Notes Gulbis Improving Players Marrying

By Brian HewittJanuary 11, 2007, 5:00 pm
Sergio Garcia turned 27 Tuesday and more than a few people noted that one more year had passed without one of golfs most promising players winning a major championship. It has also been noted by a smaller group of observers that Garcia has fallen out of the top 10 in the World Rankings.

Which brings us, in a roundabout sort of way, to Natalie Gulbis.

No, Sergio is not dating her.

Natalie Gulbis
Natalie Gulbis has 25 top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour, but no wins.
But two days before Garcias 27th birthday Gulbis turned 24. She has played golf professionally since 2002. She currently ranks No. 20 in the Rolex Womens World Golf Rankings.

And shes still looking for her first LPGA victory.

Not to worry, says her teacher and swing coach, Butch Harmon. Harmon is a tough guy when he has to be. But at the moment he sees the glass as half full for Gulbis.

The thing that pleases me the most about Natalie is that in the tournaments in which she has been close, someone else has won, Harmon says. She hasnt lost them.

Shes playing very well. Im pleased with her progress. And I think she will win multiple times this year.

Gulbis posted seven top-10s in 2006 and finished No. 16 on the money list. The big problem was with the driver. The stats dont lie. Gulbis wound up tied for 54th in fairways in regulation and tied for 77th in driving distance.

She has to hit it farther, Harmon says.

Meanwhile, he adds, Natalies also still learning how to best manage her time. Shes a very popular young lady.

Time management, Harmon said, was one of Greg Normans strengths. Harmon learned from former pupil Greg Norman and imparted many of Normans time management skills to Tiger Woods when that pair famously worked together.

Normans daughter, Morgan-Leigh, by the way, is the one dating Garcia these days.

PGA-LPGA TOUR MERGER

Speaking of which, Arron Oberholser, who is hoping to defend his title at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am next month, recently became engaged to LPGA player Angie Rizzo.

Oberholser is 31. Rizzo is 28.

Oberholsers people, by the way, say the back problem that forced him to withdraw from the Mercedes-Benz Championship last week is not serious.

WHAT, USGA WORRY?
Didnt it seem like more?

Brett Wetterich
Brett Wetterich hit the longest drive of the week at the Mercedes, 437 yards.
The final numbers from Kapalua were 12 drives of 400 yards or longer by the field for the week.

Knowing that the USGA, golf in Americas regulating rules body, pays close attention to this sort of thing, I inquired as to whether this golf ball bashing raised any eyebrows at its New Jersey headquarters.

And I was informed by Dick Rugge, the USGAs Senior Technical Director, that the corresponding 400-yard drive number was 13 last year and up into the 70s at the 2004 event at Kapalua.

So, no. No eyebrows raised.

The average driving distance at this event was 255.1 yards, Rugge observed. Last year it was 255.4. This 10-inch decrease from last year isnt going to move my needle too much, he said.

But remember, Rugge added, that this is only one event'it takes plenty more before we can spot any trend changes or be able to confirm that there are no trend changes.

THE ROOKIE
The early favorite for Rookie of the Year, in the minds of many experts, is Anthony Kim. Kim, 21, also happens to be the youngest rookie on the PGA TOUR. The oldest rookie is 47-year-old Canadian Jim Rutledge.

Rutledge says one of his biggest challenges will be adjusting, on the fly, to all the new courses. Taking these golf courses and breaking them down as quickly as humanly possible because of the short time I have to do that, he said.

The smartest pick for Rookie of the Year?

Swedens Henrik Stenson.

Stenson won $582,303 on the PGA TOUR last year and is now a special temporary member which makes him a rookie off the 2006 Non-Member Money List category.

Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
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Casey in line to make Ryder Cup after Travelers T-2

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 10:30 am

Despite coughing up a four-shot lead at the Travelers Championship, England's Paul Casey moved into a qualifying position to make his return to the Ryder Cup this fall in Paris.

Casey struggled Sunday at TPC River Highlands, shooting a 72 as Bubba Watson raced to victory with a 63. But a four-way share of second place was still good enough to lift Casey into fourth place among those not already qualified on the World Points list, with the top four Europeans from that list in August punching their tickets to Le Golf National.

Casey has played in three Ryder Cups before, but none since 2008. After renouncing his European Tour membership a few years ago, he reinstated it for the 2018 season in order to be eligible to return to the biennial matches.

Here's a look at the updated standings for Europe, with the top four players from each points list ultimately joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Tommy Fleetwood

4. Francesco Molinari

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5. Thorbjorn Olesen

6. Matthew Fitzpatrick

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Rory McIlroy

3. Alex Noren

4. Paul Casey

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5. Matthew Fitzpatrick

6. Ian Poulter

On the American side of the ledger, Watson jumped two spots to fifth with his third win of the year and seemingly locked up his spot on the squad, while Bryson DeChambeau moved inside the top eight with a top-10 finish in Connecticut.

Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship earning automatic bids:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Bubba Watson

6. Jordan Spieth

7. Rickie Fowler

8. Bryson DeChambeau

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9. Webb Simpson

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Matt Kuchar

12. Brian Harman

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Watson cracks top 15 in world with Travelers win

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 10:15 am

After his third win in the last five months, Bubba Watson is back on the cusp of the upper echelon in the world rankings.

Watson started the year ranked No. 89 in the world, but after a three-shot victory at the Travelers Championship the southpaw moved up seven spots to No. 13 in the latest rankings. It marks his best position since a missed cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February 2017.

Watson stayed one spot behind Paul Casey, who was one of four runner-ups in Connecticut and rose one position to 12th as a result. Beau Hossler's T-2 finish helped him jump 24 spots to No. 64, while J.B. Holmes went from 93rd to 75th with the same result. Stewart Cink, who grabbed a share of second with a final-round 62, went from No. 149 to No. 95 and is back inside the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time since September 2011.

Matt Wallace, who won the BMW International Open on the European Tour, went from 91st to 66th.

There was only one change among the top 10 in the rankings, as an idle Jon Rahm moved past Jordan Spieth at No. 5 despite Spieth's T-42 finish at TPC River Highlands. At No. 6, Spieth is at his lowest point in the rankings since before last summer's victories at Travelers and The Open.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Rahm. Spieth slid to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Poised to return to competition this week at the Quicken Loans National, Tiger Woods fell three spots to No. 82 in the latest rankings.

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After Further Review: Spieth needs a break

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 25, 2018, 1:11 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Jordan Spieth's much-needed break ...

Jordan Spieth is heading for a break, and that’s probably a good thing.

Spieth just wrapped a run of six events in seven weeks that featured largely underwhelming results. A third-place finish at the Masters that stemmed from a nearly-historic final round deflects attention away from the fact that Spieth has yet to enter a final round this year less than six shots off the lead.

A return to his home state didn’t work, nor did a fight against par at Shinnecock or a title defense outside Hartford where everything went so well a year ago. His putting woes appear to have bottomed out, as Spieth finished 21st in putting at Travelers, but now the alignment issue that plagued his putting appears to have bled into other parts of his game.

So heading into another title defense next month at Carnoustie, Spieth plans to take some time off and re-evaluate. Given how fast things turned around last summer, that might prove to be just what he needs. - Will Gray


On the difference between this week and last week ...

There wasn’t a single outraged tweet, not a lone voice of descent on social media following Bubba Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, a 17-under par masterpiece that included a closing loop of 30.

Nobody declared that golf was broken, no one proclaimed the royal and ancient game a victim of technology and the age of uber athletes. The only response was appreciation for what Watson, a bomber in the truest form, was able to accomplish.

At 6,840 yards, TPC River Highlands was built for fun, not speed. Without wild weather or ill-advised hole locations and greens baked to extinction, this is what the best players in the game do, and yet no one seemed outraged. Weird. - Rex Hoggard


On the emergence of another LPGA phenom ...

Add another young star to the favorites list heading to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago next week.

Nasa Hataoka, the 19-year-old Japanese standout who needed her rookie season last year to acclimate to the LPGA, broke through for her first LPGA title Sunday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

This wasn’t a surprise to LPGA followers. Hataoka won the Japan Women’s Open when she was 17, the first amateur to win a major on the Japan LPGA Tour, and she has been trending up this year.

Her tie for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open three weeks ago was her fourth consecutive top-10 finish. She won going away in Arkansas, beating a deep field that included the top nine in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She outplayed world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 3 Lexi Thompson on Sunday. - Randall Mell

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Bubba waiting for Furyk's text about Ryder Cup

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:39 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – After winning his third PGA Tour title in the span of five months, Bubba Watson is now waiting by his phone.

Watson’s victory at the Travelers Championship, his third at TPC River Highlands since 2010, accompanies recent victories at both the Genesis Open and WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play from earlier this year. It also moved the southpaw from No. 7 to No. 5 in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically.

After serving as an assistant captain at Hazeltine despite ranking No. 7 in the world at the time, Watson made it clear that he hopes to have removed any doubt about returning to the role of player when the biennial matches head to Paris this fall.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“It still says in my phone that (U.S. captain) Jim (Furyk) hasn’t texted me yet. So I’d really like for him to say I’m going to pick you no matter what,” Watson said. “The motivation is I’ve never won a Ryder Cup, so making the Ryder Cup team and trying to win a Ryder Cup as a player would be another tournament victory to me. It would be a major championship to me just because I’ve never done it, been a part of it.”

Watson turns 40 in November, and while he reiterated that his playing career might not extend too far into the future as he looks to spend more time at home with son Caleb and daughter Dakota, he’s also hoping to make an Olympic return in Tokyo in 2020 after representing the U.S. in Rio two years ago.

“Talking about the Olympics coming up, that’s motivating me,” he said. “It was the best experience of my life to watch all the other events, and then the golf tournament got in the way. I’d love to do it again. I’d love to watch all the events and then have to play golf as well.”