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.


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.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.