Draper Too Good to Give Up

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2007, 5:00 pm
Touch the paper. Touch it once, touch it twice, touch it three times.
It moved.
Must touch again. Three more times. No movement but the pressure of the touch wasnt right.
Must touch again. Three more times. Nine more times. Twenty-seven more times.
These are the actions of someone suffering with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. These are the actions of a teenage Scott Draper.
Scott Draper
Scott Draper has transitioned from professional tennis player to professional golfer. (Getty Images)
At the age of 18, Draper was a Wimbledon junior doubles champion. He was young, he was decorated, he was very highly regarded in and out of his native Australia.
Sometimes, Draper says, expectations, when youre not ready to deal with it, (are) harder than anything.
Excessive expectations can bring about stress. Stress can trigger Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Id touch things, whether it was a bit of paper, anything in the room, Draper describes. Once Id cleaned something or found some sort of symmetry in it, Id touch it three times. If it moved or I wasnt happy with the pressure, Id touch it again, in multiples of three ' three times, and then three times three. And then Id do 27, all this weird stuff.
Draper was a kid obsessed, compelled and scared ' scared of regurgitating, scared that God was going to make him vomit if he didnt establish perfect order.
Draper was also tired ' emotionally, physically. Hed stay awake at night repeatedly touching doorknobs, always in multiples of three; making and re-making his bed; organizing perceived chaos; flipping the light switch off and on.
And Lord forbid he bump into something in the dark on his way to bed after finally getting it all just right.
'I'd have to re-start the process all over again,' he says.
This kind of behavior, labeled 'sinister' by Draper, lasted for nearly nine months. And then, as quickly as it took over his life, the ordeal was over. One night, while lying on his floor, watching TV, he just decided, Enough of this (expletive)! This has got to stop.
Went cold turkey, he says, and never did it again.
Obsessions and compulsions dont just vanish into the dead of night simply because you want them to; but Draper found a way, with willpower instead of medication, to control it. That, in and of itself, makes Scotts story one of success.
But this is just one significant chapter of many in a life well worn over 33 years.
To this day, Draper obsesses; though, now he does so over golf. Golf is a fixation, a passion, and a career.
Born in Brisbane and a resident of Gold Coast, Scott traveled this year with his second wife, Jessica, and their now 6-month-old son Jayden to the United States, trying to Monday qualify in Nationwide Tour events.
He made it into two tournaments, missing the cut on both occasions. He then gave PGA TOUR Q-school a shot and failed to get out of the first round.
Despite all his athletic talent ' and theres a whole heap of it ' things have never come easy for Draper, at least off the hard court. Perhaps because life has given him such a hard time.
After corralling OCD, Scott met Kellie Grieg at a tennis tournament later that same year, 1993. They developed a relationship, became a team, and formed a single identity. They went everywhere together, traveling the world as Scott pursued a professional tennis career.
'The moment I saw her,' Scott says, 'I couldn't take my eyes off her.'
They got married in early 1998. Eighteen months later, she passed away.
Kellie suffered from cystic fibrosis, which meant her body produced an excessive amount of mucous which clogged her organs. She required constant care, routine physical therapy, and regular trips to the hospital.
Ironically, as Kellies condition worsened, Scotts play progressed. He won a prestigious event at Queens Club for his first and only ATP Tour title. In May 1999 he rose to a career-high 42nd in the world ranking. Two months thereafter, unable to get a lung transplant, Kellies body gave out.
Scott had been playing for Kellie. She inspired him to play well. He hoped that his play would inspire her to carry on. He did everything he could to keep from losing, just so he could go home and give Kellie some good news.
For a year-and-a-half they were married. For the next year-and-a-half he would grieve.
After Kel passed away I hit the brick wall, Draper says. This started to get on top of me.
Scott started drinking. He gained nearly 20 pounds, not at all ideal for a professional athlete who needed to be quick of foot. Emotionally, he was an even bigger mess.
Id have panic attacks,' he says. 'I was having an identity crisis. I was depressed.
This time Scott couldnt just make up his mind that he needed to change his way of life. As evidenced by his ability to beat back OCD, Scott's mental strength was one of his greatest assets. But, this time, his singular focus was to his detriment. All he could think about was his lost life with Kellie.
He needed help. He needed a diversion. And he found it in a strange place.
The one savior at the time, aside from the love and support of my friends and family, he says, was golf.
Scott didnt take his first golf lesson until the age of 25. By then he was already an accomplished professional tennis player, a survivor of OCD, and a depressed widower.
I found great peace in getting out on the links ' five hours with friends and just focusing on that little white ball, he says.
When Scott was forced to miss the entire 2004 tennis season due to a knee injury, part of his rehabilitation was golf. That year, he won the Keperra Country Golf Club championship. That December, he earned his PGA TOUR of Australasia card via the qualifying tournament.
Of course, he was still a professional tennis player as well, so it wasnt long before the two sports clashed.
That collision came in January 2005, when Scott, in his typical Type A personality, decided to compete in the Australian Open (a tennis major) and the Victorian Open (an event on the Australasian Tour) the same week.
The golf tournament -- his professional debut, nonetheless -- was on the second week of the tennis major. Having only practiced tennis for eight days leading up to the first Grand Slam event of the year, Draper figured he'd never make it to the second half of the fortnight and his schedule would be open. He was sort of right. He lost in the first round in singles, but when Samantha Stosur needed a mixed double partner, Scott stepped in. And they kept on winning.
The Friday of Week 2, he woke up at 4:30 a.m. to play golf in the morning and tennis in the afternoon. He missed the cut on the course, shooting 79, but raced over to Melbourne Park in time to advance to the finals. The very next day, he and Stosur captured a Grand Slam title.
'I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew sometimes,' Scott says. 'But yet I loved that experience.'
Draper played his final professional tennis event in June at Wimbledon, losing in the first round.
It was time to focus solely on golf well, almost.
In January 2007, former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, a tennis star equally talented and tempestuous, asked Draper to be his coach. Draper agreed and led Hewitt to a third-round showing at the Australian Open.
The result was empty, and so was the feeling Draper had inside. He didnt want to coach; he wanted to play ' not tennis, but golf. And so he stepped aside.
And right into the winners circle.
Two weeks after bidding adieu to Hewitt, Draper won the New South Wales PGA Championship on the Von Nida Tour (the Australasian Tours version of the Nationwide Tour). Trailing by four entering the final round, Scott shot 7-under 65 to win by one for his first professional golf title.
The thing that pleased me most was that coming down the stretch, I actually felt more calm than I normally do on a golf course,' he says. 'That gives me a lot of confidence going into the future.'
Too Good. Thats the name of Drapers autobiography, which was published this year. The phrase comes from a common tennis term used when someone hits an un-returnable shot.
It's also the phrase Draper uses to describe the way he approaches life in the aftermath of Kellie's death.
'I realized that what I was doing was not getting me anywhere,' Scott says. 'The way that Kel went about living her life, I'd be disrespecting her memory if I didn't pick up the pieces and just start attacking life the way that she did. And, for me, the answer was 'Too Good.''
Scott's latest obstacle involves status. Draper can play in Australia, but he wants to play in America ' against the best. He doesnt expect ' nor does he want ' to be handed anything. He knows that he will have to earn his way onto the PGA TOUR via Q-school or the Nationwide Tour. And, after an early exit in the Qualifying Tournament, hell have to work hard just to play on a semi-regular basis on the secondary U.S. circuit.
'Tennis is something that always came easy to me; I was a natural,' he says. 'Some of the things that worked for me in tennis haven't worked for me in golf. It's really been trial and error.'
Says his wife Jessica: 'Scott is a totally different person at home than he is when he competes. I saw him throw his racket and I couldn't believe that was Scott. That intensity really worked for him in tennis, but (controlling it) is something he has to work on with golf.'
'This is my third year as a pro,' Scott adds. 'I feel like my learning curve has been going through the roof. I'd say I'm getting closer and closer every day to where I need to be. But it's still a work in progress.'
Its back to Monday qualifying for Scott Draper, which isnt ideal, but doesnt seem all that bad when you stack it up against Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the death of your spouse or depression.
Or against all three at once.
Too good should be used to describe Scott Drapers resolve.
My goal is to be on the PGA TOUR, he says. These Monday qualifiers are a necessary evil ' got to do it to continue the journey. And Im willing to do it.
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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.

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.”