Backspin Sergio Steroids and Seve

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 23, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
IRISH FOLKLORE Padraig Harrington somehow survived a possible career-defining meltdown to win the dramatic 136th Open Championship at Carnoustie in a playoff over Sergio Garcia. His double-bogey on the 72nd hole was quickly washed away with a birdie on the first extra hole, en route to his first major championship.
BackspinThe wildly popular and likable Harrington finally ended Europe's winless drought in majors, which dated, ironically, back to Carnoustie in 1999. But perhaps the most telling image of the day was the smile on Harrington's face when - after possibly throwing away his first major title - his little boy ran onto the green to greet him following his play in regulation. His Irish eyes are always smiling.
EXPLOSIVE: HANDLE WITH CARE Sergio Garcia blew a three-shot overnight lead Sunday, but reclaimed a one-stroke advantage on the last hole after Harrington made double-bogey. Garcia tried to play the 18th conservatively, laying up off the tee with an iron, but still made bogey. He then bogeyed the first extra hole and lost by one in the four-hole cumulative playoff.
BackspinThis one will hurt. For a very long time. In his post-tournament press conference, Garcia seemed to feel conspired against by fate. If he hated talking about why he hasn't won a major before this past week, he may never talk to the media again after it.
THREE DOWN, ONE TO GO Tiger Woods was trying to accomplish something that hadnt been done in over 50 years ' win three consecutive Open Championships. Alas, he finished in a tie for 12th, five removed from the playoff.
BackspinTiger defines success based on his major titles won. And this is quickly becoming a disappointing campaign. Woods has gone winless in the majors only three times in 10 previous full seasons on TOUR. He still has the PGA Championship left, but he tied for 29th the last time Southern Hills hosted a major, the 2001 U.S. Open.
CAR-NASTY NO MORE! Harrington wasnt the only winner at this years Open. After being criticized for its set-up in 1999, Carnoustie received much more favorable reviews this time around. The winning score was 7 under, as opposed to 6 over, eight years ago.
BackspinSome pundits actually thought the course was too easy ' but dont tell that to those who had to play it. While scores were much lower, the closing holes were as devilish in 07 as they were in 99. Once again, what transpired on 17 and 18 will forever define this Open at Carnoustie.
GARY BEING GARY Gary Player created quite an uproar in his Tuesday Open Championship press conference when he stated that he knew of at least one player who had taken performance-enhancing drugs. He would not reveal the players name, but added that he believed no fewer than 10 players from around the world were using performance-enhancing drugs in the professional ranks.
BackspinIt is not uncommon for the 71-year-old Player to want to re-direct the spotlight his way. He received quite a bit of criticism from the media, tour officials, fans and players ' some of who will be a part of his International Presidents Cup team in September. The problem most had with Players comments was that he didnt name names. Expect this issue to create a lot of headlines over the next few months.
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES Seve Ballesteros officially announced his retirement from competitive golf Monday at Carnoustie, site of his first Open Championship appearance in 1975. The five-time major champion said he would still play golf with family and friends, but would focus professionally on his golf course design business.
BackspinThe rise and fall of Ballesteros is mind boggling. He was one of the rare players about whom you can truly say, There will never be another. But there was no steady decline in his career. He reached the top of the mountain and then fell over the edge. Being that hes only 50, it will be interesting to see if pride factors into a return after a couple of years.
ALMOST A MIRACLE In the wake of Argentine Angel Cabrera's surprise win at the U.S. Open at Oakmont last month, little-known fellow countryman Andres Romero was at one point alone in the lead -- by two -- coming down the stretch at Carnoustie. He ultimately finished third after a double bogey-bogey finish that included a botched 2-iron approach shot from the rough at 17 which carmoed off a burn wall and out-of-bounds.
BackspinRomero's scorecard was a sight to behold, as he played the final 11 holes without a single par on his card. In all, Romero posted 10 birdies, a bogey and a pair of costly double-bogeys that cost him an improbable victory. Somewhere, Phil Mickelson must have been nodding with an understanding of Romero's wild ride.
IT'S OGILVIE, NOT OGILVY Joe Ogilvie won the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee for his first-ever PGA TOUR win. The 33-year-old Ogilvie played the final six holes in 4 under par, which turned out to be his margin of victory over Tim Clark, Tim Herron and Charlie Wi.
BackspinFor Ogilvie, the win came with not only a robust $720,000 first-place check, but also entries into the Masters and the PGA Championship. And perhaps most importantly, he will start to chip away at the label of being called the 'other Ogilvie,' in reference to U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy.
IF A TREE FALLS IN THE WOODS... South Koreas Seon Hwa Lee beat Japans Ai Miyazato, 2-up, to win the LPGA Tours HSBC Womens World Match Play Championship in New York. Along the way Lee defeated the likes of Janice Moodie, Laura Davies and Mi Hyun Kim for her second LPGA Tour title.
BackspinLee, last years rookie of the year, was going through somewhat of a sophomore slump with just three top-10 finishes in 07, but her victory Sunday will assuredly be the right tonic to regain her confidence. Too bad, however, that her march to the winners circle - in what should be a premiere event for the LPGA - was overshadowed due to being scheduled the same week as the British Open. It also didn't help the tournament that all of the top seeds were gone after two rounds.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT Daniel Summerhays, who became the first amateur to ever win a Nationwide Tour event two weeks ago, announced he was going to turn professional; Tom Scherrer won the Nationwide Tour's Price Cutter Charity Championship; The three players who were in the playoff at Carnoustie in 1999 didn't even make it to the weekend this time around.
BackspinSummerhays, who would have been a senior at Brigham Young, must have still been fuming that he wasn't able to collect the $126,000 check for his Nationwide win; The 37-year-old Scherrer stormed into the lead on Friday on the strength of a sizzling 63, which included a hole-in-one. And did we mention it happened to be his birthday as well?; Van de Velde didn't even play in the event and Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard missed the cut.
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    After Further Review: Spieth needs a break

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

    Each week, 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 in 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.”

    But 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.”