Hawk's Nest: Reader questions from Bubba to Tiger

By John HawkinsNovember 10, 2014, 3:00 pm

The PGA Tour in China is like the NFL in England or pickles on an ice cream sundae. Seriously, what’s the point? It’s kind of scary to think that last week’s WGC gathering in Shanghai will likely produce pro golf’s only quality field until next March.

Camp Ponte Vedra must be delighted that 40 of the world’s top 50 players made it to Sheshan International, a total which doesn’t include Patrick Reed’s etiquette coach. And it was a bang-up finish - Bubba Watson won it, lost it, then won it again, all in typically demonstrative fashion.

So there is some slightly relevant golf during the offseason. Just don’t blink. Or go to bed before 3 a.m.

The cynic would like to step up to the soapbox. How is it that prime U.S. markets such as Seattle, Detroit and Philadelphia can go years without hosting a Tour stop ... but we can find room in the schedule for a bank with a gigantic marketing budget? The tail doesn’t just wag the dog in our game. It tells it when to bark, when to bite and how to not make any sense.

Oh, well. The latest Tiger’s Return countdown ought to be starting any day now, so I’m off to check in with my adoring fans and find out what inquiring minds want to know.


Hey Hawk,

Saw your report card last week … How can you give Woods and Mickelson the same grade when Tiger hardly played? I mean, my man Phil almost won the PGA! Seriously, dude - you smokin’ something? - Left Over from Los Angeles

Not a chance, Cheech. The reason I gave Red Shirt a ‘D’ and didn’t go lower is because he battled injuries for much of the season. He did play like crud before his back started bothering him, but you have to factor in his health when considering his overall level of performance. Bottom line? Neither man came close to matching his standard.


Dear Hawk:

What’s your take on Reed’s profane outburst last Thursday in China? It sure sent Twitter into a tizzy! - Potty Mouth Marshal from Missouri

Unfortunate and inexcusable, but what bothers me is that Reed initially played dumb when asked about the incident - which tells me he didn’t think twice about the matter, or that he uses abusive language quite often. Calling yourself young and hotheaded doesn’t legitimize any form of behavior. Reed’s subsequent apology certainly doesn’t erase the damage done.

The kid needs to grow up, effective immediately, but there are perils involved in a game where TV takes us so close to the actual competition. Tiger’s on-course comportment has been an issue for almost two decades, but most of his theatrics were simply childish.

This was juvenile and offensive. Bad combination.


Yo, genius!

How much of an impact will Steve Williams’ so-called retirement have on Adam Scott’s game? - Just Wondering from New Jersey

I subscribe to the theory that caddies impart a very modest effect on almost every Tour pro’s performance, but Williams seemed to infuse Scott with a competitive fire and self-belief that were previously lacking. This is one of those things you can’t measure - and Scott certainly isn’t going to admit he misses Williams after he plays poorly - but I suspect it could become an issue.

Just wait until the anchored-putter ban arrives at the start of 2016. That could really stir things up in the Scott pot.


Hawk,

How good was Bubba’s bunker shot on the 72nd hole in Shanghai? When’s the last time somebody pulled off something like that at such a crucial time? - Sweet Sandy from Colorado

Pretty dadgum good. Bubba’s hole-out for eagle to force a playoff would make my short list of shots of the year - but this year is already next year, if you know what I mean. Matt Jones jarred a chip to beat Matt Kuchar in Houston back in April, but we’ve also had plenty of seasons where it didn’t happen at all.

The takeaway from Watson’s triumph is that he picked himself up and dusted himself off to reclaim a victory, which is something he hadn’t done before. We’ve all seen the guy unravel emotionally. Bubba blew big leads at Doral and Hartford in 2012, so to see him rally from a crisis situation amounts to a significant step forward.

He even had a little fun with the guy who asked him about it afterward.

“Coming from behind? Choking? Is that what you’re saying?” Watson replied.

“No, you said it,” the reporter answered.

“You wanted to say it,” Bubba retorted, and a good laugh was had by all.


Hey Johnny the Hawk,

What’s your over/under on Woods’ total number of PGA Tour victories in 2015? - Bookem Danno from Hawaii

My gut and my head just came out of a meeting to discuss the matter, and the answer is 2.0. Tiger needs four wins to pass Sam Snead and become the winningest golfer in PGA Tour history - I’ll give you 5-to-2 odds on that happening in ’15.

In the five seasons since the Woods dynasty came to a halt in 2009, Eldrick has gone winless three times but piled up a total of eight victories in the other two. Not counting his rookie season, when he won twice in eight starts, Tiger failed to pick up four Ws just twice (1998 and 2004) before the hydrant intervened.

Odds on him winning a major, you ask? Well, it’s been awhile, but if dumping Sean Foley and taking all this time off doesn’t recharge Woods’ batteries, nothing will. With that in mind, the best I can do is 3-1.


Hey Hotshot,

I recently saw where an 81-year-old Pennsylvania man made four aces in 33 days. How many hole-in-ones do you have? - Bar Tab Bobby from Chicago

My seventh occurred July 27 on the 17th at the L’il Brown Dog, a hole I absolutely despise but have now aced three times. Not to be a total crabapple or anything, but holes-in-one are pure luck. You could hit a thousand balls close from 158 yards and not have any go in, which is another way of saying the ace possesses both mystical and mythical powers.

The first one I made back in 1994 left my hands trembling for several holes. This time, I even forgot to save the ball. Like getting pulled over for speeding, aces used to make my heart race, but not anymore. Which I suppose is a good thing.


Mr. Hawkins,

What are we to make of Billy Horschel after his stellar showing in the 2014 FedEx Cup playoffs? Is he a star in the making - or teasing and faking? - Crystal Ballinger from Nevada

We certainly have a right to wonder. Horschel looked like he was ready for the top tier after a terrific stretch in the spring of 2013, which he capped with a win in New Orleans. He finished T-4 at the U.S. Open two months later, then basically disappeared until his end-of-summer run.

Having recently become a dad for the first time, he’s off to a weak start this season, but without question, the guy has a very high ceiling. Horschel has the statistical birthmarks of a star, ranking high in virtually every category in each of the last two years.

He drives the ball exceptionally accurately for a guy who ranks comfortably inside the top 100 in distance. He hits a ton of greens and gives himself a lot of scoring chances. Horschel is a U.S. Open champion waiting to happen, but sometimes, the waiting is the hardest part.


Dear Mr. Know It All,

Having covered pro golf for the last 97 years, or however long you’ve been doing it, is there anything in particular that really drives you nuts? I mean, we all know you’re not exactly Sammy Sunshine, but what stands out among your plethora of annoyances? - Glass Half Full from Florida

All those people who clap after a guy taps in a 1-footer for bogey. They don’t do that in Great Britain, hombre. They expect better.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.