Watson falling short of major expectations

By Bailey MosierFebruary 3, 2014, 9:11 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – When a player wins a major championship we often project onto them great expectations. Their moments of brilliance, for that week, are magnified and glorified, fueling the fanatic within us.

When Bubba Watson hit that hook wedge shot from the right woods at Augusta National and won the 2012 Masters, we bought into the self-taught, uber-talented Southerner and his persnickety presence and thought, perhaps, we were witnessing the birth of genius.

Rarely are we caught off-guard in this game; such is our passion for keeping up with all the top-10s, shots, chips and quips of every player. Occasionally, stars fall from the sky or come from the woods. Oak Hill gave us a 27-year-old Lee Trevino in 1968, and he didn’t disappoint. But Trevino was a rare bird whose barrels of birdies over the years helped him win an additional five majors en route to the Hall of Fame. His eccentricity enriched the game.

And yet there are many players who’ve transcended the upper echelons of the game, only to have the glue that holds their wings together melted by the sun.

Ian Baker-Finch won the 1991 Open Championship at age 30, two years after winning the 1989 Crowne Plaza Invitational. He then lost confidence and his swing, and from 1994-97, he missed 32 consecutive cuts. He retired six years later, after shooting 92 in the first round of the ’97 British and withdrawing from the event. His total PGA Tour wins: two.

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Trevor Immelman was 28 when he won the ’08 Masters, and many believed the South African was destined for northerly heights. Instead, he dropped as low as 294th in the world after having risen to No. 15. His only other PGA Tour win came at the ’06 BMW Championship, two years prior to his win at Augusta.

A similar thing happened to Wayne Grady, who won the ’89 Westchester Classic and then followed that with a win at the’90 PGA Championship when he was 33. Winless on the PGA Tour ever since, Grady has said, “I should have done better after the PGA, but people were giving me money for nothing. Then I got fat and lazy and lost sight of the ball.”

A bevy of other players with similar odysseys come to mind: Geoff Ogilvy (2006 U.S. Open at age 29), Mike Weir (2003 Masters at age 33), Corey Pavin (1995 U.S. Open at age 35) and David Duval (2001 Open Championship at age 29).

To each their own tales, but none of these players was ever the same after their lone major. Be it money, family, injury, distraction or the free pass that comes with winning a major (previously a 10-year exemption on Tour, now five and thus, minimal motivation to continue to excel), most of these men are a shell of their former professional selves.

Winning a major elevates our expectations of a player because for those four days, four times a year, we are exposed to their excellence. Yet the mark of a great player comes when one can manage their strengths and weaknesses so that both work to their advantage.

John Daly is another player no one saw coming when he won his first major, and for the first time on Tour, at the ‘91 PGA when he was 29. Daly won a few more events – most notably the ’95 British – but soon spiraled into near-oblivion (although the mullet, cigarettes, Diet Cokes and the loud outfits can so instantly and so vividly be recalled). The thing that’s different with Daly is that we calculated his erratic behavior, his vices and addictions into our expectations and thus, have been far less dumbfounded by his decline.

This brings us back to Watson, who is now winless in the 23 months following the ’12 Masters he won at 33. Like Daly, we must calculate Watson’s haphazard, disorderly approach to the game and his unfiltered and uncensored monologues. Wizardly with his wedges, destructive with his driver, yes. But is that enough to expect so much from him?

We consider Bubba a colorful player because he uses a pink shaft and is a tall, gangly and unorthodox player. But at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Watson abhorred slow play every chance he got in post-round interviews, admitting he was unable to overcome its effect on him during the tournament. He spoke of his charity work and its importance in the bigger picture and that life’s not all about winning golf tournaments. Fair enough. But then on Saturday after positioning himself with a two-shot advantage over Kevin Stadler heading into the final round, Watson said: “We need to be under five hours tomorrow. I want to watch the Super Bowl. I want to get ready for the Super Bowl. Who cares about the golf? Under five hours tomorrow, boys. That's not going to happen.”

Spoken a little tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, but Watson uttered similarly dissonant comments all week, including after missing a 5-footer on the 72nd hole to lose by one. He said, “Let's look at it from the prize money standpoint. … I look at what it does for my family, look at what it does for my career, and look what it does to help me inspire me to get better so I can win the next one.”

Unabashed and unapologetic, a stark contrast to the players of today no doubt, with his untaught and untutored swing, Watson is like a Jackson Pollock painting – a masterpiece of mayhem, to be enjoyed with beauty left to the eye of the beholder. While he certainly has the talent, perhaps last week suggested he's lacking the patience and mental acuity this game requires of its greatest dignitaries. He is what he is, and we should expect no more.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”