Bubba tames Albany course he didn't care for

By Rex HoggardDecember 6, 2015, 11:09 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – The misnomer is that there is a specific lineup of courses where “Bubba Golf” plays: Augusta National, Torrey Pines, Trump National Doral.

Bubba Watson can add a new stop to that rotation following this week’s event at Albany Golf Club, where the free-swinging southpaw carved and cajoled his way to a three-stroke victory on Sunday at the Hero World Challenge, which will be played, at least for the near future, at the big Bahamian ballpark.

Albany checks all the right boxes for Watson - long for a course at sea level (7,267 yards), with five par 5s, and not a magnolia tree in sight that must be weaved around, over or through (even though he's proven pretty adept at that, too).

Even before the first tee shot this week, Jordan Spieth pegged Watson as the man to beat.

“Bubba will like it, there's nothing blocking the tee shots,” the defending champion said on Wednesday.

Like nearly everything else Spieth has done this season, he called this week’s outcome perfectly.

Watson took a two-stroke lead into a rainy and windy final round, birdied four of his first seven holes and didn’t allow anyone to get closer than two strokes thanks to a closing 66 and a 25-under total.

Not bad for a guy who committed to the tournament, then withdrew when his family had trouble completing the travel paperwork for his son, and finally stepped back in when Jason Day decided to spend some extra time at home with his newborn daughter.

Had Watson known the Ernie Els-designed Albany course was going to be so much to his liking and suited to his brand of uniquely creative golf, he probably would have never considered missing the event.

On Saturday, Watson was asked for his definition of “Bubba Golf” and the answer was telling: “It’s having fun, right? And that’s what we should be doing, having fun and hitting shots,” he said.


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Watson’s totals for the week scream “fun,” which is slightly ironic considering the two-time major champion didn’t immediately take to Albany.

“This course is better than I am,” he said following an opening 67 on Thursday. “But today I showed how I can beat it.”

Specifically, Watson explained that Albany’s greens were too small for his liking, comparing them to those at RBC Heritage at Harbour Town on Hilton Head, where he hasn’t played since 2007.

It’s those modest putting surfaces, however, that may have given Watson his advantage this week.

“Every year he's in the top 5, top 10 in tee-to-green strokes gained,” said Rickie Fowler, who finished third after a final-round 64. “That's big when you start getting small greens, just because he may have shorter clubs in, but he's hitting as many or more greens than people and has more looks [at birdie].”

There is also something to be said for Watson’s creativity from tight spots, like when he scrambled from what he called a “wasteland” on the 18th hole to salvage a par on Day. 2.

“I don’t know what Bubba would say, but for me I’d call that [shot] 1-in-50 to pull that off,” Spieth said.

While Albany certainly qualifies as a Bubba-approved venue, it would be a disservice to the quirky 37-year-old to label him a big ballpark specialist.

He’s won the Travelers Championship twice – which is played at TPC River Highlands, one of the circuit’s shortest layouts (6,841 yards) – and the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, widely considered a ball-striker’s paradise.

“I get nervous just like anybody else, and I just try to find a way to get the ball in play,” said Watson, who set the stage for his Sunday romp with a then-course record 63 on Saturday. “I hit some big slices today, hit some big hooks today, just [trying] to get the ball in play. I’m just trying to look for a score. I’m not looking for perfection.”

Although generally speaking, Watson certainly favors open fairways with straightforward visuals - or, put another way, a layout that offers a right-brainer like Bubba immediate and unimpeded feedback - but there is more to his magic than that.

Courses like Plainfield (N.J.) Country Club, host of this year’s Barclays, have far too much subterfuge and, ultimately, doubt for a player like Watson.

“I’m not making excuses about how I play golf,” Watson said at The Barclays, where he took a one-stroke lead into the third round before finishing alone in third place. “But you look at the golf course, it’s [a lot] of blind shots. ... For me, being a visual player, I can’t see my landing and how I want to shape the balls.”

It’s the kind of thought process that at least partially explains Watson’s record at the Open Championship, where his best finish is a tie for 23rd.

It also offers a glimpse into why his competitive tastes when it comes to golf courses seem so eclectic. Length would appear to be the common thread, but for an artist like Watson that would be a wild generalization and an unfair assessment when it comes to his unique brand of golf.

There are a handful of places where “Bubba Golf” is the perfect mix of power and originality. After his show this week at the Hero World Challenge, he can add Albany to that list, but Watson is much more than simply a horse for a specific course.

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.