Others in awe as Bubba Golf wins second Masters

By Rex HoggardApril 14, 2014, 9:09 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – “Freak show.”

That’s how Bubba Watson’s caddie, Ted Scott, described Bubba Golf, the two-time Masters champion’s unique way of playing the game, on Sunday at Augusta National.

The bending drives, the low-sweeping recovery shots, the utter distain for everything conventional. In the often-vanilla world of professional golf, Bubba is rocky road topped with syrup and a jalapeno.

Less than 24 hours after Watson’s Masters masterpiece, his contemporaries, gathered at Harbour Town Golf Links for this week’s RBC Heritage, were still marveling at his ability to make the unorthodox look so extraordinary.

What is Bubba Golf?

“Entertaining,” John Peterson said. “Man, his drive on (No.) 13 yesterday. I played the Masters last year, and I had like 210 (yards) into the green for my best yardage. What did he have, 144? I’m sitting on my couch going, ‘Oh my God.’”

As electrifying as Watson is for the average player to watch, it is a testament to how truly gifted – or maybe “different” would be a more apt description – he is that his Tour frat brothers are just as blown away.

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For example, Watson’s drive on No. 13 that Peterson found so entertaining is the status quo in the world of Bubba Golf.

“We don't do yardage on that hole,” Scott said on Sunday. “If it's into the wind, he slices it. If it's not, he hammers it. It's Bubba Golf. He doesn't need me on that hole. I just spectate like you. Carry the bag like you and just stand there, yes, sir, and move on.”

Carl Pettersson, who has played numerous rounds with Watson, was equally impressed with Watson’s bomb on No. 13. “I don’t think anyone else can do that. When he drives it good he can destroy a golf course,” he said.

It won’t go down in Bubba lore as a seminal moment – that honor belongs to Watson’s gap wedge approach on the second playoff hole in 2012 that had more movement than a Justin Verlander curveball – but his second shot at the par-5 15th was just as entertaining.

After his drive found the first cut left of the 15th fairway, Watson weaved a “punch” 6-iron through the pines that flew the water hazard in front of the green and rolled through the putting surface.

“That was so nasty,” Peterson said of Watson’s second at No. 15. “For a guy with a three-stroke lead to go for that green from that spot. He had to be feeling awesome at that time.”

But Bubba Golf goes well beyond the prodigious distances Watson is able to hit the golf ball. It is a philosophy, a way of life that permeates into everything he does.

“He plays the way we all want to play. Not from the length standpoint. Obviously, I’d like to hit it 360 (yards),” Paul Goydos said. “To me it looks like he plays with as much freedom as any player on Tour. He doesn’t look overly concerned. Like he’s actually having fun and hitting the shots he wants to hit.”

If Watson is a once-in-a-generation ball-striker, there are parallels to another multiple Masters champion who eschewed the path well-traveled and blazed his own trail, be it through pine trees or down fairways.

“Bubba Golf is the new age Arnold Palmer,” Jason Bohn said. “He’s very aggressive and visual. I never played with Arnold Palmer, but that’s what I heard about him – aggressive, visual, could hit all kinds of golf shots. Bubba works his golf ball more than anyone out here, and you have to be a very visual player to do that.”

Like Palmer, Watson’s swing is unorthodox in all the right ways. No one would teach someone to swing like him, but then not even the most accomplished swing gurus would consider changing Watson’s whirlwind action.

“It’s controlled chaos,” said Mike Taylor, the Sea Island (Ga.) based swing coach whose players include Harris English and Kyle Stanley. “He may be the only person who can hit it like that. For him to attempt those shots, he has to have great feel for what the club is doing.”

In a contrived way, Watson’s unique brand of caveman golf – see ball, hit ball – is the ideal blueprint for how to play the game if not in style than at least in substance.

“That is the way everyone should strive to play because he looks like a child. He looks like he did when he was 10 and having fun out there,” Goydos said. “He just kept being Bubba.”

And he kept playing Bubba Golf.

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Suwannapura beats Lincicome in playoff for first win

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2018, 10:49 pm

SYLVANIA, Ohio - Thidapa Suwannapura won her first LPGA event on Sunday, closing with a 6-under 65 and birdieing the first playoff hole to defeat Brittany Lincicome at the Marathon Classic.

The 25-year-old Thai player is the sixth first-time winner on tour this year. Her previous best finish in 120 starts was seventh at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

Suwannapura picked up three strokes over her final two holes, making eagle on the par-5 17th and closing with a birdie on the par-5 18th at Highland Meadows to finish at 14-under 270.

In the playoff, Suwannapura converted a short birdie putt after Lincicome hit her second shot into a water hazard and scrambled for par.

Lincicome shot 67. She had a chance to win in regulation, but her birdie putt from about 10 feet did a nearly 360-degree turn around the edge of the cup and stayed out. Next up for the big-hitting Lincicome: a start against the men at the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship.

Third-round leader Brooke Henderson led by two shots after six holes, but struggled the rest of the way. Back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes dropped her out of the lead. The 20-year-old Canadian finished with a 2-under 69, one shot out of the playoff.

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Kim cruises to first win, final Open invite at Deere

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 9:38 pm

Following the best week of his professional career, Michael Kim is both a winner on the PGA Tour and the 156th and final player to earn a tee time next week at The Open.

Kim entered the final round of the John Deere Classic with a five-shot lead, and the former Cal standout removed any lingering doubt about the tournament's outcome with birdies on each of his first three holes. He cruised from there, shooting a bogey-free 66 to finish the week at 27 under and win by eight shots over Francesco Molinari, Joel Dahmen, Sam Ryder and Bronson Burgoon.

It equals the tournament scoring record and ties for the largest margin of victory on Tour this season, matching Dustin Johnson's eight-shot romp at Kapalua in January and Molinari's margin two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National.

"Just super thankful," Kim said. "It's been a tough first half of the year. But to be able to finish it out in style like this means a lot."

Kim, 25, received the Haskins Award as the nation's top collegiate player back in 2013, but his ascent to the professional ranks has been slow. He had only one top-10 finish in 83 starts on Tour entering the week, tying for third at the Safeway Open in October 2016, and had missed the cut each of the last three weeks.

But the pieces all came together at TPC Deere Run, where Kim opened with 63 and held a three-shot lead after 36 holes. His advantage was trimmed to a single shot during a rain-delayed third round, but Kim returned to the course late Saturday and closed with four straight birdies on Nos. 15-18 to build a five-shot cushion and inch closer to his maiden victory.

As the top finisher among the top five not otherwise exempt, Kim earned the final spot at Carnoustie as part of the Open Qualifying Series. It will be his first major championship appearance since earning low amateur honors with a T-17 finish at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, and he is also now exempt for the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

The last player to earn the final Open spot at the Deere and make the cut the following week was Brian Harman, who captured his first career win at TPC Deere Run in 2014 and went on to tie for 26th at Royal Liverpool.

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Poulter offers explanation in dispute with marshal

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:47 pm

Ian Poulter took to Twitter to offer an explanation after the Englishman was accused of verbally abusing a volunteer during the third round of the Scottish Open.

Poulter hooked his drive on the opening hole at Gullane Golf Club into a bush, where Quintin Jardine was working as a marshal. Poulter went on to find the ball, wedge out and make bogey, but the details of the moments leading up to his second shot differ depending on who you ask.

Jardine wrote a letter to the tournament director that he also turned into a colorfully-titled blog post, accusing Poulter of berating him for not going into the bush "feet first" in search of the ball since Poulter would have received a free drop had his ball been stepped on by an official.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

"I stood and waited for the player. It turned out to be Mr. Poulter, who arrived in a shower of expletives and asked me where his ball was," Jardine wrote. "I told him and said that I had not ventured into the bush for fear of standing on it. I wasn't expecting thanks, but I wasn't expecting aggression, either."

Jardine added that Poulter stayed to exchange heated words with the volunteer even after wedging his ball back into the fairway. After shooting a final-round 69 to finish in a tie for 30th, Poulter tweeted his side of the story to his more than 2.3 million followers:

Poulter, 42, won earlier this year on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and is exempt into The Open at Carnoustie, where he will make his 17th Open appearance. His record includes a runner-up at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and a T-3 finish at Muirfield in 2013.

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Immelman misses Open bid via OWGR tiebreaker

By Will GrayJuly 15, 2018, 6:25 pm

A resurgent performance at the Scottish Open gave Trevor Immelman his first top-10 finish in more than four years, but it left him short of a return to The Open by the slimmest of margins.

The former Masters champ turned back the clock this week at Gullane Golf Club, carding four straight rounds of 68 or better. That run included a 5-under 65 in the final round, which gave him a tie for third and left him five shots behind winner Brandon Stone. It was his first worldwide top-10 since a T-10 finish at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

There were three spots available into The Open for players not otherwise exempt, and for a brief moment it appeared Immelman, 38, might sneak the third and final invite.

Full-field scores from the ASI Scottish Open

But with Stone and runner-up Eddie Pepperell both not qualified, that left the final spot to be decided between Immelman and Sweden's Jens Dantorp who, like Immelman, tied for third at 15 under.

As has been the case with other stops along the Open Qualifying Series, the tiebreaker to determine invites is the players' standing in the Official World Golf Rankings entering the week. Dantorp is currently No. 322 in the world, but with Immelman ranked No. 1380 the Swede got the nod.

This will mark Dantorp's first-ever major championship appearance. Immelman, who hasn't made the cut in a major since the 2013 Masters, was looking to return to The Open for 10th time and first since a missed cut at Royal Lytham six years ago. He will instead work the week at Carnoustie as part of Golf Channel and NBC's coverage of The Open.