Bend It Like Bubba

By Rex HoggardMay 11, 2011, 10:21 pm
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Bubba Watson plays golf like an artist – freeform and interpretive with a dollop of avant-garde. He doesn’t plot his way around golf courses so much as he slashes with broad strokes.

“Bubba ball” is, by design or DNA, the least efficient way to get from A to B. It is, however, proving to be highly effective, as evidenced by his three PGA Tour victories in the last 10 months.

That’s two more victories than Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els have combined over the same period with a whiplash action that is equal parts timing and talent.

Last week the boy from Bagdad, Fla., ran afoul the circuit’s political correctness police when he put to words what many of his Tour frat brothers have been thinking for some time.

Bubba Watson
Watson is known for constantly curving the ball in one direction or the other. (Getty Images)

“Tiger is going the wrong way,” Watson said on Wednesday at Quail Hollow. “I think he's so mental right now with his swing. Just go out there and play golf.

“When you start talking about other people trying to help you with your swing, look at this, look at that, I think they take a step back. So I'm hoping they all get coaches. Come on, Rickie (Fowler), get you a coach.”

Full disclosure dictates that Watson has never been mistaken for Dr. Bob Rotella on the golf course. This is, after all, the same man who self-diagnosed himself with attention deficit disorder and openly admits that his mind has a tendency to wander when he’s on the job.

Still, Watson will never be accused of playing “swing.” “Bubba ball” is pure caveman golf – see ball, hit ball – swing thoughts are limited to just two – is it a cut or draw? – and his next straight shot will be his first.

“I want to hit it straight, but I don’t know how to do that,” he admits.

Watson is a one-off, a throwback to another time and older technology and, regardless of the criticism, was simply giving Woods the only advice he can. Just play golf.

In this age of “team,” when swing coach, trainer, mental coach and nutritionist are among a modern pro’s 14 clubs, Watson defies conventional wisdom and probably the ability to even be coached.

On Wednesday at TPC Sawgrass we asked a half dozen Tour teachers how they would coach Watson and the answers were telling and virtually identical.

“If you tried to change him you’d ruin him,” said Mike Taylor, the Sea Island (Ga.) Resort-based swing coach whose students include last week’s winner Lucas Glover. “He’s all feel and just sees the shot.”

Dallas-based Randy Smith, whose students include Justin Leonard and Gary Woodland, concurred: “He’s the ultimate feel player.”

Yes, but would you teach him?

“I would love it but it wouldn’t be teaching,” Smith said. “I would just want to hear him talk about golf. Nobody feels the club head better than him. But it wouldn’t be teaching, it would be to learn from him.”

Although Watson may technically be the golf swing equivalent of a broken windmill, the way in which he ropes his way from tee to green is, according to the experts, nearly un-teachable.

Teaching Watson would be akin to tuning up a 1957 Ford . . . while it’s moving. Towering hooks and draws with equipment that is designed to reduce such movement is a Bubba staple – the product of a whirlwind action that is critically dependent on timing and the 32-year-old’s athletic ability.

“He’s playing wiffle ball out there,” said Pat O’Brien, Stewart Cink’s swing coach. “The beauty of Bubba is that he doesn’t have swing thoughts.”

Thirty-yard cuts may not be the textbook way of the modern pro, but Watson has a burgeoning trophy case that is a testament to the power of outside-the-box thinking.

If alignment is the foundation of a solid, and repeatable, golf swing, Watson is so far off line that he’s frightened more than one member of his gallery. But to square Watson up with his target would almost certainly be grounds for malpractice.

“You could try to shorten up his swing, but it has a rhythm to it and a sequence that would be altered,” Taylor said. “Suddenly his hips or shoulders would be moving too fast. The ball doesn’t know where your body is aiming.”

That’s not to say that Watson’s game couldn’t use some fine-tuning and most of those asked agreed that as long as his timing and confidence remain anything is possible. But if something happens to either element, like an injury, he would likely struggle.

“You wouldn’t,” said Geoff Ogilvy’s swing coach Dale Lynch when asked if he would try to “fix” Watson’s action. “If his game were to go off the rails and say he couldn’t cut it anymore you’d look at that and just try to go back to what worked.”

Whatever fundamental differences Tour swing coaches may have in philosophy and technique, nearly all subscribe to the same central truth that when a player moves from the practice tee to the course he only has one option – to play golf, not swing.

When Bubba was a boy in Bagdad he learned to play the game chasing wiffle balls around and over his house.

“There were no straight holes when I was imaging holes when I was growing up,” he said. “So I always learned how to curve it that way.”

In many ways Watson is still plotting his way around that house in Bagdad, one roping hook or cut at a time.


Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggardGC

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”