Watson masterful in claiming second green jacket

By Rex HoggardApril 14, 2014, 1:37 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – It may be time for Bubba-proofing.

It was, after all, Tiger Woods’ back-to-back victories in 2001 and ’02 at Augusta National that prompted the club to initiate the most dramatic nip/tuck in the history of the iconic course.

So as Watson slipped the green jacket over his gangly shoulders for the second time in three years following a fevered give-and-take on Sunday with Jordan Spieth at the Masters, one could imagine officials going back to the drawing board and bulldozer.

Back the first tee up to Butler Cabin, relocate the fourth green onto Berckmans Road and drag the tee at the 18th hole back to the shores of Rae’s Creek. Whatever it takes to make Augusta National Watson worthy.

Lore has it the Masters doesn’t begin until the second nine on Sunday, but the 78th edition turned well before the leading players arrived at Amen Corner.

In fact, the die was cast over a span of 15 minutes. At precisely 4:31 p.m. ET Spieth three-putted for bogey at the par-5 eighth hole and Watson, who was paired with the tenacious 20-year-old in Sunday’s final two-ball, made birdie for a two-shot swing.

At 4:46 p.m., Spieth rolled in his second consecutive bogey putt at the ninth and watched the 2012 champion go 2 up with a 9-footer for birdie, simultaneously sucking the wind out of the pines that line Augusta National’s closing loop.

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“(Nos.) 8 and 9 were really the turning point where momentum kind of went my way,” said Watson, who finished at 8-under 280. “Then the group in front of us and other groups, you could just tell, just nobody really caught fire. There wasn't too many birdies after No. 10, I don't think.”

Watson would play the rest of the way in even par for a Sunday 69. He would play the rest of the way like a champion.

There were hints of a potential Sunday charge, the kind of comeback that has become as much a part of Masters tradition as azaleas and pimento cheese sandwiches.

At 5:13 p.m., Jonas Blixt, one of 24 first-timers in the field and vying to become the first male Swede to win a major championship, birdied the par-5 13th hole to move to within two strokes but played his last five in even par.

Six minutes earlier, Spieth – who was pressing and probably reeling from his earlier miscues – hit a towering 9-iron tee shot into the par-3 12th that found the famous bank and trickled into the tributary to Rae’s Creek.

“The breeze was supposed to be into and it felt a little down, and I if smoke a 9-iron downwind that's going to fly in the back bunker, and that's what that hole does,” said Spieth, who was trying to become the youngest winner of the Masters. “I mean, that's what that hole is famous for is the swirling winds. So when I got over it, I felt like there was no way it was into. I felt like it was just dead. I guess I just got a little too aggressive over the ball.”

Spieth would drop to 5 under with his bogey at the 12th and, like most everyone else, par his way to also-ran status.

By this time, golf’s most famous 3,710 yards felt like a treadmill, with contenders large and small eyeing leaderboards that told a deflating tale.

“I was three back when I got to the tee at 11 and figured if I made birdie I could make a run, but once I got to through 15 I just saw shots continue to slip away,” said Matt Kuchar, who carded a final-round 74 to tie for fifth. “It’s a tough one. I don’t know how many opportunities you get to win the Masters.”

Miguel Angel Jimenez dethroned Fred Couples for the senior division title, finishing at 4 under par, which should help when he makes his Champions Tour debut next week up the road in Atlanta. Rickie Fowler matched the best major performance of his career with a tie for fifth despite a Sunday 73. And Rory McIlroy found the form that made him this week’s favorite two days too late to close with a 69 and tie for eighth.

But it was the quirky and unorthodox Watson who would make his second walk to victory, this time up the 18th hole (his 2012 victory ended on No. 10, the second playoff hole).

“Small-town guy named Bubba now has two green jackets,” said Watson, who became the 17th player with multiple Masters victories.

A year ago that kind of lofty status didn’t seem likely. After his victory in 2012, Watson managed just three top-10 finishes last season and failed to make the Presidents Cup team.

Earlier this season, however, “Bubba golf” returned with a victory at the Northern Trust Open in February along with runner-up showings in Phoenix and at the WGC-Cadillac Championship last month.

Even his return to Augusta was characterized by a return to normal.

“There was a calm over him this week,” said Watson’s manager Jens Beck. “He’s really enjoyed the week, from the Drive, Chip & Putt (Championship last Sunday) to the Champions Dinner. The stress has been off.”

Watson staked his claim to his second Masters title on Friday, when he scorched the second nine with five consecutive birdies starting at the 12th hole for a three-stroke advantage at intermission.

Even after Saturday’s 74 left him tied with Spieth, Watson remained unfazed on his way to a sixth PGA Tour title.

It seems Bubba has grown up.

“After getting the green jacket the first time, in 2012, winning it, you know, it's overwhelming,” Watson said.It took me a year or so to get adjusted that I'm not really that good, I've got to keep practicing. Finally, I got adjusted to it and here we are with another green jacket.”

Given Watson’s erratic nature, perhaps officials don’t need to Bubba-proof Augusta National but there’s no ignoring his unique ability to overpower the former Fruitland Nursery (may we suggest banning left-handed players).

“Bubba golf is a freak show,” Watson’s caddie Ted Scott smiled. “When he hit the tee shot at 18 I asked him, ‘Are you from Mars?’”

Nope, he’s just a small town guy named Bubba with two green jackets.

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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.”