Watson set for encore performance at the Zurich Classic

By Associated PressApril 25, 2012, 10:12 pm

AVONDALE, La. – As Bubba Watson walked off a course carved from cypress swamp toward the TPC Louisiana clubhouse, his path was lined by autograph seekers who held out yellow pin flags bearing the emblem of a golfing shrine hundreds of miles away in the pine-covered hills of Georgia.

The buzz from Watson's Masters triumph at Augusta National has followed him to his first encore performance in New Orleans, where he'll begin the defense of his Zurich Classic victory in the tournament that opens Thursday.

He was already a crowd favorite in the Big Easy, having grown up a Saints fan three hours away in the Florida panhandle. He calls New Orleans' PGA Tour stop his ''home tournament.''

Now that he owns a green jacket, he's trying to learn how to handle the heightened demands on his time, a task made even more difficult by the fact that he's a new father.

''I'm pretty exhausted for this week,'' Watson conceded after his pro-am round Wednesday with a group that included New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. ''I've been playing pretty solid all year; my worst finish is 18th. So the advantage is I'm just playing good right now.''

Watson said he didn't really need to get back on the tour so soon after winning his first major tournament on Easter weekend, at least as far as his golf career is concerned. Watson wasn't thinking about it like that, though. For him, his new status as Masters champion only raised the imperative to show up in a city he cares about and do what he can to help New Orleans maintain the momentum it has gained in its recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

''I thought it was the right thing to do,'' Watson said shortly before patiently signing dozens of the yellow Masters pin flags. ''Some people were saying that, you know, I could take time off, spend time with family, but I just felt like it was the right thing to do for everybody involved with the tournament, the volunteers, everybody that's put the effort in for this week, the charities that are affected by this tournament.

''Just as defending champ, I felt like it was right for me to be here. Winning the Masters, I know it's going to be even harder. It's going to be different, tired, all those things, but all great things at the end.''

In some ways, Watson's game is made for the par-72, 7,425-yard TPC Louisiana. The course favors long hitters.

''If I'm hitting the ball straight and in the fairway, then obviously length is a big factor,'' Watson said. ''It's going to help out a lot. It makes the par 5s a little bit easier, makes the shorter holes that much better, makes the medium holes that much better.''

On the par-4, 372-yard eighth hole during his pro-am round, the left-handed Watson ripped the fat pink head of his driver through the ball and sent a screaming liner bending slightly around a pair of cypress trees on the right side of the course. The ball bounded down the fairway to about 25 yards from the front of the green.

If he can keep making shots like that when it counts, he's bound to be in the hunt come Sunday.

Who else will there at the end is anyone's guess at this tournament, where six of the last 10 winners had never won a PGA Tour event before. They include K. J. Choi in 2002, Tim Petrovic in 2005, Nick Watney in 2007 and Andres Romero in 2008.

Last year, Webb Simpson nearly won his first PGA Tour title before falling to Watson in a playoff. Simpson might have won in regulation had he not demonstrated ultimate sportsmanship, notifying officials that his ball moved on the green while his putter was touching ground inches away. By rule that was a stroke penalty at the time - but not anymore. Seeing a moment like that potentially cost Simpson a title led to a rule change.

Simpson, who went on to register his first two PGA Tour wins since, is back this year, joining a solid field that also includes Keegan Bradley, Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Peter Hansen, Choi, Watney, David Toms, Rickie Fowler and Ben Crane.

There are 14 major winners in the field, including Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Ernie Els and Geoff Ogilvy.

Bradley won the last major of last year, the PGA Championship, and he came to New Orleans exuding confidence.

''I absolutely love coming here; I love the golf course,'' said Bradley, second at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles in February. ''My game is in a very good place. ... I'm starting to prove that I can play out here.''

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for The Northern Trust

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 21, 2018, 10:20 pm

It's the first tournament of the FedExCup Playoffs and the top 125 on the season-long points list are battling it out to see who will move on to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for The Northern Trust. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; Click here for live stream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; Click here for live stream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; Click here for live stream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, Noon-1:45PM ET; Click here for live stream; CBS, 2-6 p.m.


Purse: $9 million ($1.62 million to winner)

Course: Course: Ridgewood Country Club (par 71, 7,319 yards)

Defending champion: Dustin Johnson (Defeated Jordan Spieth with a birdie on the first playoff hole at Glen Oaks Club)

Notable tee times (all times ET)

• 7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

• 8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

• 8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

• 12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

• 12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

Key stats:

The top 100 players in FedExCup points after The Northern Trust advance to the Dell Technologies Championship.

• The field includes 120 of the top 125 in this season’s FedExCup – all except No. 17 Rickie Fowler, No. 21 Rory McIlroy, No. 50 Henrik Stenson, No. 93 Patrick Rodgers and No. 122 Bud Cauley.

• 2007 and 2009 FedExCup champion Tiger Woods is making his first appearance in the FedExCup Playoffs since 2013. Although he has won each of the other three playoff events, he has never won The Northern Trust.

• In the 11 years that this event has been part of the FedExCup Playoffs, the winner has gone on to capture the FedExCup just once - Vijay Singh in 2008.

• The defending champion is Dustin Johnson. Ernie Els (1996-1997) is the only player to successfully defend his title.

• Jordan Spieth finished runner-up last year. Three runners-up have gone on to win the next year - Seve Ballesteros (1987-1988), Dennis Paulson (1999-2000), and Padraig Harrington

(2004-2005).

• The course record in this event at Ridgewood Country Club is 62 by Hunter Mahan in the first round in 2008. The tournament record for 18 holes is 61 by Brandt Snedeker in the final round in 2011 at Plainfield Country Club.

(Stats and information provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit)

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Na holding out hope for Ryder Cup captain's pick

By Rex HoggardAugust 21, 2018, 9:22 pm

PARAMUS, N.J. – There are no shortage of goals for players as the PGA Tour reaches the final month of the season, and how players prioritize those accomplishments depends on individual motivations.

For example, coming into the season Kevin Na’s primary goal was to win a Tour event, which he accomplished last month at the Greenbrier. After that, things get interesting.

“I think win, No. 1. Ryder Cup, No. 2. Tour Championship, No. 3,” he said on Tuesday at The Northern Trust.

Na is currently 19th on the FedExCup point list, which gives him a good chance to qualify for the season finale, which comes with an invitation to three of next year’s four majors. The more pressing concern would be this year’s Ryder Cup.


The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos


Na finish 18th on the U.S. Ryder Cup point list and he would likely need to do something extraordinary the next two weeks for captain Jim Furyk to make him one of his picks. Still, making the team that will travel to Paris next month is always on his short list.

“If I can somehow get my name on one of those lists of players that play the Ryder Cup; maybe at the end of my career, instead of saying, you know, you probably say, I had X amount of wins; and I played X amount of Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, I think is pretty cool,” said Na, who has never played on a Ryder or Presidents Cup team.

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Woods tinkering with driver shaft, loft at The Northern Trust

By Rex HoggardAugust 21, 2018, 9:11 pm

PARAMUS, N.J. – Tiger Woods said on Tuesday at The Northern Trust that he spent last week attending his children’s soccer games and tinkering with his driver.

Although he finished runner-up at the PGA Championship, Woods hit just 5 of 14 fairways on Sunday at Bellerive and ranked 74th for the week in fairways hit. It was no surprise that his focus heading into the FedExCup Playoffs was finding more fairways.

“We've been working on it, experimenting with different shafts and different lofts on my driver and 3-wood, as well,” Woods said. “Just trying different things. I've still got two more days and I'll still be monkeying around with a couple things and come game time we'll see what I go with.”


The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos


Woods played an abbreviated practice round on Tuesday at Ridgewood Country Club, which included Nos. 1-8 and Nos. 15-18, with a new driver that features a different shaft from the one he used at the PGA Championship and more loft (9.5 degrees).

He also had a TaylorMade equipment representative walking with him on Tuesday and went to the practice range after his round for more work.

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English confident in playoff run after just sneaking in

By Rex HoggardAugust 21, 2018, 9:07 pm

PARAMUS, N.J. – Harris English didn’t know the exact math, only that he needed to play his best final round of the season last week at the Wyndham Championship.

Although it wasn’t perfect, English’s closing 68 was good enough to tie for 11th place and vault him from 132nd on the season-long point race to 124th and into the playoffs.

“It was definitely a bit of a pressure-packed situation coming down the stretch. Different than, really, winning a golf tournament,” English said on Tuesday at The Northern Trust, the postseason lid-lifter. “It felt like Q-School again back in 2011 where you're in the sixth round and trying to get it done.”


The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos


Despite three-putts on three of his final nine holes, English earned his seventh consecutive trip to the postseason and some much needed confidence after a tough year.

English had just two top-10 finishes this season and spent the majority of the summer mired around the playoff bubble (No. 125).

“Being 124 right now, I need another really good week this week to make it to Boston [the second playoff stop],” he said. “I like where I am. I have a lot of confidence from last week. Struck the ball well and kind of did everything to put the ball in great position. If I can do that again this week, that would be a heck of a week.”

Nick Taylor also played his way into the top 125 last week, finishing tied for eighth place at Sedgefield Country Club to move from No. 129 to No. 119.