Optimum conditions for Watson's victory

By John HawkinsApril 10, 2012, 7:41 pm

One of the most memorable episodes during my four years on the “Grey Goose 19th Hole” was a show we did with Bubba Watson at Bay Hill in March 2011. Our special guest seemed relaxed and ready, but when it came time to pre-tape the “Last Call” segment about a half-hour before live air, Bubba got the red-light fright.

The rest of us would write our closing thoughts, then read them off a teleprompter, which is at eye-level with the camera. Bubba, meanwhile, had decided to “wing it,” which only complicated things once he began to struggle. I basically offered to transcribe the running faucet in Watson’s mind – shape his stream of conscience into text so he could recite it back to viewers – but he was too nervous to really grasp that option.

Ten minutes out, the faucet was frozen. Watson did manage to gather himself and to get something down on tape, and when the show began, the “Live Bubba” was funny and opinionated, a good listener who turned his eccentric demeanor into an asset with his replies and topical riffs.

It was a fun evening, one that left Watson with a newfound appreciation for our side of the business – a different kind of pressure not nearly as intense as a sudden-death playoff at the Masters, but still, performance jitters just the same. I saw a very likeable guy that night, a real human not likely to perceive his skill at hitting a golf ball as making him better than everyone else.

Ability and vulnerability. That’s the Bubba I know. The road to his first major title was as winding and dramatic as the tournament he won, an episodic adventure broken down by Jay Coffin on this website shortly after Watson was awarded the green jacket. A lot of things had to fall in place for Bubba to end up with an emerald blazer, which isn’t to say he wouldn’t have run down to Kohl’s at some point and bought one off the rack, anyway.

No question in my mind, one of the biggest (and most overlooked) components to Watson’s victory was his final-round pairing with Louis Oosthuizen, whom he would end up defeating on the second playoff hole. Oosthuizen is as calm and emotionally unaffected as any player out there – the polar opposite of Bubba in a competitive context. If only in terms of transmitting a vibe, Oostie’s composure became Watson’s ally.

Add the double eagle Oosthuizen made at the par-5 second, which gave him a lead he would hold for most of the day, and Bubba knew he had to get down to business early, which required focus, which meant no wasted emotional energy when things didn’t go perfectly. For a high-strung racehorse such as Watson, these are crucial factors. Less than a month removed from blowing a 54-hole lead at Doral, where he missed an 8-footer at the 18th to force a playoff, we’re talking about a demonstrative golfer with a fragile psyche and negative recent history.

Thus, the second-to-last group made for a perfect spot. Nothing to squander, a ton to gain, and since Oosthuizen led the tournament for a vast majority of the time they were together, Watson had the bull’s-eye right in front of him. Still, with so many players coming and going, making a run toward the lead, then falling off – and marquee headliner Phil Mickelson trying to get back what he’d thrown away at the par-3 fourth – Bubba remained under the radar despite trailing by no more than two after a birdie at the fifth.

In a sense, the challenge of chasing someone down was much less stressful than being the guy everyone was chasing. It heightened Watson’s concentration, and when he got to the final third of the golf course, where the two par 5s clearly cater to his enormous length, Bubba pounced. Four consecutive birdies earned him a share of the lead. A pair of closing pars sent the two men to sudden-death.

At that point, Watson would compete for the most coveted title in golf against the same guy he’d been with all along. No new hand to shake, nothing to wonder about but his own golf ball. When he launched that baby into the trees right of the 10th fairway and found an opening, I had little doubt Bubba not only would devise a shot onto the green, but give himself a putt to win.

He played the shot quickly, avoiding mind clutter and trusting his instinct. That’s how Bubba Watson plays golf best – with his right-brain sensibilities governing that giant, left-handed swing. You throw all those factors together and you’ve got a champion at the 76th Masters. And a guy who will probably feel a lot more comfortable doing live TV in the years to come.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

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. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm