Friends, former coach not surprised how Watson won

By Rex HoggardApril 10, 2012, 4:03 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – As Erik Compton watched Sunday’s action unfold everything seemed in its proper order.

The folksy glide, the unorthodox swing, the fearless abandon, Compton had seen it for years but as Bubba Watson made his way through Augusta National’s historic closing stretch his former University of Georgia teammate noticed something different.

There was a focus in Watson’s face, maybe even a calm, if such a concept exists in that marvelously manic mind. When the eventual champion’s tee shot sailed into the trees right of the 10th fairway on the second playoff hole Compton knew something was different. Something special was about to happen.

“I get it because I have the ADD (attention deficit disorder) thing. He sees things in curves,” said Compton, who grew up playing junior golf against Watson and later with him at Georgia. “I knew he’d have a shot (at the second playoff hole). I think he won the Masters because he hit it in the trees. If he’d hit in the fairway he would have had a harder shot.”

Video: Watson surprises 'Morning Drive' crew with 30-minute guest appearance

It is the delicate balance of what Watson calls “Bubba golf.”

Compton took it a step further, calling it “Bubba’s way,” because it’s not just the blur-of-moving-parts swing that defines Watson, it’s the entire package – fearless, often to a fault, frequently distracted and undoubtedly talented, everyone who has ever been around Watson has immediately known that.

When Heath Slocum’s father took the head professional job in the early 1990s at Tanglewood Golf & Country Club in Milton, Fla., he immediately heard the rumors about the skinny fifth-grader who could hit it a country mile and curve it even farther.

“You could see he was raw, but he had to be good,” Slocum said. “He had so much game. I saw him try stuff that at the time I didn’t think was possible, and a lot of the time he pulled it off.”

So when Slocum, who was on vacation with his family and eating dinner when Sunday’s playoff reached its climax, received a text message from a friend that read, “(Bubba) just hooked a wedge 50 yards onto the green (at the second playoff hole). Two putts to win,” he wasn’t surprised.

The Tanglewood 19th hole is filled with tales of Watson’s fearless feats. Some of them are even true, outlandish stories that Georgia men’s golf coach Chris Haack had heard when he recruited the junior college transfer in 1999.

Haack took Watson to play Augusta National for the first time in the spring of 2000 and watched with great interest, and perhaps a little nostalgia, as his former player slashed his way to victory.

To Haack it was quintessential Bubba. He’d seen it for years when they’d march Watson to the bottom of the practice tee at the University of Georgia Golf Course and he’d pelt the range shed with drives.

“That was a 300-yard carry, uphill,” Haack laughed. “And that was before the new ball. I saw that a bunch; he was always a creative shot-maker and his game hasn’t changed much.”

Watson’s mind, however, has evolved. That was clear on Sunday when he birdied four consecutive holes starting at the 13th, when he split the fairway at the 72nd hole to virtually assure a playoff and when he calmly two-putted the second extra frame for victory.

It is telling that for Haack it was Watson’s putting, not his power, that impressed the most. Under pressure, the longtime coach had seen Watson’s tendency to decelerate on short putts.

These tendencies had shown up before.

Last month, Watson went into the final round at the WGC-Cadillac Championship with a three-stroke lead, signed for an outward loop of 39 and finished a stroke behind Justin Rose. At the 2010 PGA Championship, he bogeyed the 71st hole to drop into a playoff with Martin Kaymer and dumped his approach shot into a hazard on the third extra hole on his way to a double bogey to lose by a stroke.

“Just the fact that he had a fairly level head impressed me the most,” said Haack, who was contacted by the Georgia athletic director on Monday and informed to tell Watson that the school plans to honor him at a home game next football season.

But if clarity of thought when it mattered was the key for those who have watched Watson evolve from rail-thin swashbuckler to major  champion, it was his slashing creativity that most will remember from the 2012 Masters.

Watson bristled late Sunday when it was suggested he couldn’t hit a straight shot saying, “I can hit it straight. It’s just it’s easier to see curves.” Those who have watched, however, beg to differ.

“I’m sure he could hit one but it might be a mistake,” Haack said, while Compton’s take was more pointed, “He says he can hit a straight shot, but I don’t believe it.”

The world may love “Bubba golf” in the wake of Watson’s major breakthrough, but consider Haack’s plight as a coach who always had to walk the fine line of trying to temper such immense talent.

“On one hand you tried to make observations on how to play a particular hole, but you didn’t want to take his strength out of his hands,” Haack said. “He is aggressive and powerful and that’s great, but it did bite him a few times.”

A “few times,” may be a bit of an understatement. Truth is on any given day Watson could win a tournament or finish last, it all depended on his mood and his ability to make magic out of mistakes like he did late Sunday at Augusta National.

“He could be 11 under par (in a team qualifier) and not qualify,” Compton recalls. “He could make an 18 on any hole. A 400-yard par 4 he tries to drive, you never knew. He’s Tin Cup, but he’s Tin Cup with a green jacket now.”

The artist, however flawed, finally has his masterpiece.

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.