Notes Bubba Power Debuts Wie Licensed to Drive
He shot 66-65 on the weekend to finish alone in fourth, the best start by a Nationwide Tour graduate since Jeff Maggert tied for fifth in 1991 at the Northern Telecom Open in Tucson.
Watson also used Waialae as a stage to introduce his power.
And it's something to behold.
His biggest tee shot was 398 yards on the par-4 12th, which left a pitch to the green. He used wedge for his second shot into the par-5 18th.
Where does this lefty get his power? He started playing when he was 6 and used a whiffle ball around the house.
'To hit a whiffle ball farther, you had to swing longer, like John Daly, and just hit it has hard as you could. It would only go that much farther,' Watson said, holding his hands about 3 feet apart. 'But as a 6-year-old, you thought that was a long way. That's what got me started.'
And he's not shy talking about his length.
Hank Kuehne owns the PGA Tour record by averaging 321.4 yards in 2003. Scott Hend led the tour in driving distance last year at 318.9 yards.
'John Daly or Hank Kuehne or Scott Hend, I don't think they can hang with me when I'm hitting it,' Watson said. 'If I hit my best, there's not too many people that can get within shouting distance.'
PASSING THE TEST
Three days after she missed the cut in the Sony Open, 16-year-old Michelle Wie made it through an exam that really mattered.
She passed her driver's license test Tuesday.
'She is a very happy girl today,' said her father, B.J. Wie.
RYDER CUP MOVEMENT
The points system for the U.S. Ryder Cup was changed in late 2004 to place more emphasis on the year leading up to the matches. In case players forgot, the first two weeks should get their attention.
Vaughn Taylor was fourth at the Mercedes Championships, which shot him up to seventh in the standings. David Toms won the Sony Open, more than doubled his points and went from sixth to third.
PGA Tour victories, worth 75 points in 2005, are now worth 375 points. The rest of the positions from second through 10th have quadrupled in value this year.
Aside from Tiger Woods, who managed to accrue 1,932.5 points last year while winning six times and two majors, no one is safe. Chris DiMarco has been touted as the perfect partner for Phil Mickelson, but he already has fallen to sixth and hasn't won a PGA Tour event since 2002.
Considering the Ryder Cup emphasis on winning, this might be a good year to change that.
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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend
After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.
The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.
The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.
Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.
“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.
In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.
“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”
The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.
Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.
“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”
PGA Tour Latinoamerica moving season finale to Doral
PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.
The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.
“We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.
The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.
“We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.
The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.
The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.
PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.
A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.
Im wins Web.com Player and Rookie of the Year awards
Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Web.com Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.
Im won twice on the Web.com this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.
Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.
In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.
“My first year on the Web.com Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Web.com Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”
In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.
Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.
Former DJ advisor found guilty in embezzlement case
A federal jury has found Nathan Hardwick, a former advisor to Dustin Johnson, guilty of embezzling $26 million in funds from his now-bankrupt real estate closing firm, Morris Hardwick Schneider.
Per Golf.com, citing Law.com, a 12-person jury convicted Hardwick of "one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 21 counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to federally insured banks."
As for where exactly the money went, The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, once again citing Law.com, has the details:
"The alleged spending included $18.47 million on gambling, private jet travel and women from 2011 through August 2014. The prosecution submitted two binders of documentation as evidence that Hardwick spent $4.39 million on “female social companions,” including one testifying witness who claimed to have met him through SugarDaddy.com."
"Other alleged expenditures described in testimony include more than $7 million at casinos, more than $3 million with a bookie, $680,000 for a luxury condo at The St. Regis Atlanta, $273,000 on a diamond ring, $186,000 on a deposit for a party on a private island, and $635,000 on a trip to the 2014 British Open for golfing buddies that included a customized jet and round at St. Andrews."
Johnson in 2014 sued Morris Hardwick Schneider over a $3 million loan he believed to be an investment. Instead, Johnson argued, the money was going to make up for shortages created by Hardwick's embezzlement. Johnson later amended his suit to argue that Hardwick, who previously served on the board of the Dustin Johnson Foundation, was being used as a "pawn" by the firm's other partners.
That suit was settled in 2016 for $2 million.