Watson claims first major; makes dreams come true

By Rex HoggardApril 9, 2012, 3:05 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Everyone expected the freewheeling left-hander to make history on Sunday at Augusta National, just not this southpaw.

As dusk descended on Augusta National late Sunday, club chairman Billy Payne broke the damp silence and announced, “Charl (Schwartzel), would you do me the great honor of placing the green jacket on Bubba.”

It’s a sentence few outside of Bagdad, Fla., ever expected to be uttered on these hallowed grounds.

But if Bubba Watson isn’t exactly the lefty everyone expected to win the year’s first major, he proved to be every bit as thrilling as Phil Mickelson on another frantic Sunday afternoon on the former fruit nursery.

With a scorching run of four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 Watson pulled even with Louis Oosthuizen and weathered a two-hole playoff, a collection of wayward tee balls and a mind with more side roads than this cozy north Georgia enclave.

Is the world ready for Bubba golf?

Does pink go with green?

Who was “Rae”?

How do you spell WEST-haze-un?

Welcome to the world of Bubba, a stream-of-consciousness place where the moment is all that matters and emotions are worn comfortably for all the world to see, much like a new green jacket.


Video: Inside the mind of a Masters champion

Coffin: The evolution of Bubba Watson

Feherty: Foreshadowing Bubba's Masters win


“I’ve never had a dream go this far so I can’t say it’s a dream come true,” said Watson, who closed with a 68 to match Oosthuizen at 10 under and force the second playoff in four years. “I dreamed about it, I just never made the putt.”

After a first-hole three-putt Watson made everything that mattered on a Chamber of Commerce afternoon, quietly keeping pace with the quiet South African until his birdie burst on the back nine, the first a bounce-back kick-start at the par-5 13th hole following a three-putt from the back fringe on No. 12.

At the 14th Watson rolled in a 6-footer and followed with a two-putt birdie putt on the 15th and completed his run with an 8-iron to 8 feet at the 16th hole. From there it was a question of attrition, not against Oosthuizen, but himself.

Following missed birdie attempts at the 72nd hole (20 feet) and the first playoff hole (8 feet) that would have ended the drama, Watson pulled his tee shot in the second extra frame into the woods right of the 10th fairway.

From 164 yards and with no sight of the green, Watson did what he does best, roping a 52-degree wedge 40 yards around a TV tower to 12 feet.

“Pretty easy,” Watson laughed.

Truth is the game has been anything but easy for Watson in recent years. The talent was willing, but the mind always racing, rebelling at the worst possible moments in the past and undermining one of the game’s most creative players.

On Sunday at Augusta National Watson didn’t so much beat Oosthuizen – or Mickelson, who finished tied for third – as much as he beat the demons and doubts that swirl within.

“He’s so emotional and wears it on his sleeve,” said Johan Elliot, a member of Watson’s management team. “He’s been emotional this week, but the last two mornings he’s been very calm and it’s been very apparent.”

Inwardly, perhaps, but calm doesn’t begin to characterize Sunday’s drama.

When Watson two-putted for par at the second extra hole after Oosthuizen failed to get up-and-down from in front of the green he ended a day that began with one of the most historic shots in Masters history.

Less than 30 minutes into the leaders’ final round Oosthuizen roped a 4-iron on the par-5 second hole that flew 210 yards to the front of the green and didn’t stop rolling until it dropped into the hole.

It was just the fourth double eagle in Masters’ history, the first at the second hole and vaulted Oosthuizen into the lead at 10 under.

Hmmm, a South African holes out from the fairway on his outward nine on Sunday at Augusta National. Believe we’ve seen, and heard, this before.

“I needed to pitch it about five or six paces on the green and I knew if I get it right it’s going to feed towards the hole, but I never thought it would go in,” said Oosthuizen, who finished with a 69 for his best Masters showing.

Although he maintained the lead throughout the afternoon, Oosthuizen would play his next 18 holes (including the playoff) in 1 over par, including his bogey at the last.

Yet as surprising as Oosthuizen’s shot at the second was it somehow paled in comparison to Mickelson’s meltdown at the fourth hole when his tee shot ricocheted off the bleachers left of the green and into the woods.

From there Mickelson took as many swings right-handed at the par 3 as Oosthuizen took on the par-5 second. All told Lefty needed five swings to reach the green and tumbled outside the top five.

Mickelson’s quest to win his fourth green jacket was defined, and ultimately derailed, by three numbers – two triple bogeys (No. 10 on Thursday and the fourth on Sunday) and 30, his closing nine on Saturday to give him a spot in Sunday’s final pairing.

It was quintessential “Thrill,” at his best and worst.

“It hit the metal railing and shot into the trees,” Mickelson said. “Not only was it unplayable but I couldn’t take an unplayable (lie). There was no place to go other than back to the tee. So I took the risk of trying to hit it a few times.”

Although Peter Hanson, who began the day with a one-stroke lead over Mickelson, didn’t collapse as spectacularly his demise was just as pronounced. The Swede played his first three holes in 2 over par and finished tied for third place with Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood and Mickelson.

Nowhere this side of Las Vegas do one’s fortunes change so dramatically.

At least Mickelson and Hanson had a chance on Sunday. Tiger Woods, who began the week as the betting favorite, opened with a pedestrian 72 and was never in the conversation on his way to his worst finish (T-40) at the Masters as a professional.

Ditto for Rory McIlroy, who didn’t wait until the back nine on Sunday to unravel this year. The Ulsterman closed with rounds of 77-76 to finish tied with Woods, 15 strokes behind Watson.

There is one piece of good news for McIlroy. Watson’s adventure down the 10th hole in the playoff may let him off the hook. No longer will visitors ask where McIlroy’s tee shot in 2011 ended up. Instead they will march to the woods right of the fairway and marvel at Watson’s imagination, if not his indifference for convention.

“I just hit a crazy shot I saw in my head,” Watson figured when asked about his carving masterpiece.

It’s a head finally filled with the conclusion to a dream that once never seemed possible.

Viewer's note: Catch a special edition of 'Feherty' with Bubba Watson Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.