Friends, former coach not surprised how Watson won

By Rex HoggardApril 10, 2012, 4:03 pm

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – As Erik Compton watched Sunday’s action unfold everything seemed in its proper order.

The folksy glide, the unorthodox swing, the fearless abandon, Compton had seen it for years but as Bubba Watson made his way through Augusta National’s historic closing stretch his former University of Georgia teammate noticed something different.

There was a focus in Watson’s face, maybe even a calm, if such a concept exists in that marvelously manic mind. When the eventual champion’s tee shot sailed into the trees right of the 10th fairway on the second playoff hole Compton knew something was different. Something special was about to happen.

“I get it because I have the ADD (attention deficit disorder) thing. He sees things in curves,” said Compton, who grew up playing junior golf against Watson and later with him at Georgia. “I knew he’d have a shot (at the second playoff hole). I think he won the Masters because he hit it in the trees. If he’d hit in the fairway he would have had a harder shot.”

Video: Watson surprises 'Morning Drive' crew with 30-minute guest appearance

It is the delicate balance of what Watson calls “Bubba golf.”

Compton took it a step further, calling it “Bubba’s way,” because it’s not just the blur-of-moving-parts swing that defines Watson, it’s the entire package – fearless, often to a fault, frequently distracted and undoubtedly talented, everyone who has ever been around Watson has immediately known that.

When Heath Slocum’s father took the head professional job in the early 1990s at Tanglewood Golf & Country Club in Milton, Fla., he immediately heard the rumors about the skinny fifth-grader who could hit it a country mile and curve it even farther.

“You could see he was raw, but he had to be good,” Slocum said. “He had so much game. I saw him try stuff that at the time I didn’t think was possible, and a lot of the time he pulled it off.”

So when Slocum, who was on vacation with his family and eating dinner when Sunday’s playoff reached its climax, received a text message from a friend that read, “(Bubba) just hooked a wedge 50 yards onto the green (at the second playoff hole). Two putts to win,” he wasn’t surprised.

The Tanglewood 19th hole is filled with tales of Watson’s fearless feats. Some of them are even true, outlandish stories that Georgia men’s golf coach Chris Haack had heard when he recruited the junior college transfer in 1999.

Haack took Watson to play Augusta National for the first time in the spring of 2000 and watched with great interest, and perhaps a little nostalgia, as his former player slashed his way to victory.

To Haack it was quintessential Bubba. He’d seen it for years when they’d march Watson to the bottom of the practice tee at the University of Georgia Golf Course and he’d pelt the range shed with drives.

“That was a 300-yard carry, uphill,” Haack laughed. “And that was before the new ball. I saw that a bunch; he was always a creative shot-maker and his game hasn’t changed much.”

Watson’s mind, however, has evolved. That was clear on Sunday when he birdied four consecutive holes starting at the 13th, when he split the fairway at the 72nd hole to virtually assure a playoff and when he calmly two-putted the second extra frame for victory.

It is telling that for Haack it was Watson’s putting, not his power, that impressed the most. Under pressure, the longtime coach had seen Watson’s tendency to decelerate on short putts.

These tendencies had shown up before.

Last month, Watson went into the final round at the WGC-Cadillac Championship with a three-stroke lead, signed for an outward loop of 39 and finished a stroke behind Justin Rose. At the 2010 PGA Championship, he bogeyed the 71st hole to drop into a playoff with Martin Kaymer and dumped his approach shot into a hazard on the third extra hole on his way to a double bogey to lose by a stroke.

“Just the fact that he had a fairly level head impressed me the most,” said Haack, who was contacted by the Georgia athletic director on Monday and informed to tell Watson that the school plans to honor him at a home game next football season.

But if clarity of thought when it mattered was the key for those who have watched Watson evolve from rail-thin swashbuckler to major  champion, it was his slashing creativity that most will remember from the 2012 Masters.

Watson bristled late Sunday when it was suggested he couldn’t hit a straight shot saying, “I can hit it straight. It’s just it’s easier to see curves.” Those who have watched, however, beg to differ.

“I’m sure he could hit one but it might be a mistake,” Haack said, while Compton’s take was more pointed, “He says he can hit a straight shot, but I don’t believe it.”

The world may love “Bubba golf” in the wake of Watson’s major breakthrough, but consider Haack’s plight as a coach who always had to walk the fine line of trying to temper such immense talent.

“On one hand you tried to make observations on how to play a particular hole, but you didn’t want to take his strength out of his hands,” Haack said. “He is aggressive and powerful and that’s great, but it did bite him a few times.”

A “few times,” may be a bit of an understatement. Truth is on any given day Watson could win a tournament or finish last, it all depended on his mood and his ability to make magic out of mistakes like he did late Sunday at Augusta National.

“He could be 11 under par (in a team qualifier) and not qualify,” Compton recalls. “He could make an 18 on any hole. A 400-yard par 4 he tries to drive, you never knew. He’s Tin Cup, but he’s Tin Cup with a green jacket now.”

The artist, however flawed, finally has his masterpiece.

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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

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Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”