Notes: Bubba taking big breaks before majors

By Doug FergusonMay 19, 2015, 10:26 pm

Bubba Watson has played only nine times this year, tied with Rory McIlroy for the fewest of any player among the top 75 on the PGA Tour money list.

Watson played the Cadillac Championship at Doral and took off four weeks before the Masters. He is in the middle of a four-week break before showing up at the U.S. Open. The two-time Masters champion is simply trying to find the right balance to be a golfer, husband and father while keeping up his energy when he does play.

''We all know theories are just theories,'' Watson said Tuesday. ''But when you look at it on paper, I'm trying to figure out my life. I'm looking at it going, 'How do I get my best energy level? How do I get the most positive thoughts?'''

The U.S. Open is the start of three straight weeks (Travelers, Greenbrier) before he gets a week off ahead of the British Open. And starting with the Bridgestone Invitational, he plays six out of eight weeks.

He played only one round from Doral until the Masters last year - an 83 in the opening round before he withdrew with an allergy problem - and won another green jacket. He had four weeks off this year and tied for 38th.

Watson figures no matter how much time he takes off or how often he competes before a major, ''It doesn't mean I'm going to play well.''

He'll at least be in Seattle a week ahead of the U.S. Open. Watson said a friend has a city church in the area and he'll spend the week with him. He already has played Chambers Bay during a charity event hosted by Ryan Moore.

''I don't know the rules of the USGA, but I'm going to try to play the week before,'' he said.

BUBBLE WATCH: The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial are the last tournaments for players to crack the top 50 in the world and receive an exemption into the British Open.

Most of the attention is on Luke Donald, who is No. 60 and playing at Wentworth, which is assured of big points as the European Tour flagship event. Others outside the top 50, such as Thongchai Jaidee, George Coetzee and Shane Lowry, already are exempt for St. Andrews.

Squarely on the bubble is Ben Martin, who is No. 50 and playing Colonial. Charley Hoffman also is at Colonial is on the outside at No. 53.

As for the U.S. Open, the top 60 are exempt for Chambers Bay after next week's tournaments - the Byron Nelson Championship and the Irish Open. The U.S. Open has another cutoff June 15.

NICK OF TIME: Danny Kim of Toronto narrowly advanced to U.S. Open sectional qualifying, a close call measured by seconds instead of strokes.

Kim played his 18-hole local qualifier Monday at Mendon Golf Club outside Rochester, New York.

Texas sophomore Gavin Hall shot 63 on his home course to earn one of two spots. Kim appeared to be in good shape to finish second. He was 5-under par playing the ninth hole when he drove right into the trees, the same place where he lost a ball during a practice round Sunday. Storms moved in and halted play for nearly an hour.

According to Rochester television station WROC, Kim was walking in when he noticed a ball in the fairway about 30 yards away. He thought nothing of it, returned after the delay and saved par from the trees.

On the next tee, however, Kim realized the ball he played was the one he had lost in the practice round. The ball in the fairway was his tee shot - it apparently bounced out of the trees. He discovered the mistake just in time.

Because he had not started his next hole, Kim was able to play his tee shot from the fairway with a two-shot penalty. If he had teed off, he would have been disqualified. He made double bogey (with the penalty), survived a triple bogey later in his round and shot 68 to advance.

''Pretty relieved to be going to the next site,'' Kim said.

TIGER & RORY: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are the only players since 2004 who have twice posted scores that were at least 10 shots better than the field.

McIlroy shot a 61 in the third round at the Wells Fargo Championship, which was 10.16 strokes better than the field average. He shot a 62 in the final round at Quail Hollow in 2010, which was 10.72 shots better than the field.

Woods did it at two courses. He closed with a 62 in the Honda Classic in 2012, which was 10.11 shots better than the field that Sunday. A year later, he shot a 61 in the second round of the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, which was 10.19 shots better than the field.

DIVOTS: Arizona State junior Jon Rahm of Spain has won the Ben Hogan Award, given to the top college golfer based on his performance in amateur golf the past year. Rahm is the first European to win the award, and the fourth straight winner from the Pac 12. ... Pinehurst No. 2 will have held four big USGA event in six years when it hosts the 2019 U.S. Amateur. The Donald Ross design had the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open in successive weeks last year, and it will host the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in 2017. Bandon Dunes was selected for the 2020 U.S. Amateur. ... Rory McIlroy hit 43 out of 56 (77 percent) full tee shots over 300 yards at the Wells Fargo Championship. The field average for drives longer than 300 yards was 36 percent. ... Webb Simpson earned $624,800 for his runner-up finish in the Wells Fargo Championship, making him the 50th player in PGA Tour history to surpass $20 million in career earnings. He has four victories dating to his rookie season in 2009.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Phil Mickelson is now 0-for-12 at Quail Hollow. The only courses on the PGA Tour he has played more times without winning are Muirfield Village (14) and Cog Hill (13).

FINAL WORD: ''I'm glad that he doesn't play every week.'' - Will MacKenzie on Rory McIlroy, who won the Wells Fargo Championship by seven shots.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.