Watney wrestles away title from Rollins

By Rex HoggardFebruary 8, 2009, 5:00 pm
2006 Buick InvitationalSAN DIEGO ' Nick Watney ' the strong, silent type with an athletic swing and sometimes apathetic putting stroke ' watched his 22-footer at the 54th hole trundle by the hole for a pedestrian par on the South Courses final hole and headed directly for Torrey Pines pit-marked putting green.
Watney grew up in Northern California and knows how fickle Poas imperfect surfaces can be, but it wasnt the turf, it was the technique. Something in his putting stroke wasnt right, hadnt been for some time.
For all of Watneys fearlessness and raw power, it has been the 27-year-olds putting that marked the middle ground between trophy hoisting and heading home empty handed. Its what drove Watney to Torreys practice green as darkness spread across the seaside muni. If only for 30 minutes, It was enough, the newest member of the Tours burgeoning Club Twentysomething smiled.
History will count Watneys towering hybrid second shot from 235 yards on the last hole as the haymaker that denied John Rollins the Buick Invitational title most had conceded to him five holes earlier. With a knowing smirk, Watney will count his nervous two-putt from 60 feet at the par-5 closer as the game winner. Or he will recount his 57-foot twofer on the 13th to keep pace with Rollins as the play of the game. Or hell cut straight to the case: Didnt have any three-putts.
Conversely, Rollins had too many a three-swipes, particularly down the stretch when he could have closed out Watney and fellow antagonist Camilo Villegas.
Rollins, who scorched the South on Friday with a 64 to move into the hunt, had four three-putts in an eight-hole stretch beginning at the 12th on Saturday and culminating with a sloppy bogey at the first to begin a final round that should have been a walkover considering he started the final lap leading by three.
Not that Rollins went meekly or quickly. Even after his unsteady start, he maintained the lead for 17 holes, pulling away with what appeared the clincher when he eagled the par-5 13th hole from 21 feet. With five holes to play, Rollins was three up on a group that included Watney, Villegas and Lucas Glover.
Despite the cushion, there was the slightest of cracks in Rollins game, an action that had appeared in perfect tempo for three days. From his home in Dallas, Rollins swing coach Randy Smith nervously watched his man round the turn Sunday.
He seems a little tense on his right side, said Smith, who suggested Rollins move closer to the ball on Tuesday. I want to see that right elbow fold a little earlier in the swing.
The result, Smith continued, was a shot that sailed slightly to the right. The first miss occurred on the 14th, when Rollins approach fell short and right of the green. Two holes later, another miss and some bad luck added up to a bogey-4 and his lead had been condensed to the size of a Southern California parking spot.
It was as bad a plugged lie as Ive had in a while, Rollins said of his tee shot on the 16th. It was an unfortunate break at that stage in the tournament. Things had been going along kind of OK, and then that got me there on 16.
Watney was dealing with his own sordid history on the 16th. During the final round of last years U.S. Open he three-putted from a similar spot on the scenic par 3, so when he stepped in on his 38 footer he wasnt expecting to walk off the green with a share of the lead.
I had an idea that it breaks a ton right there. I was really just trying to hit good speed, said Watney, who closed with a 68 for a 11-under 277 total. I wasn't sure if it was going to catch the front lip or not, but it did, and I'm very happy about that.
From there, Watneys power and an increasingly confident putting stroke finished things off. A towering drive followed by his bold approach at the last set up a two-putt birdie that had been anything but routine last year when he ranked a clumsy 138th on Tour in something called three-putt avoidance.
To his credit, Watney and swing coach Butch Harmon took a long look at his game after 2008 and spent two months in Las Vegas playing catch up. The focus for much of that time was on putting and short game, the payoff was Sunday at Torrey Pines.
I made quite a few short putts this week, so every 5, 6, 7-footer that I make, I think my confidence grows a little bit, and the 3-footer at the last will help, as well, said Watney, a long time cross handed putter who switched to a conventional grip last year.
Its a testament to Watney, whose only other Tour title came two years ago in New Orleans and from the front of the pack, that Harmon kept him among his stable of players when he trimmed to his Fab Five pupils last year. Among Harmons high-profile pupils is Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Natalie Gulbis, and perhaps the biggest surprise Buick week, Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson arrived at Torrey Pines, where he has won three times, fresh from a missed weekend at the FBR Open armed with a new driver and plenty of optimism. The new driver wasnt much better than the old version and, although the week started well on the unpredictable Poa, things unraveled on Sunday when he four-putted from the fringe at the sixth, an episode that included two misses from inside two and a half feet.
Villegas, one of the most dominant players on Tour since closing the season 2-0 in the FedEx Cup playoffs, played his first two rounds in 11 under and remained upbeat after tying for third despite a 2-over-par weekend.
I had a lot of fun. It was great playing with John and with Nick out there, Villegas said. As a matter of fact, walking down the 15th fairway, Nick looks at me, and he goes, 'You've got to love this.' I said, 'If you don't, just go sit on the couch.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard ' Buick Invitational
  • Full Coverage ' Buick Invitational
  • Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

    HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

    Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

    ''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''

    Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

    Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

    ''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

    Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

    ''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

    Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

    Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

    By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

    The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

    Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

    What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

    Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

    Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

    Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

    Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

    Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

    Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

    Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

    SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

    Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

    ''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

    But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

    In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

    ''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

    Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

    The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

    ''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

    NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.