Bubba Watson's back in the Big Easy

By Randall MellApril 24, 2012, 1:59 pm

Bubba Watson’s back in action, and that ought to heat things up after a couple lukewarm weeks on the PGA Tour. That’s the way we like it for the Hot Seat as we attempt to gauge who is facing the most pressure to perform in professional tournament golf.

With the PGA Tour moving to the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, our special heat index honors what sizzles in the Big Easy:

Cajun spice – Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson looks as if he were born to win in New Orleans.

He ought to own the Crescent City in his return there as defending champion in his first start since winning the Masters.

As Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie Parker did, Watson captures our imagination with a creative bravado that is let loose more than it’s tamed.

If Watson’s chosen instrument was a trumpet or saxophone instead of a golf club, you imagine his improvisational flair would have rocked the music halls in the Big Easy as raucously as Watson rocked the patrons at Augusta National with his great escape in his final full shot winning the Masters.

OK, putting Watson in the creative class of Armstrong, Gillespie and Parker is over the top this early in his career, but there’s something about Watson’s quirky, unpredictable nature that leaves us wanting more of his wonderful jazz.

That’s why Watson’s on our Hot Seat this week. We’re like the devoted audience at the French Quarter’s Preservation Hall craving an encore.

Watson’s title defense feels like the start of a new chapter in his career, and we’re all curious how he will handle all that comes in the aftermath of a major breakthrough. He was brilliant in his talk-show rounds in the wake of the victory, but you know he’ll have to learn to pace himself. That’s the big question in what’s ahead. How will Bubba Golf hold up to a new set of expectations? How will he handle the relentless requests that come with newfound fame? It’s a new world for him.

Creole seasoning – Luke Donald

Donald has a chance to make the world No. 1 ranking look like a hot potato again this week. He can take back the top spot from Rory McIlroy at the Zurich Classic.

Donald held the top spot for a run of 40 consecutive weeks beginning in late May of last year. McIlroy seized it for two weeks in March, then Donald got it back for a month. Though he was idle, McIlroy gained it back again two weeks ago.

Exactly what Donald needs to do to become No. 1 again will be clear when the Official World Golf Ranking projection is out later this week. It shouldn’t be much with Donald a mere tenth-and-a-half points behind McIlroy.

If Donald moves up again, it will mark the eighth time the No. 1 ranking has changed hands in exactly the last two years. The last time the top spot felt like such a hot potato was in the late ‘90s, when the No. 1 ranking changed hands 14 times in a little more than a two-year period from 1997 to ’99. Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and David Duval took turns with the hot potato back then.

Crawfish boil – Nick Watney

Nick Watney tees it up at the Zurich Classic looking for his first top-10 finish of the season.

Watney, who won twice last year, is playing his ninth PGA Tour stroke-play event of 2012. Back last summer, Watney cracked the top 10 in the world rankings, but he has slipped to No. 22 now. He is also No. 37 in the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings in his bid to make his first American Ryder Cup team.

Watney will be looking to get his putter heated up in New Orleans. He’s 126th in strokes gained putting, the largest reason he’s 108th in scoring (71.34). He was 12th in strokes gained putting a year ago.

Jambalaya sizzle – The entire Mobile Bay LPGA Classic field

For the first time this season, Yani Tseng isn’t teeing it up in an LPGA event.

She’s taking the week off with the LPGA playing the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic at The Crossings Course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s Magnolia Grove Club.

Tseng reminded us in her last two starts that she can’t win them all, and she certainly can’t win when she isn’t playing, opening the door for a tour trying to narrow the giant gap that Tseng is building in the women’s game with three victories already this season. Tseng isn’t the only big name skipping the event this week. Ai Miyazato, winner of last week’s Lotte Championship, is taking off. So are Jiyai Shin, I.K. Kim and Michelle Wie.

The field will include Na Yeon Choi, Suzann Pettersen Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb, Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis, Brittany Linicicome, Sandra Gal, Angela Stanford, Morgan Pressel, Azahara Munoz, Hee Kyung Seo and Se Ri Pak

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."

Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."

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Z. Johnson, Landry share 54-hole Texas Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 10:56 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson birdied the par-5 18th Saturday at the Valero Texas Open for a share of the third-round lead with Andrew Landry, a stroke ahead of record-setting Trey Mullinax.

Johnson shot a 4-under 68, holing a 10-footer on 18 to match Landry at 13-under 203 at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks. Landry birdied the 16th and 17th in a 67.

Johnson won the event in 2008 and 2009, the last two times it was played at LaCantera. The 42-year-old Iowan is trying to win for the first time since the 2015 British Open.

''I've got 18 holes to get to that point,'' Johnson said. ''I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side and that was give myself opportunities on every hole. I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well, so it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch.''

The 30-year-old Landry is winless on the tour.

''I'm a good putter and I just need to give myself a lot of opportunities tomorrow like I did today,'' Landry said. ''I'll be looking forward to tomorrow.''

Mullinax had a course-record 62. He played the back nine in 7-under 29, going 6 under on the last five with eagles on the par-5 14th and 18th and birdies on 16 and 17. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and bogeyed 11.

''It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had,'' Mullinax said. ''To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good.''

Johnson played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He birdied Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 18 on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

''Different wind today early on, misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above,'' Johnson said. ''But truthfully, my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts, but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities especially on the back side.''

Landry had a bogey-free round.

''I just did everything really good,'' Landry said. ''I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat.''

Ryan Moore was two strokes back at 11 under after a 70. Sean O'Hair had a 65 to join 2015 champion Jimmy Walker (67), Chris Kirk (68) and 2013 winner Martin Laird (69) at 9 under.

''I just feel like I'm getting closer and closer to playing better and better golf, more solid golf, putting rounds together,'' Walker said. ''I'm excited for the opportunity tomorrow.''

Mullinax has made 42 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

''They just kind of remind me of greens from home,'' Mullinax said. ''My caddie, David (Flynn), has been reading them really well. We trusted each other on our reads and I've been hitting good putts. Been working hard on putting on the weeks off that I've had so it's good to see some results.''

The 25-year-old former Alabama player chipped in for the eagle on 14 and the birdie on the par-3 16th.

''It was just a little bit down the hill,'' he said about the 16th. ''All you had to do was just land it just past that little light grass spot. My caddie told me just read it like a putt, so I tried to just read it like a putt and it went in.''

On 18, he hit a 3-iron from 255 yards to 15 feet to set up his eagle putt. He broke the course record of 63 set by Matt Every in 201 and matched by Laird in 2013. The tournament record is 60 at LaCantera, by Bart Bryant in 2004 and Johnson in 2009.

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Z. Johnson looks to end victory drought at Valero

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 10:45 pm

Nearly three years after his most recent victory, Zach Johnson has a chance to get back into the winner's circle at the Valero Texas Open.

Johnson started the third round at TPC San Antonio with a share of the lead, and he maintained that position after closing out a 4-under 68 with a birdie on the final hole. At 13 under, he is tied for the lead with Andrew Landry and one shot clear of Trey Mullinax as he looks to win for the first time since The Open in 2015.

"Different wind today. Misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above," Johnson told reporters. "But truthfully, I mean my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities, especially on the back side."

Johnson started slowly, making the turn in even-par 36, before carding four birdies on the inward half. It was a microcosm of his week at TPC San Antonio, where Johnson is even through three trips across the front nine but has played the back nine in 13 under while picking up more than six strokes on the field in strokes gained: putting.

Johnson won this event in both 2008 and 2009 when it was held at nearby La Cantera, but he has only cracked the top 10 once since it shifted venues in 2010. But facing off in the final group against two players who have yet to win on the PGA Tour, the veteran hopes to capitalize on his back-nine prowess this week in order to deliver career win No. 13.

"I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side, and that was give myself opportunities on every hole," Johnson said. "I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well. So it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch."