No doubt about it, Bubba makes a statement at Riviera

By Rex HoggardFebruary 22, 2016, 1:37 am

LOS ANGELES – For a guy who freely admits that he has all 158 episodes of “Boy Meets World” on his phone to watch during long flights, the headline writes itself.

Bubba Meets World.

Not that Bubba Watson needed another Hollywood ending at the Northern Trust Open to solidify his status as the PGA Tour’s most complex iconoclast, but his whirlwind tour of Tinseltown certainly fits with his celebrity narrative.

Last week Watson visited the set of Disney Channel’s “Girl Meets World,” a spinoff of the original series, for a cameo role in a future episode; and the set of the CBS sitcom “2 Broke Girls.” He spent time with Justin Bieber and sat courtside at the L.A. Clippers game on Saturday night. He passed a kidney stone.

And he emerged from a leaderboard as crowded as the 405 at, well, any time, to claim his second Northern Trust Open title in three years.

Even in L.A. that’s considered a good week.

“I get a good, excited feeling here,” said Watson, who ended Sunday where he began it, one stroke clear of the year’s deepest field, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking, following a closing-round 68 that featured two birdies over his final three holes.

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“I love coming here, the history of this place. You know, the history that you've seen, the great champions ... and a couple times in the last few years, my head's in the right spot and it's worked out.”

Not that this tale remained on script throughout a picture-perfect Southern California afternoon.

Adam Scott stormed out to a quick start with an eagle at the first hole and when he rolled in a 4-footer for birdie at the sixth to move to 15 under, one stroke clear of K.J. Choi, the Australian appeared poised to claim his second title at Riviera, and his first “official” bottle cap.

“I would like to have an official victory here. A guy like Bubba, he's very tough to beat,” said Scott, who won the 2005 Northern Trust Open but because it was shortened to 36 holes it is not considered an official Tour victory. “He's proving tough to beat from that position. He's wearing the course out on the toughest day.”

Scott stumbled with a double bogey-6 at the eighth hole and three-putted the 14th hole from 17 feet on his way to back-to-back bogeys, but he chipped in a 25-footer for birdie from the fringe at the last to move to 14 under and within a stroke of Watson.

It wouldn’t be enough with Watson making a routine par at the last to secure the title, but even without a bookend L.A. title it was still something of a mandate week for the Australian.

His play on Riviera’s greens may finally begin to quell questions regarding his putting after he finished the week ranked 15th in strokes gained-putting.

For all the handwringing over this year’s ban on anchoring and Scott’s long-term competitive outlook with a traditional-length putter, the irony wasn’t lost on Scott that he won his first title in L.A. using a short putter in 2005.

“I think I putted pretty good this week. I missed a couple today, but I'm sure heaps of people missed a couple today,” he said. “I feel like it's all in a really good spot. I'm excited about going into the Florida stretch and then getting to Augusta where I feel the greens are really the kind of grass that I like a lot and feel most comfortable on. I'm excited about what's coming up.”

Jason Kokrak held the lead for much of the day thanks to a bogey-free, 3-under opening nine, but a three-putt bogey at the 15th hole dropped him out of the lead and he was unable to birdie that par-5 17th hole after a wayward drive.

But then at least Scott and Kokrak were in the conversation late into Sunday afternoon. The same couldn’t be said for Rory McIlroy, who rocked the leaderboard early with a 23-footer for eagle at the first for a share of the lead, but the world No. 3 played his next 17 holes in 6 over par to tie for 20th place.

“I didn’t have the pace at all on the greens. Off the tee I was much better and that was one of the things I wanted to do,” said McIlroy, who was playing Riviera for the first time this week. “I felt like I played three solid rounds of golf. I turned a chance to win into a top-20.”

In true Los Angeles fashion, Watson turned his eventful week into a story of redemption and resilience.

Although Bubba’s always been something of a polarizing figure, he’d been typecast in recent weeks as a villain following a media miscue prior to the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Whether it was his miscue or the media’s remains a topic of much debate, particularly for Watson.

“You know, Phoenix, it was a bad headline that said I didn't like the community, I didn't like the golf tournament, which was a lie, which I'm going to say. I'm man enough to take the bad press now,” said Watson, whose comments prior to the tournament were focused on his dislike of the redesigned TPC Scottsdale layout, not the tournament nor the community.

Watson, who has never hidden his emotions from the press or public, said the fallout from that story has lingered well after he endured the slings and arrows of fans on Saturday at TPC Scottsdale.

“I'm not over it. It's heartbreaking that a city or community or local press would put a headline to spur on a bad image. So it's hurtful,” Watson said. “I'm pretty mad about it, but I've got to get over it. I've got to man up and be a better man, and with those comments, I've got to figure out how to answer things better, all the stuff going on in my head we've been working on.”

For Watson this was something of a Riviera redemption, a chance to put another difficult chapter behind him and improve, both as a player and a person. His victory shows progress for the former, but he openly admits the latter is a work in progress.

Considering his recent issues with the fourth estate, Watson was asked to write the headline for Sunday’s finish: “Bubba Loves This Community and People and Course and Fans and Everything Else,” he smiled.

Or if that’s too wordy, try "Bubba Meets World."

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Snedeker starts slow in effort to snag Masters invite

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."