Fame knocking on Watson's doorstep

By Doug FergusonApril 9, 2012, 7:48 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. ' Bubba Watson had reason to feel like a rock star.

His playoff win at the Masters on the second extra hole stretched into early evening, and when he finally slipped on the green jacket during the trophy presentation, the flashes from so many cameras danced across his face like strobe lights.

“I’m not ready for fame,” Watson said. “I don’t really want to be famous or anything like that. I just want to be me and play golf.”

He might not have a choice. His style of play - “Bubba golf” is what he likes to call it - already made him one of the popular figures on the PGA Tour.

In the buttoned-up sport of golf, Watson is different. He hits the ball a mile, rarely in a straight line to where he’s trying to get. His driver is pink from the shaft to the head. When he’s not on the course, he is posting videos of his crazy stunts on Twitter. His dream purchase was the “General Lee 01,” the original car in the TV series “The Dukes of Hazard.”

And now he is the Masters champion.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are the top two stars of their generation. Rory McIlroy is right behind them, carving his own niche around the world as a U.S. Open champion with the rawest skill of any player in his 20s.

And now there is Bubba, on a first-name basis everywhere he goes.

Perhaps it was only fitting that during his victory speech Sunday he found one downside to winning the Masters. He has been in the members’ locker room since he first showed up at Augusta National in 2008 and couldn’t break 70. The next time he drives down Magnolia Lane, he will walk through a different door, up the stairs to the locker room reserved for champions.

“I heard now that I leave the locker room,” Watson said. “It’s going to be sad. I’ve been there for four years. I know all the guys. They treat me real well. So, sorry.”

It’s time to move on, and move up.

Watson, with his fourth career win in his last 51 starts, is now No. 4 in the world, which makes him the highest-ranked American. He is virtually a lock to be at Medinah for another Ryder Cup. It was the second time in the last six majors that Watson has been in a playoff, losing to Martin Kaymer at the 2010 PGA Championship. He has earned more than $3 million in each of the last two seasons and played in his first Ryder Cup.

How much better can he be?

“Major champion … I mean, can’t do any better than this,” he said. “I’ve won four times and won a major. Who knows? That’s the best part about history. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know the future. We don’t know anything. Hopefully, I keep crying. Hopefully, I keep having the passion to play golf and keep doing what I’m doing.”

Watson showed his emotions at the start of the week. Stopped under the oak tree after a practice round, someone asked him what it would mean to win, and he brought up the adoption of his first son, Caleb, two weeks ago. Watson got so choked up he walked away.

Winning the Masters? He was uncontrollable.

He sobbed on the shoulder of his mother, Molly. He hugged everyone he could find - caddie Ted Scott, his trainer and players who stuck around to see him go two extra holes for a green jacket, such as Ben Crane, Aaron Baddeley and Rickie Fowler.

Watson is a self-described goof, yet he looked more determined than ever at the Masters.

Sunday at Augusta was a supreme test.

He started three shots out of the lead, and two holes into the final round, he watched Louis Oosthuizen make an albatross on the par-5 second hole with a 4-iron that landed on the front of the green and rolled some 90 feet into the cup for a 2.

That put him four shots behind, though Watson knew he could make up ground, and he was right. The turning point came after his bogey on the par-3 12th, when mud on his ball sent his putt behind the green off line and some 6 feet by the hole. Watson ran off four straight birdies, all of them impressive - a 9-iron for his second shot on the par-5 13th for a two-putt birdie, a sand wedge to 5 feet on the 14th, another massive drive for a 7-iron onto the green at the par-5 15th and an 8-iron to 4 feet at the 16th.

Still, this Masters will be remembered for two wild shots in the playoff. One was an accident. The other was on purpose.

After he and Oosthuizen each missed birdie chances on the 18th in a playoff, Watson pulled his drive into the trees to the right of the 10th fairway. When he saw his ball deep in the woods, he immediately pictured the shot in his head.

Not many others could have seen it.

He used the crowd as a line for how he wanted to start the gap wedge from 155 yards - straight to the fairway, low enough to stay under a large limb and then a wild hook toward the green.

“Hooked it about 40 yards, hit about 15 feet off the ground until it got under the tree and then started rising,” he said. “Pretty easy.”

It set up a two-putt par from 10 feet, enough for the win when Oosthuizen chipped 12 feet by the hole and two-putted for bogey.

Where does Watson get the nerve to hit such a shot? Because that’s fun to him, whether he’s in a practice round with friends or playing for the prestige of a green jacket.

“I want to hit the incredible shot,” he said. “Who doesn’t?”

Who can?

That’s what makes Watson special. His father, who died after the Ryder Cup in 2010, was the only teacher Watson had, and there weren’t many lessons. He showed his son how to grip the club and swing it, and the boy figured the rest out himself. Watson still doesn’t have a teacher.

“Why do I want somebody to tell me what to do?” he once said. “I’m still a kid. I’m hitting shots that I want to hit. I’m doing the things that I want to do. I play it my way.”

Bubba golf. It’s going to be fun.

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Notes: Koepka has Tiger's vote for Player of the Year

By Doug FergusonAugust 22, 2018, 12:51 am

PARAMUS, N.J. - Brooks Koepka already can count on one award this year. He has clinched the points-based award from the PGA of America as Player of the Year. Majors are worth 30 points, and there is a 50-point bonus for winning two of them. That gives Koepka 110 points for his U.S. Open and PGA Championship victories.

Even if Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas or Bubba Watson wins all four FedEx Cup playoff events for seven titles this year, they would not catch Koepka.

The PGA Tour award is a vote of the players.

That's still up for grabs, though Tiger Woods thinks the race is over.

''You win two majors, you've got it,'' Woods said. ''It's not real complicated.''

Woods thought back to 1998, when David Duval won four times on the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour vote went to Mark O'Meara for his Masters and British Open titles.

''I think two majors trumps it,'' he said.


A QUICK TURN FOR THE BETTER

Stewart Cink enters the FedEx Cup playoffs at No. 58 in the standings, his best starting position since 2010. Thanks to a tie for fourth at the PGA Championship, he will return to the Masters for the first time in five years.

He would not have seen this coming three months ago.

''The main thing that happened was ... what you think are bad circumstances turn out to be good circumstances,'' Cink said.

Cink enjoys the late spring because he typically plays well on some of those courses, such as Colonial, Muirfield Village and Quail Hollow. Bad final rounds turned potential top 10s into middle-of-the-pack, if not lower. The final straw was Memorial, where he ended a streak of making the cut in 19 consecutive appearances.

''I felt like crap playing bad golf,'' Cink said. ''I had to have a little bit of something to wake me up. I didn't do anything new, I just recommitted to what I was working on the last year.''

That can be a tall order for a 45-year-old whose last victory was the 2009 British Open at Turnberry. Cink put in time with swing coach Mike Lipnick, and he started hitting the ball the way he envisioned the flight. Over the next two months, he had three top 5s - a runner-up at the Travelers Championship when he closed with a 62, and a tie for fourth at the St. Jude Classic and the PGA Championship.

The real test was at Bellerive, where he played in the raucous arena with Tiger Woods in the third round and matched his 66. In the mix at a major for longer than he can remember, Cink finished with two birdies for a 67 to tie for fourth.

''Being paired with Tiger helped me,'' Cink said. ''I was nervous playing with the Tiger. The crowd was a factor. It felt like a Ryder Cup. It was a great challenge, and I really wanted to embrace it and test myself and see how well I can hang in there. I didn't have the option to fall back into a comfort zone. There wouldn't have been one in that group. I'm proud of myself the way I played.''

Cink's five-year exemption to the Masters from his British Open victory ran out in 2014, when he shot 68 on Sunday and missed by one shot finishing in the top 12 to earn a trip back to Augusta National. He looks forward to going back.

But that's in April. Ahead of him is a chance to return home to East Lake for the Tour Championship for the first time since 2009.

''I'm super excited,'' he said. ''I have a better chance to go back to East Lake, and that's a goal from here on out to see if I can make it.''

More than recommitting to his golf, Cink said his heart is in the right place. The last two years have provided the ultimate test after his wife, Lisa, was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. He said her health has been steady - no setbacks - the last several months.

''It goes without saying that my life has taken on a different perspective,'' Cink said. ''I'm enjoying playing golf. I don't have anything to lose. I'm having fun competing, testing myself. There's no downside. ... I wish I could tell my 18-year-old self that.''


WRAPPING UP THE MAJORS

An obscure record was set at the PGA Championship. Seven players had all four rounds in the 60s, led by champion Brooks Koepka. The others were Stewart Cink, Jon Rahm, Francesco Molinari, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose and Webb Simpson.

The previous record was five players with all four rounds in the 60s at Baltusrol in 2016, Valhalla in 2014 and Riviera in 1995.

Koepka and Charl Schwartzel each shot 63 in the second round. That extended the streak to four consecutive years when at least one player shot 63 or better in the majors. Tommy Fleetwood also had a 63 at the U.S. Open, so that makes 2018 the fourth time there were at least three rounds of 63 in the same year. The other years were 1980 (Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf at the U.S. Open, Isao Aoki at the British); 1993 (Nick Faldo and Payne Stewart at the British, Vijay Singh at the PGA); and 2016 (Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson at the British, Robert Streb at the PGA).

Tiger Woods also got in on the act. His 64 in the final round at Bellerive tied for low score of the round. The last time no one had a lower score than Woods in one round at a major was in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he and Dustin Johnson each shot 66 on Saturday.


DIVOTS

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho has won the Mark H. McCormack Medal as the leading player in the 2018 world amateur golf ranking. The award gives Kupcho an exemption into the U.S. Women's Open and the Women's British Open provided she stays an amateur. ... Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Justin Rose each have a mathematical chance to reach No. 1 in the world this week at The Northern Trust. ... The University of St. Andrews is honoring teaching pro Renee Powell and British journalist Katharine Whitehorn by naming a residence hall after each of them. Powell in 2008 became the first female golfer in the five centuries of St. Andrews to receive an honorary doctorate degree. ... Darren Clarke makes his PGA Tour Champions debut this week at the Boeing Classic outside Seattle.


STAT OF THE WEEK

Only two players outside the top 25 in the world have won majors in the last five years. Martin Kaymer was No. 28 when he won the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, and Jimmy Walker was No. 48 when he won the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol.


FINAL WORD

''You don't want to be put on the bench in the playoffs.'' - Harris English, whose tie for 11th at the Wyndham Championship was narrowly enough for him to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

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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.