Emotionally Charged

By Randall MellAugust 13, 2010, 4:34 am

2010 PGA ChampionshipSHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Bubba Watson couldn’t believe all the toys he discovered at the house he’s renting near Whistling Straits.

Just ask his new pal Rickie Fowler.

Watson invited Fowler over Tuesday night to check out all the cool stuff he found in the garage.

“There are three kids that live there,” Watson told Fowler.

There were Razor scooters, skateboards and road bikes.

Watson said he and Fowler were trying out the scooters when five kids came riding by.

“Are you the neighborhood gang?” Watson asked the kids. “Can we join you?”

They did. Watson said they cruised the neighborhood as the two newest and biggest members of the gang.

Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson owns a share of the Day 1 lead at the PGA Championship (Getty Images).
“Then we had an ice cream afterwards,” Watson said.

Watson, 31, took the fun inside the ropes jumping into contention in Thursday’s start of the PGA Championship. He says it’s probably the reason he broke through to win his first PGA Tour event this year and why he’s playing better. He’s playing the game instead of working it.

Six weeks ago, on the Tuesday before the Travelers Championship, Watson said he hit about 10 balls at the start of a practice session when he turned to Teddy Scott, his regular caddie.

“You want to go to the water park?” he asked Scott.

So Watson and Scott made like kids playing hookie and bolted to the park.

“The win just showed me that we're onto something, the right thing,” Watson said. “Let's have fun with our lives, and let's have fun with golf. And that whole week I just never thought about winning.”

Anyone who’s followed Watson knows how quirky he can be, how he can run with a new idea. They know the highs and lows he navigates his life and his game through. He can laugh and cry in the same sentence, just as he did after running atop the leaderboard with a 4-under-par 68 in the first round.

Watson wept in front of media explaining why he was so emotional winning the Travelers. He could barely get out the story, choking back tears as he explained the scare his wife, Angie, went through last winter. He told how he was visiting his father, who’s battling throat cancer, when a doctor told his wife that she may have a brain tumor.

Angie, it turns out, was incorrectly diagnosed. Watson said doctors at Duke University determined she merely had an enlarged pituitary gland, but the memory of the scare Thursday brought back the emotions.

“Hopefully, you don’t all think I’m a sissy,” Watson said as he wiped his eyes. “I do hit the ball a long way.”

Watson, one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour, laughed at the crack with everyone else.

The highs and lows Watson took the media through telling that story sums up the emotional nature of the man himself, but Watson says he’s working to change that.

Watson’s regular caddie, Teddy Scott, threatened to quit if Watson didn’t get better control of the anger in his game.

“My mental game just went away, went somewhere,” Watson said. “I don't know where it went. Luckily, I found it. But I was mad at every shot. I wasn't happy.

“My big sin in life is that on the golf course I was miserable. My wife was telling me this all the time, but my caddie, my good friend, came to me and said, `You're miserable, you need to find something else to do, or caddie for a little bit and see how hard it really is when your player is this mad.’

“And so it was a slap in the face. When one of your best friends tells that you you're going at life all wrong, it's obvious that you're doing something wrong.”

Watson had fun making six birdies and two bogeys in Thursday’s first round.

Not bad considering he barely got any sleep the night before. His inner child kept him up playing the Angry Birds video games on his iPhone. He said he was too excited about Thursday's start of the PGA Championship to sleep.

“My wife was yelling at me to go to bed,” Watson said. “This morning she knew I was tired. She knew I was, what's the nice word to say? Angry. I wasn't myself this morning when I woke up. So she told me just to eat something and make sure you have enough energy.”

Energy? Ask Spaniard Alvaro Quiros about Watson’s energy.

Paired with Quiros, Watson put on a show. At the 15th, Quiros hit one of those rockets that make him the longest hitter on the European Tour. Watson, though, bombed his drive 5 yards past Quiros.

'At the fifth hole, Bubba hit a sand wedge 135 yards,” said Mark Carens, who stepped in to caddie for Watson this week. “A sand wedge.”

Carens, like everyone else in golf, knew Watson was long, but he marveled seeing it close up. Carens, who regularly caddies for James Driscoll, stepped in this week to replace Scott with Scott taking time off to be with his wife and their newborn baby boy.

At 11th hole, Carens said Watson hit a 380-yard drive that would have gone farther if it hadn’t run into a bunker. Still, Watson, a man of many conflicting qualities, takes pride in that he can play with so much finesse. He loves to shape shots as much as he loves to bomb drives.

At the 16th hole, standing on a downhill lie in stamped down fescue, hit a delicate flop shot from 40 yards to 2 feet to set up his last birdie. It elicited howls from the gallery as loud as any accompanying his monster drives.

At the 17th, Watson hacked out of a gnarly lie on the cliff above Lake Michigan to save par.

Watson’s finesse was there, too, in the nine one-putts that distinguished this round more than any of his big drives.

“This job is fun to me,” Watson said. “If I would have shot 82 today, I wouldn’t have gone home to pout.”

Reporters who have seen Watson wave off interview requests while stomping away after a bad round will wonder about that, but Watson says he’s more determined to leave his bad shots behind.

Why go home and brood when there’s a neighborhood gang waiting for you with scooters, skateboards or bikes.

Major championships aren't supposed to be fun, but Watson will be aiming to change that this week.

Getty Images

Watch: Tiger 'drops mic' in long drive contest

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 20, 2018, 12:44 am

Tiger Woods is in Las Vegas this weekend for the 20th annual Tiger Jam charity event that benefits his foundation.

During the tournament on Saturday afternoon, Woods challenged World Long Drive competitor Troy Mullins to a long drive contest.

 

A post shared by TROY MULLINS (@trojangoddess) on May 19, 2018 at 1:25pm PDT

Safe to say it looks like Tiger won.

Getty Images

Sunday showdown for Wise, Leishman at Nelson

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 11:40 pm

DALLAS – While the swirling Texas winds may still have their say, the AT&T Byron Nelson is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

With a four-shot gulf between them and their closest pursuers, co-leaders Marc Leishman and Aaron Wise both stepped up to the microphone and insisted the tournament was far from over. That it wouldn’t revert to a match-play situation, even though the two men didn’t face much pressure from the pack down the stretch of the third round and have clearly distanced themselves as the best in the field through 54 holes.

But outside of an outlier scenario or a rogue tornado sweeping across Trinity Forest Golf Club, one of the two will leave with trophy in hand tomorrow night.

That’s in part because of their stellar play to this point, but it’s also a byproduct of the tournament’s new and unconventional layout: at Trinity Forest, big numbers are hard to find.

Even with the winds picking up during the third round and providing the sternest challenge yet, the field combined for only 16 scores of double bogey, and nothing worse than that.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


There’s irony in a course called Trinity Forest offering a tree-less test, sure, but there are also no water hazards in play here. For the most part, players have been maxing out with bogey – and Leishman and Wise have combined for only six of those so far this week.

If someone from the chase pack is going to catch them, the two sharing the pole position aren’t going to do them any favors.

“I don’t really want to give them a chance,” Leishman said. “I’d love to go out and shoot a low one and make Aaron have to shoot a good score tomorrow to beat me, which, I fully expect him to shoot a good score.”

While Leishman has been somewhat of a late bloomer on the PGA Tour, with only one win across his first eight seasons, he now has a golden opportunity to add a third trophy in the last 14 months. He has felt right at home on a sprawling layout that reminds him of a few back in his native Australia, and he’s part of a Down Under invasion on a leaderboard that also includes Matt Jones (-13) and Adam Scott (-9).

While Wise briefly held sole possession of the lead, Leishman has seemingly held an iron grip on the top spot since opening his week with a blistering 61.

“Before last year, I was a pretty slow starter. I always got off to a slow start Thursday, or I’d be fighting to make the cut and have a good weekend to slide into the top 10,” Leishman said. “Getting into that round straight away on the first tee rather than the ninth green or something, which sounds like a really basic thing, but it’s something I didn’t do very well until last year.”

But as Leishman acknowledged, he likely can’t count on a stumble from Wise to help finish off a wire-to-wire victory. As the youngest player to make the cut this week, Wise is facing a challenge of taking down a top-ranked Aussie for the second time in as many starts.

While he came up short at the Wells Fargo Championship, tying for second behind Jason Day, he remains supremely confident that he can put those hard-earned lessons to use this time around.

“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Wise said. “It will obviously be a huge day for me. I feel like having one go at it already, I’m a little more confident going into it this time.”

Even among the landscape of the Tour’s promising next wave, Wise stands out as a particularly young gun. Still only 21, he could feasibly be heading to Karsten Creek next week with his Oregon Duck teammates to close out his senior season with another NCAA championship appearance.

But Wise turned pro after winning the NCAA individual title as a sophomore, and he steadily worked his way through the professional ranks: first a win on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, then one last summer on the Web.com Tour.

Now he’s poised to turn what he described as a “lackluster” season before his Quail Hollow runner-up into one that defies even his own expectations.

“Absolutely, I am way ahead of the curve. It’s pretty hard to do what I’ve done at such a young age. Only a few have done it,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”

An unpredictable Coore-Crenshaw layout will have one more day to star, and outside of Wise the top six names on the leaderboard have at least one Tour win to their credit. But after the two men traded punches on a firm and fast afternoon, it sure feels like the final round is shaping up to offer more of the same.

For Leishman, it’s a chance to add another notch to some quickly expanding credentials; for Wise, it’s an opportunity to win on the one level he has yet to do so.

“It’s golf, at the end of the day. If you play better than everyone else, you’re going to win,” Wise said. “That’s why I play it. That’s why I love this sport, and tomorrow is nothing different.”

Getty Images

5 thoughts from NCAA Women's Championship Day 2

By Ryan LavnerMay 19, 2018, 11:35 pm

The field is almost halfway through stroke-play qualifying at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Here are some thoughts on the first two days at Karsten Creek:

1. UCLA is on a mission. Just a year ago, the Bruins were headed home from regionals after becoming the first No. 1 seed that failed to advance out of the qualifying tournament. This year, with the core of the team still mostly intact, the Bruins have opened up a five-shot lead on top-ranked Alabama and a comfortable 16-shot cushion over Southern Cal in third place. On one of the most difficult college courses in the country, UCLA has received contributions from all four of its usual counters – standout Lilia Vu shot 68 on Saturday, while Mariel Galdiano posted a 69. Freshman Patty Tavatanakit and junior Bethany Wu also broke par. This is a strong, deep lineup that will pose issues for teams not just in stroke-play qualifying, but also the head-to-head, match-play bracket.

2. What happened to Arkansas? Riding high off their first SEC Championship and a dominant regional performance, the Razorbacks were considered one of the top threats to win the national title. But entering Sunday’s third round of stroke play, they need to hold it together just to ensure they make the top-15 cut. Arkansas is 32 over par through two rounds. The Razorbacks had shot in the 300s just once this season in the play-five, count-four format. Here at Karsten Creek, they’ve now done so in consecutive rounds.


NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring


3. The Player of the Year race is heating up. With a decent showing at nationals, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi should have been able to wrap up the Annika Award, given annually to the top player in the country. She has six individual titles, plays a difficult schedule and is well-liked among her peers. But through two rounds she’s a whopping 15 over par while spraying it all over the map. If the Razorbacks don’t survive the 54-hole cut, neither will Fassi. That’d open the door for another player to steal the votes, whether it’s UCLA’s Vu or Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho. There’s a lot still to be decided.

4. Stanford has steadied itself. One of the biggest surprises on Day 1 was the horrendous start by the Cardinal, one of just two teams to advance to match play each of the three years it’s been used to determine a national champion. They were 19 over for their first nine holes Friday, but instead of a blowup round that cost them a shot at the title, they’ve found a way to hang tough. Stanford has been just 4 over par over its last 27 holes. Andrea Lee made only one bogey during her second-round 69, Albane Valenzuela eagled the 18th hole for a 73 and senior leader Shannon Aubert – who has been a part of each postseason push – carded a 74. And so, even with its early struggles, coach Anne Walker once again has Stanford in position to reach match play.

5. Karsten Creek is identifying the best teams. The top teams in the country want a difficult host venue for NCAAs – it helps separate the field and draws an unmistakable line between the contenders and pretenders. Only one team (UCLA) is under par after 36 holes. Fewer than a dozen players are under par individually. The dearth of low scores might not be the greatest advertisement for how talented these players are, but the cream has still risen to the top so far: Five top-10 teams currently sit inside the top 7 on the leaderboard (and that doesn’t even include last year’s NCAA runner-up Northwestern). This is all any coach wants, even if the scores aren’t pretty.

Quick hits: Cheyenne Knight, part of Alabama’s vaunted 1-2-3 punch along with Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, shot rounds of 70-69 to figure in the mix for individual honors. The junior will turn pro after nationals. …  Arizona’s Bianca Pagdanganan made a hole-in-one on the 11th hole Saturday en route to a 68 that tied the low round of the day. She’s at 5-under 139, same as Knight. ... Defending champion Arizona State, which lost star Linnea Strom to the pro ranks at the halfway point of the season, is 35 over par after two rounds. … Play was delayed for nearly an hour and a half Saturday because of inclement weather.

Getty Images

Wise (21) makes Leishman (34) feel a little old

By Will GrayMay 19, 2018, 10:55 pm

DALLAS – With the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson likely to take on a match-play feel, Marc Leishman likes his chances to close out another win – even if his opponent makes him feel a little old.

Leishman, 34, shares the lead at Trinity Forest Golf Club with 21-year-old Aaron Wise, who was the youngest player to make the cut at the tournament’s new venue. The two men will start the final round at 17 under, four shots clear of their next-closest pursuers.

Leishman played the third round alongside Wise and Brian Gay, and he originally didn’t realize just how fresh-faced his fellow co-leader is.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“He’s a solid player for, I heard this morning he’s only 21. I didn’t realize that,” Leishman said. “I guess I was in high school before he was born, so that’s – I don’t know. You hear guys talk about that all the time but I’ve never said that, I think. Yeah, he’s a good player.”

Wise won the 2016 NCAA individual title while at Oregon, and he opted to turn pro after his sophomore season. While he could have been capping his senior season with a return to the NCAAs next week, Wise is pleased with the career choice and remains eager for a chance to close out his first career PGA Tour win against a seasoned veteran.

“I feel like I’m in a great spot for tomorrow,” Wise said. “I feel like I’m getting some great experience for a kid this young. It’s only going to serve me well down the road.”