Hawk's Nest: Reader questions from Bubba to Tiger

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The PGA Tour in China is like the NFL in England or pickles on an ice cream sundae. Seriously, what’s the point? It’s kind of scary to think that last week’s WGC gathering in Shanghai will likely produce pro golf’s only quality field until next March.

Camp Ponte Vedra must be delighted that 40 of the world’s top 50 players made it to Sheshan International, a total which doesn’t include Patrick Reed’s etiquette coach. And it was a bang-up finish - Bubba Watson won it, lost it, then won it again, all in typically demonstrative fashion.

So there is some slightly relevant golf during the offseason. Just don’t blink. Or go to bed before 3 a.m.

The cynic would like to step up to the soapbox. How is it that prime U.S. markets such as Seattle, Detroit and Philadelphia can go years without hosting a Tour stop ... but we can find room in the schedule for a bank with a gigantic marketing budget? The tail doesn’t just wag the dog in our game. It tells it when to bark, when to bite and how to not make any sense.

Oh, well. The latest Tiger’s Return countdown ought to be starting any day now, so I’m off to check in with my adoring fans and find out what inquiring minds want to know.


Hey Hawk,

Saw your report card last week … How can you give Woods and Mickelson the same grade when Tiger hardly played? I mean, my man Phil almost won the PGA! Seriously, dude - you smokin’ something? - Left Over from Los Angeles

Not a chance, Cheech. The reason I gave Red Shirt a ‘D’ and didn’t go lower is because he battled injuries for much of the season. He did play like crud before his back started bothering him, but you have to factor in his health when considering his overall level of performance. Bottom line? Neither man came close to matching his standard.


Dear Hawk:

What’s your take on Reed’s profane outburst last Thursday in China? It sure sent Twitter into a tizzy! - Potty Mouth Marshal from Missouri

Unfortunate and inexcusable, but what bothers me is that Reed initially played dumb when asked about the incident - which tells me he didn’t think twice about the matter, or that he uses abusive language quite often. Calling yourself young and hotheaded doesn’t legitimize any form of behavior. Reed’s subsequent apology certainly doesn’t erase the damage done.

The kid needs to grow up, effective immediately, but there are perils involved in a game where TV takes us so close to the actual competition. Tiger’s on-course comportment has been an issue for almost two decades, but most of his theatrics were simply childish.

This was juvenile and offensive. Bad combination.


Yo, genius!

How much of an impact will Steve Williams’ so-called retirement have on Adam Scott’s game? - Just Wondering from New Jersey

I subscribe to the theory that caddies impart a very modest effect on almost every Tour pro’s performance, but Williams seemed to infuse Scott with a competitive fire and self-belief that were previously lacking. This is one of those things you can’t measure - and Scott certainly isn’t going to admit he misses Williams after he plays poorly - but I suspect it could become an issue.

Just wait until the anchored-putter ban arrives at the start of 2016. That could really stir things up in the Scott pot.


Hawk,

How good was Bubba’s bunker shot on the 72nd hole in Shanghai? When’s the last time somebody pulled off something like that at such a crucial time? - Sweet Sandy from Colorado

Pretty dadgum good. Bubba’s hole-out for eagle to force a playoff would make my short list of shots of the year - but this year is already next year, if you know what I mean. Matt Jones jarred a chip to beat Matt Kuchar in Houston back in April, but we’ve also had plenty of seasons where it didn’t happen at all.

The takeaway from Watson’s triumph is that he picked himself up and dusted himself off to reclaim a victory, which is something he hadn’t done before. We’ve all seen the guy unravel emotionally. Bubba blew big leads at Doral and Hartford in 2012, so to see him rally from a crisis situation amounts to a significant step forward.

He even had a little fun with the guy who asked him about it afterward.

“Coming from behind? Choking? Is that what you’re saying?” Watson replied.

“No, you said it,” the reporter answered.

“You wanted to say it,” Bubba retorted, and a good laugh was had by all.


Hey Johnny the Hawk,

What’s your over/under on Woods’ total number of PGA Tour victories in 2015? - Bookem Danno from Hawaii

My gut and my head just came out of a meeting to discuss the matter, and the answer is 2.0. Tiger needs four wins to pass Sam Snead and become the winningest golfer in PGA Tour history - I’ll give you 5-to-2 odds on that happening in ’15.

In the five seasons since the Woods dynasty came to a halt in 2009, Eldrick has gone winless three times but piled up a total of eight victories in the other two. Not counting his rookie season, when he won twice in eight starts, Tiger failed to pick up four Ws just twice (1998 and 2004) before the hydrant intervened.

Odds on him winning a major, you ask? Well, it’s been awhile, but if dumping Sean Foley and taking all this time off doesn’t recharge Woods’ batteries, nothing will. With that in mind, the best I can do is 3-1.


Hey Hotshot,

I recently saw where an 81-year-old Pennsylvania man made four aces in 33 days. How many hole-in-ones do you have? - Bar Tab Bobby from Chicago

My seventh occurred July 27 on the 17th at the L’il Brown Dog, a hole I absolutely despise but have now aced three times. Not to be a total crabapple or anything, but holes-in-one are pure luck. You could hit a thousand balls close from 158 yards and not have any go in, which is another way of saying the ace possesses both mystical and mythical powers.

The first one I made back in 1994 left my hands trembling for several holes. This time, I even forgot to save the ball. Like getting pulled over for speeding, aces used to make my heart race, but not anymore. Which I suppose is a good thing.


Mr. Hawkins,

What are we to make of Billy Horschel after his stellar showing in the 2014 FedEx Cup playoffs? Is he a star in the making - or teasing and faking? - Crystal Ballinger from Nevada

We certainly have a right to wonder. Horschel looked like he was ready for the top tier after a terrific stretch in the spring of 2013, which he capped with a win in New Orleans. He finished T-4 at the U.S. Open two months later, then basically disappeared until his end-of-summer run.

Having recently become a dad for the first time, he’s off to a weak start this season, but without question, the guy has a very high ceiling. Horschel has the statistical birthmarks of a star, ranking high in virtually every category in each of the last two years.

He drives the ball exceptionally accurately for a guy who ranks comfortably inside the top 100 in distance. He hits a ton of greens and gives himself a lot of scoring chances. Horschel is a U.S. Open champion waiting to happen, but sometimes, the waiting is the hardest part.


Dear Mr. Know It All,

Having covered pro golf for the last 97 years, or however long you’ve been doing it, is there anything in particular that really drives you nuts? I mean, we all know you’re not exactly Sammy Sunshine, but what stands out among your plethora of annoyances? - Glass Half Full from Florida

All those people who clap after a guy taps in a 1-footer for bogey. They don’t do that in Great Britain, hombre. They expect better.