Watson taming Blue Monster at Doral

By Jay CoffinMarch 11, 2012, 12:41 am

DORAL, Fla. – A pink-driver hitting, long bombing, General Lee driving, Doral hating, swing-for-the-fences, shot-shaping, left-handed son of a gun is leading the WGC-Cadillac Championship for the second consecutive day.

The display has been equal parts breath of fresh air and train wreck waiting to happen.

Such is life when you’re Bubba Watson. You take the good with the bad. Attempt shots no one else would consider and deal with the consequences. The end result usually is either loads or birdies or loads of bogeys. Conservative course management be damned.

Watson followed a second-round 62 with a third-round 67 Saturday at TPC Blue Monster. He takes a three-shot lead into the final round and will be paired with Keegan Bradley, who is tied for second with Justin Rose.

Bubba is, well, Bubba. The name says it all. He’s from Bagdad, Fla., he’s never had a swing coach (never will), and his personality can make people laugh and rub them the wrong way all in the span of five minutes.

Yet Watson is one of the best players in the world. In seven years he’s recorded three PGA Tour victories and has qualified for U.S. Cup teams each of the last two years. So far this week he’s recorded two eagles, 20 birdies, seven bogeys and leads the field in driving, greens hit and putting.

Whatever he’s doing, it’s working.

“He is putting effort into every shot,” said Watson’s caddie, Ted Scott. “Five under is a good score no matter what position you’re in. I like what I see.”

Watson is Phil Mickelson, with more shots. Remember the Phil the Thrill many have loved over the past two decades? The one who goes for broke and doesn’t care much about the consequences. The one who has the nerve to hit 6-iron from the pine straw 205-yards onto the 13th green during the final round of the 2010Masters.

Mickelson gets credit for his creativity and his shot-making skills – which are legendary – because he’s seen as more of a thinker, an intellectual. Watson comes across as more of a scatterbrain, therefore doesn’t get the credit he deserves for pulling off some of the shots he does.

The approach on the feared 18th hole Saturday summed up Watson’s creativity best. With 162-yards to the hole he “just choked up and chipped a low bullet 7-iron, just trying to fly it to the front there and let it somehow stay on the green.” It ended 12 feet from the pin.

After driving the ball in the rough behind a tree Friday on the sixth hole, Watson aimed 40 yards right and sliced the ball so drastically that it ended 7 feet from the hole.

Now, Watson also skulled a wedge that flew the 16th green Saturday and hit a television tower. He also beaned a guy on the left side of the 12th fairway.

Seve Ballesteros would be proud.

“I like a challenge,” Watson said. “I’m stubborn. I like doing it myself. I love applauding myself. I just swing funny and somehow it works.”

Rose was paired with Watson for each of the first three days. He’s had a front-row seat to golf’s most fascinating rollercoaster.

“Some of the lines he takes off tees can suck you into a false sense of security,” Rose said. “He’s cutting off doglegs, and for me it’s not doable.

“He’s going after it and it’s fun to watch. Obviously he’s got great control out of Bermuda (grass), too, and he’s 60, 80 yards from the green, and he’s not scared to let it bounce two or three times and let it roll up to the green. He has great hands and can work the ball.”

Watson is also eccentric. This is the guy who said Friday, after shooting 62, that the golf course didn’t suit him. It’s the same guy who shot 58 in late December at the Estancia Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., and tweeted live, play-by-play action over the last few holes. He recently bought a modified orange 1969 Dodge Charger from a Barrett-Jackson auto auction that was used in the 1980s television show “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

None of that matters now, I suppose. He’s on the verge of winning the biggest PGA Tour prize in his career. Whatever happens Sunday – he's one for four with the 54-hole lead – you can bet that it’ll be dramatic one way or another.

According to caddie Scott, though, the plan is simple.

“Time to go out and try to play Bubba golf again,” he said.

Getty Images

Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

Getty Images

Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

 Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

Getty Images

Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

Hey, whatever works.

Getty Images

Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

“I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

“I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”