Allenby Prevails in Another Playoff

By Mercer BaggsFebruary 25, 2001, 5:00 pm
Robert Allenby closed the Wild, Wild West Coast Swing by birdieing the first hole in a six-man playoff to capture the 75th Nissan Open in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
 
Allenby defeated Brandel Chamblee (67), Bob Tway (68), Jeff Sluman (69), Dennis Paulson (70) and Toshi Izawa (66) when he became just the third man all weekend to birdie the par-4 18th. Allenby striped a 3-wood through the cold, heavy rain to five feet on the first hole of sudden-death. He then converted the birdie putt.
 
The playoff was the largest on the PGA Tour since Neal Lancaster defeated five others in the 1994 Byron Nelson Classic, which was reduced to 36 holes because of rain.
 
Allenby comments on his playoff win.
 
This is the Australian's third PGA Tour victory over the past two seasons, all of which have come in playoffs. He defeated Craig Stadler in a four-hole playoff to earn his maiden triumph in last year's Shell Houston Open, and then captured the Advil Western Open by bettering Nick Price on the first extra hole.
 
'I'm pretty confident going into playoffs,' said Allenby, who is now 7-0 worldwide in playoffs. 'It's a matter of who can get it in the hole the quickest.'
 
Allenby could have avoided the playoff, but bogeyed the 18th in regulation for a round of 1-under-par 70. He entered the Riviera clubhouse tied at 8-under-par with several others, who waited to see if they would factor into the final outcome.
 
Davis Love III was in position to win for the second time in his last three starts. He began the day with a three-shot lead at 10-under, but bogeyed the third and fourth holes to create a logjam that would last throughout the day.
 
Love reclaimed the solo lead at 10-under by birdieing the eighth and 14th holes, but played his next two holes in 3-over to finish in a tie for eighth place. Love found the muddy bunkers at both the 15th and 16th holes. He doubled the first and bogeyed the latter for a 4-over-par 75.
 
Love didn't leave empty-handed. He was awarded the unofficial $500,000 bonus for winning the West Coast Swing, though it proved to be small consolation.
 
Ten players had a share of the lead at some point in the final round. Aside from Love and the six men in the playoff, Corey Pavin, Michael Muehr and Chris Perry were all tied at the top.
 
Pavin was 9-under through six holes but badly hooked his tee shot at the par-4 7th. He bogeyed that hole, doubled the 9th, bogeyed the 10th; and, despite back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 15th holes, Pavin bogeyed the 16th and 17th to shoot 74 and finish the event at 5-under-par.
 
Muehr entered the mix by holing his approach shot to the par-4 10th for an eagle, but quickly dropped three shots over his next three holes to fall to 6-under. He finished his day by bogeying the 18th for a round of 72 and a 13th place finish at 5-under.
 

Likewise, Perry made his way to 9-under with a birdie at the 13th, but bogeyed three of his final four holes to finish in a five-way tie for eighth at 6-under.
 
When regulation finally came to a close, six players were tied at 9-under-par 276. On the 451-yard par-4 18th, Allenby and Tway were the only two of the sextet to reach the green in two shots.
 
Allenby was caught between a 2-iron and a 3-wood from about 225 yards. He choked up on the metal wood and laced his ball to within five feet of the cup.
 
'I was trying to hit the perfect shot, and I came up with it,' said Allenby. 'To pull it off in those conditions - pouring rain, five guys on your heels - that's going to be the shot that stays in my memory bank for a long time.'
 
Tway missed his birdie effort from 35 feet and was forced to watch, along with his four peers, as Allenby ended the playoff by sinking his putt from five feet.
 
The 29-year-old collects $612,000 and moves to eighth on the '01 money list.
 
The Tour now heads to Doral for the first of four straight events in Florida. Tiger Woods will certainly welcome a change of scenery. Woods shot even-par 71 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 13th place at 5-under. In five West Coast starts, Tiger collected three top-10s and a pair of 13th-place finishes. He hasn't won in his last eight PGA Tour starts.
 
News, Notes and Numbers
*There have been nine different winners in the nine PGA Tour events thus far in 2001.
 
*Robert Allenby has now won 13 times internationally.
 
*Toshi Izawa was playing on a rare commissioner's exemption; given to him due to a strong Japanese contingent in Southern California. He made his first stateside start in the 2000 PGA Championship, where he tied for 39th.
 
*Because of the rain, players were allowed to lift, clean and place.
 
*Tiger Woods will play the upcoming Dubai Desert Classic. His next scheduled PGA Tour start is the Bay Hill Invitational.
 
Click here for Full-Field scores from the Nissan Open!
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After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

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

Each week, GolfChannel.com 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.


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“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.


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“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.


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“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.”