haas ...

I spent a lot of time this week thinking about Bill Haas. He was the passenger in a car crash that killed a member of his host family. That man, 71-year-old Mark Gibello, was a successful businessman in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a new friend.

Haas escaped without any major injuries, but he withdrew from the Genesis Open to return home to Greenville, S.C. When he’ll return to the Tour is anyone’s guess. It could be a while, as he grapples with the many emotions after surviving that horrifying crash – seriously, check out the photos – while the man next to him did not.

The entire Haas clan is some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Wish them the best in their recovery. – Ryan Lavner

On TIger Woods' missed cut at the Genesis Open ...

After missing the cut at the Genesis Open by more than a few car lengths, Tiger Woods appeared to take his early exit in stride. Perhaps that in and of itself is a form of progress.

Years ago, a second-round 76 with a tattered back-nine scorecard would have elicited a wide range of emotions. But none of them would have been particularly tempered, or optimistic, looking ahead to his next start. At age 42, though, Woods has finally ceded that a win-or-bust mentality is no longer helpful or productive.

The road back from his latest surgery will be a winding one, mixed with both ups and downs. His return at Torrey Pines qualified as the former, while his trunk slam at Riviera certainly served as the latter. There will surely be more of both in the coming weeks and months, and Woods’ ability to stomach the rough patches could prove pivotal for his long-term prognosis. - Will Gray

On the debate over increased driving distance on the PGA Tour ...

The drumbeat is only going to get louder as the game’s best get longer. On Sunday, Bubba Watson pounded his way to his 10th PGA Tour title at the Genesis Open and the average driving distance continues to climb.

Lost in the debate over driving distances and potential fixes, none of which seem to be simple, is a beacon of sanity, Riviera Country Club’s par-4 10th hole. The 10th played just over 300 yards for the week and yet yielded almost as many bogeys (86) as birdies (87) with a 4.053 stroke average.

That ranks the 10th as the 94th toughest par 4 on Tour this season, ahead of behemoths like the 480-yard first at Waialae and 549-yard 17th at Kapalua. Maybe the game doesn’t need new rules that limit how far the golf ball goes, maybe it just needs better-designed golf holes. - Rex Hoggard

On the depth of LPGA talent coming out of South Korea ...

The South Korean pipeline to the LPGA shows no signs of drying up any time soon. Jin Young Ko, 22, won her LPGA debut as a tour member Sunday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and Hyejin Choi, 18, nearly won the right to claim LPGA membership there. The former world No. 1 amateur who just turned pro finished second playing on a sponsor exemption. Sung Hyun Park, who shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last year, is set to make her 2018 debut this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And Inbee Park is set to make her return to the LPGA in two weeks at the HSBC Women’s World Championship after missing most of last year due to injury. The LPGA continues to go through South Korea no matter where this tour goes. - Randall Mell

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Nature calls: Hole-out rescues Bubba's bladder

By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 2:20 am

LOS ANGELES – Clinging to a one-stroke lead, Bubba Watson had just teed off on the 14th hole at Riviera Country Club and was searching for a bathroom.

“I asked Cameron [Smith], ‘where's the bathroom?’ He said, ‘On the next tee there's one. Give yourself a couple more shots, then you can go to the bathroom,’” Watson recalled. “I said, ‘So now I'm just going to hole it and go to the bathroom.’”

By the time Watson got to his shot, which had found the bunker left of the green, his caddie Ted Scott had a similar comment.

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

“When he went down to hit it I said, ‘You know you haven’t holed one in a long time,’” Scott said.

Watson’s shot landed just short of the hole, bounced once and crashed into the flagstick before dropping into the hole for an unlikely birdie and a two-stroke lead that he would not relinquish on his way to his third victory at the Genesis Open and his 10th PGA Tour title.

“I looked at Teddy [Scott] and said, ‘You called it.’ Then Cameron [who was paired with Watson] came over and said I called it. I’d forgotten he and I had talked about it,” Watson said.

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Bubba Golf takes long road back to winner's circle

By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 1:55 am

LOS ANGELES – Bubba’s back.

It’s been just two years since he hoisted a trophy on the PGA Tour, but with a mind that moves as fast as Bubba Watson’s, it must have felt like an eternity.

Since his last victory, which was also a shootout at Riviera Country Club in 2016, Watson was passed over for a captain’s pick at the 2016 Ryder Cup, endured a mystery illness, lost his confidence, his desire and the better part of 40 pounds.

He admits that along that ride he considered retirement and wondered if his best days were behind him.

“I was close [to retirement]. My wife was not close,” he conceded. “My wife basically told me to quit whining and play golf. She's a lot tougher than I am.”

What else could he do? With apologies to his University of Georgia education and a growing portfolio of small businesses, Watson was made to be on the golf course, particularly a golf course like Riviera, which is the canvas that brings out Bubba’s best.

In a game that can too often become a monotonous parade of fairways and greens, Watson is a freewheeling iconoclast who thrives on adversity. Where others only see straight lines and one-dimensional options, Bubba embraces the unconventional and the untried.

For a player who sometimes refers to himself in the third person, it was a perfectly Bubba moment midway through his final round on Sunday at the Genesis Open. Having stumbled out of the 54-hole lead with bogeys at Nos. 3 and 6, Watson pulled his 2-iron tee shot wildly right at the seventh because, “[his playing partners] both went left.”

From an impossible lie in thick rough with his golf ball 2 feet above his feet, Watson’s often-fragile focus zeroed in for one of the week’s most entertaining shots, which landed about 70 feet from the hole and led to a two-putt par.

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

“His feel for that kind of stuff, you can’t go to the range and practice that. You can’t,” said Watson’s caddie Ted Scott. “Put a ball 2 feet above your feet and then have to hold the face open and then to swing that easy. That’s why I have the best seat in the house. That’s the essence of Bubba golf.”

There were plenty of highlight moments on Sunday for Watson. There were crucial putts at Nos. 11 (birdie), 12 (par) and 13 (par) to break free of what was becoming an increasingly fluid leaderboard, and his chip-in birdie from a greenside bunker at the 14th hole extended his lead to two strokes.

“It was just a bunker shot, no big deal,” smiled Watson, who closed with a 69 for a two-stroke victory over Kevin Na and Tony Finau.

A player that can often appear handcuffed by the most straightforward of shots was at his best at Riviera, withstanding numerous challenges to win the Genesis Open for his 10th PGA Tour title.

That he did so on a frenzied afternoon that featured four different players moving into, however briefly, at last a share of the lead, Watson never appeared rattled. But, of course, we all know that wasn’t the case.

Watson can become famously uncomfortable on the course and isn’t exactly known for his ability to ignore distractions. But Riviera, where he’s now won three times, is akin to competitive Ritalin for Watson.

“[Watson] feels very comfortable moving the ball, turning it a lot. That allows him to get to a lot of the tucked pins,” said Phil Mickelson, who finished tied for sixth after moving to within one stroke of the lead early in round. “A lot of guys don't feel comfortable doing that and they end up accepting a 15 to 30 footer in the center of the green. He ends up making a lot more birdies than a lot of guys.”

It’s the soul of what Scott calls Bubba Golf, which is in simplest terms the most creative form of the game.

Watson can’t explain exactly what Bubba Golf is, but there was a telling moment earlier this week when Aaron Baddeley offered Watson an impromptu putting lesson, which Bubba said was the worst putting lesson he’d ever gotten.

“He goes, ‘how do you hit a fade?’ I said, ‘I aim it right and think fade.’ How do you hit a draw? I aim it left and think draw,” Watson said. “He said, ‘how do you putt?’ I said, ‘I don't know.’ He said, ‘well, aim it to the right when it breaks to the left, aim it to the left when it breaks to the right,’ exactly how you imagine your golf ball in the fairway or off the tee, however you imagine it, imagine it that way.”

It’s certain that there’s more going on internally, but when he’s playing his best the sum total of Watson’s game can be simply explained – see ball, hit ball. Anything more complicated than that and he runs the risk of losing what makes him so unique and – when the stars align and a course like Riviera or Augusta National, where he’s won twice, asks the right questions – virtually unbeatable.

That’s a long way from the depths of 2017, when he failed to advance past the second playoff event and dropped outside the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking. But then, Watson has covered a lot of ground in his career on his way to 10 Tour victories.

“I never thought I could get there,” he said. “Nobody thought that Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Fla., would ever get to 10 wins, let's be honest. Without lessons, head case, hooking the ball, slicing the ball, can't putt, you know? Somehow we're here making fun of it.”

Somehow, through all the adversity and distractions, he found a way to be Bubba again.

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Spieth: 'I feel great about the state of my game'

By Will GrayFebruary 19, 2018, 1:43 am

LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth is starting to feel confident again with the putter, which is probably a bad sign for the rest of the PGA Tour.

Spieth struggled on the greens two weeks ago at TPC Scottsdale, but he began to right the ship at Pebble Beach and cracked the top 10 this week at the Genesis Open. Perhaps more important than his final spot on the leaderboard was his standing in the strokes gained putting category – 12th among the field at Riviera Country Club, including a 24-putt performance in the third round.

Spieth closed out the week with a 4-under 67 to finish in a tie for ninth, five shots behind Bubba Watson. But after the round he spoke like a man whose preparation for the season’s first major is once again right on track.

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

“I was kind of, you know, skiing uphill with my putting after Phoenix and the beginning of Pebble week, and really just for a little while now through the new year,” Spieth said. “I just made some tremendous progress. I putted extremely well this week, which is awesome. I feel great about the state of my game going forward, feel like I’m in a great place at this time of the year as we’re starting to head into major season.”

Spieth will take a break next week, and where he next tees it up remains uncertain. He still has not announced a decision about playing or skipping the WGC-Mexico Championship, and he will have until 5 p.m. ET Friday to make a final decision on the no-cut event.

Whether or not he flies down to Mexico City, Spieth’s optimism has officially returned after a brief hiccup on the West Coast swing.

“For where I was starting out Phoenix to where I am and how I feel about my game going forward the rest of the year, there was a lot of progress made,” he said. “Now I’ve just got to figure out what the best schedule is for myself as we head into the Masters.”