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Rosaforte Report: Holmes apologizes and defends self

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 30, 2018, 4:18 pm

In this week's Rosaforte Report: J.B. Holmes responds to criticism of his final-hole approach at Torrey Pines, Jason Day discusses a huge victory, we get to know a little more about the most unknown man in the OWGR top 20, and Brittany Lincicome talks about night golf.

Two days later, there is more commentary about J.B. Holmes’ slow play than there is Jason Day’s first PGA Tour victory in a year-and-a-half, which I get. Four minutes and change is way too long to hit a shot – even with the wind gusting on the 72nd hole of a tournament.

I talked to Holmes on Monday, and he told me he didn’t realize how long it was taking for him to play an approach shot into the 18th hole during Sunday’s final round of the Farmers Insurance Open. He apologized to playing partner Alex Noren but defended himself and offered explanation as to why it took so long to play the shot that lit up Twitter by his peers.

Watching the replay, it looked like Holmes had zoned out.

“I didn’t realize how long it was taking,” he said. “We (Holmes and caddie Brendan Parsons) were just trying to make the best decision to play.”

In other words, Holmes was waiting for the gusts to die down, so he could take the head cover off a 5-wood he didn’t trust, and play a shot to the green. Ultimately, he hit a poor wedge shot and made par to finish fourth.

“If it bothered Alex, he could have said something and he could have hit,” Holmes said. “If I messed him up, I apologize. He still made a good swing. He smoked it. (Hitting 3-wood over the green and through the tunnel, next to the CBS booth.) I don’t understand what the big hoopla is all about. I was just trying to give myself the best chance to win the tournament. I didn’t want to mess anybody up.”

What messed up Holmes is that he hammered a drive, but with his cut and a crosswind, the ball ended up traveling 296 yards instead of the 330 yards he expected. This left 235 yards to carry the water, 240 to the flag. With the conditions, he felt like a career 5-wood was the play, but he lacked trust, which added to the indecision.

Ryan Palmer, the third player in the group, had already laid up with a wedge. He and caddie James Edmonson could hear the gallery get restless, but were more amused than bothered by the delay. “We kind of giggled at times,” Palmer said.

Most didn’t take it as being funny. Mark Calcavecchia called it horrendous sportsmanship to Noren and Palmer. Daniel Berger, Luke Donald, Ken Duke and Steve Elkington weighed in.

Steve Flesch made the point that instead of four minutes and 10 seconds, J.B. “could have taken six minutes and nothing would have been done. Last hole. Last group. Something should have been said way earlier.”

And that “something” should have come from a Tour official. There were no statements released by the PGA Tour and no response when I reached out late Monday afternoon.

Even though the final group took 6 hours to complete their round, they weren’t put on the clock all day – and had consistently been waiting to hit shots – a reason why Tour officials would not have approached them in the 18th fairway.

Holmes, who had a reputation for being a slow player, feels like he’s changed that habit, and doesn’t want to be incriminated.

“I used to be slow. I’d agree with that,” he said. “But it’s been years and I’m not slow any more. I don’t get timed more than anybody else.”



A New Day for Jason

Jason Day couldn’t sleep on Sunday night. Even after a full day of golf at Torrey Pines that included five playoff holes, the 30-year-old Australian couldn’t quiet his mind. Shows you how much pressure he was under, on many fronts.

There was much at stake for Day on Monday morning in the Farmers Insurance Open. A win would be his first since the 2016 Players Championship, and signal that he’s serious about regaining the No. 1 ranking that he held for 51 straight weeks.

There was also the ongoing issue of his back. Unable to bend down and hit a golf shot, Day revealed he had an MRI during his stay at The Vintage Club to get ready for the California swing, and while it came back negative, the tinge of pain was enough to withdraw from the Farmers pro-am.

“The back’s OK,” Day said after shooting 64 on the North Course in the second round of the tournament. “I mean, it’s just sore. I just have to deal with it. It is what it is.”

Day would be the first to say he’s been injury prone, with various wrist and thumb ailments that have cost him playing time and competitive traction. None of them was potentially career ending. He seems more concerned about a bulging disc or the facet joints that that MRI showed were getting closer to his nerves.

“It’s hard to get it off my mind,” Day said of the injuries that keep popping up.

Power lifting has been Day’s way to strengthen the muscles around his back. In a Q&A he did for Men’s Fitness, Day explained that the power lifting he’s been doing focuses on his legs and core. “I do a lot of squats, do a lot trap-bar deadlifts and a lot of sumo deadlifts. You can’t get too big.”

With the speed back in his golf swing, Day admitted he felt different this year than last year, that a year ago he felt mentally stressed, rundown and burned out.

“It was hard for me to be on the golf course, but this year my whole mindset’s different,” he said. “I'm very motivated to get back to the No. 1 spot and I know that the only way to get back to the No. 1 spot is win and that's what I've just got to do.”



The Not-So-Invisible Man

In this country, Alex Noren may be the most unrecognized top-20 player in the world. But with all the TV time the Swede earned in the gloaming of Sunday night’s five-hole playoff with Day at Torrey Pines, Noren experienced a breakthrough moment at 35.

“I’m pretty realistic about it,” Noren told me last year in Abu Dhabi. “If somebody says you’re unknown, it doesn’t really matter to me that much. Maybe that’s why you keep trying.”

Tendinitis on both wrists, along with blisters and callouses on his hands, are signs that Noren has been guilty of trying too hard. Having a family has brought out his best golf. “I think Alex found a very good balance in his life with other things to occupy his mind,” offers European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn.

Bjorn seemed to be blessing Noren after his win in last year’s BMW PGA Championship, posting a Tweet that said, “A 62 final round on the West course to win @BMWPGA is beyond impressive! Congrats @Alex_Noren quickly turning into one of the world’s best!”

In America, where he played college golf at Oklahoma State, Noren is best known at The Bears Club, where he practices during the winter months, absorbing the advice of Jack Nicklaus and watching Rory McIlroy crush balls. As Noren told me for a column I wrote last year, “If I was hitting it like Rory, I wouldn’t have these callouses.”

So where does he go from here? To Scottsdale, Ariz., for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, with his family in tow. “I came over here to try to play these golf courses and try to get used to playing against these guys,” he said before leaving Torrey Pines. “I learned a lot and played probably best ever tee to green for me, so it’s big; it’s big for me.”



Lincicome’s Shots in the Dark

It wasn’t just Day and Noren playing great golf in the dark on Sunday night. Brittany Lincicome experienced the same type of lighting closing out the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Championship and finished birdie-birdie for her eighth career win.

Lincicome went over it on Monday, explaining that it was a little different than the nine-hole, night-golf, glow-ball contests that she plays with Angela Stanford.

“It couldn’t have been more stressful,” Lincicome said.

With no leaderboards, Lincicome was praying that she was only fighting against the players in her group. Pumped up with adrenaline, her drive at 18 left an awkward yardage from a divot. Luckily she had been practicing half-wedge shots.

“It helped, for sure,” Lincicome said. “In a divot, last hole, under pressure with no lights wasn’t where I wanted to be. I hit one of the best shots I’ve ever hit in my life.”

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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.”

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Casey comes up short (again) to Bubba at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:07 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Staked to a four-shot lead entering the final round of the Travelers Championship, Paul Casey watched his opening tee shot bounce off a wooden wall and back into the middle of the fairway, then rolled in a 21-foot birdie putt off the fringe.

At the time, it appeared to be a not-so-subtle indicator that Casey was finally going to get his hands on a trophy that has barely eluded him in the past. Instead it turned out to be the lone highlight of a miserable round that left the Englishman behind only Bubba Watson at TPC River Highlands for the second time in the last four years.

Casey shot the low round of the tournament with a third-round 62 that distanced him from the field, but that opening birdie turned out to be his only one of the day as he stalled out and ultimately finished three shots behind Watson, to whom he lost here in a playoff in 2015.

Casey’s score was 10 shots worse than Saturday, as a 2-over 72 beat only five people among the 73 others to play the final round.


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“I mean, I fought as hard as I could, which I’m proud of,” Casey said. “Not many times you put me on a golf course and I only make one birdie. I don’t know. I’d be frustrated with that in last week’s event, but it is what it is.”

Casey led by as many as five after his opening birdie, but he needed to make a 28-foot par save on No. 10 simply to maintain a one-shot edge over a hard-charging Watson. The two men were tied as Casey headed to the 16th tee, but his bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 combined with a closing birdie from Watson meant the tournament was out of reach before Casey even reached the final tee.

Casey explained that a “bad night of sleep” led to some neck pain that affected his warm-up session but didn’t impact the actual round.

“Just frustrating I didn’t have more,” he said. “Didn’t have a comfortable swing to go out there and do something with.”

Casey won earlier this year at the Valspar Championship to end a PGA Tour victory drought that dated back to 2009, but after being denied a second victory in short succession when he appeared to have one hand on the trophy, he hopes to turn frustration into further success before turning the page to 2019.

“I’m probably even more fired up than I was post-Tampa to get another victory. This is only going to be more fuel,” Casey said. “I’ve got 12 events or something the rest of the year. So ask me again in November, and if I don’t have another victory, then I will be disappointed. This is merely kind of posturing for what could be a very good climax.”

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Bubba thrives in his comfort zone

By Will GrayJune 25, 2018, 12:02 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – The 1:20 p.m. pairing Sunday at TPC River Highlands spanned the spectrum on the PGA Tour. In one corner stood science. Bryson DeChambeau, whose quantitative approach to golf seemingly knows no bounds, was looking to add another victory after winning a playoff earlier this month at Jack’s Place.

On the other side was art.

Bubba Watson doesn’t float golf balls in Epsom salt to identify minor imperfections. He doesn’t break out a compass to find the slightest errors in the Tour-supplied pin sheet. Even when he texts caddie Ted Scott, he prefers to use voice text rather than rely on his admittedly sub-optimal spelling.

But strolling along one of his favorite landscapes, Bubba the artist came out on top. Again.

Watson is in the midst of a resurgent season, one that already included a third victory at one of his favorite haunts, Riviera Country Club. It featured a decisive run through the bracket at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and a return to the leaderboards at Augusta National where he fell short of a third green jacket.

It only makes sense, then, that he’d build upon that burgeoning momentum at the Travelers Championship, where he earned his first PGA Tour victory in 2010 and Sunday joined Billy Casper as the tournament’s only three-time champ with a final-round 63 to catch and pass Paul Casey.

This is a place where Watson can bomb drives by feel and carve short irons at will, and one where he officially put his stamp on the best season to date on Tour.

“His hand-eye coordination is by far one of the best I’ve ever seen,” DeChambeau said. “You’ve got me who was just struggling off the tee, and he’s just swiping shots down there. It was cool to watch. I wish I could do that. I probably could do that, but I just don’t feel like I’d be as consistent as he is.”


Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Consistency wasn’t an apt descriptor a year ago, as Watson went from two-time major champ to completely off the radar. His world ranking, which began last year at No. 10 and is now back up to No. 13 after he became the first three-time winner this season, fell as far as 117th before his win at Riviera in February.

Watson attributes much of the turnaround to a change in health. Never really one to tip the scales, he lost 25 pounds in a three-month span last year while battling an undisclosed health concern. After putting some of the weight back on, he’s now able to focus more of his time and energy on fine-tuning one of the Tour’s most distinctive approaches.

“Anytime any of these guys kind of get comfortable with just being them, and golf is secondary in a sense, it helps them reach their potential,” said Scott. “I think the hype and the pressure can sometimes put things out of sort. And right now he’s just very comfortable with who he is as a person, and I think in his life. It helps him relax on the golf course.”

What Watson doesn’t prefer to mention is the equipment change he made that serves as a not-so-subtle line of demarcation. The southpaw turned heads at the end of 2016 when he agreed to play a colored Volvik ball on Tour during the 2017 season, only to watch his results fall off a cliff. A return to the Titleist ball he previously used has coincided with some of the best results of his 12-year career.

“I don’t think it has had any (role) in my success,” Watson said. “My clubs weren’t going the distance that I used to. I couldn’t shape it the way I want to. Luckily for me, I know the problem, and the problem was with health and not all these other things.”

Regardless of the true source of his turnaround, Watson is back to doing what he does best. That includes carving up the handful of venues that most fit his unique eye, be they lined by thick kikuyu rough outside Los Angeles or dotted with menacing water hazards outside Hartford.

The artistic touch was on full display with his final swing of the day. Facing exactly 71 yards to a pin tucked barely over the edge of a yawning bunker on No. 18, Watson laid the face open on his 63-degree wedge and hit a cut shot that spun and checked to inside 3 feet.

“Teddy put his arm around me, like, ‘That was an amazing shot,’” Watson said. “He’s seen a lot of shots, he’s been out here for many years. So for him to realize it, and other players to text me and realize it, it was special.”

While it seemed at the time like a shot that gave Watson a glimmer of hope in his pursuit of Casey, it ultimately turned out to be the final highlight of a three-shot victory. It’s the type of shot that few, if any, of his peers can visualize, let alone execute with such exact precision with the tournament hanging in the balance.

It’s the type of shot that separates Watson – the quirky left-hander with the pink driver who openly talks about his struggles with on-course focus and abhors few things more than trying to hit a straight shot – from even the best in the game when things are firing on all cylinders.

“The skills have always been there, as you know. But he’s just more relaxed now,” Scott said. “And when these guys, obviously when they enjoy it, they can play at their best and not get too stressed.”