Bubba again getting in own way before WMPO begins

By Ryan Reiterman February 4, 2016, 12:54 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Before Bubba Watson’s news conference Wednesday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the moderator rattled off his impressive stats here, highlighted by two-straight runner-up finishes in his last two starts.

But Watson made it known quickly that he wasn’t back at TPC Scottsdale because of his good play in this event.

“I'm here because of my sponsors,” he said.

And when asked why he liked the course, Watson didn’t bite his tongue.

“I don't like it,” he said. “I'm not going to PC it. I don't like it at all. I just mentioned why I'm here. I've got three beautiful sponsors [Ping, Stance Socks and Oakley] that love it here.”

The quote was surprising, but these mini-controversies are not uncommon with the two-time Masters champion.

So many times throughout his career, Watson has created headlines from seemingly minor incidents.

Something as simple as rain ("Water on the clubface, bro … water on the clubface. I got no chance!"),  or slow play can make him pricklier than a saguaro.

He refused to compete in the Long Drive Contest at the 2014 PGA Championship, famously protesting by hitting a 3-iron off the tee.

Watson participated in the contest last year, but he still didn’t sound too pleased.

“It made big drama last year for no reason because I stated my opinion,” he said last year at Firestone. “It’s sad that my opinion is obviously wrong at everything I do, but yes, I’m going to hit the tee shot because I understand it means more to do that than worry about my opinion. My opinion means nothing, as long as my family’s happy.”

And he’s said courses like Olympic, site of the 2012 U.S. Open, and  Doral are “too tough” for him despite being the No. 5 player in the world and an eight-time PGA Tour winner.

And it’s amazing to think what Watson’s record would look like if he didn’t let these things bother him.

For the past year, we’ve all been mesmerized by the record-shattering performances of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, also known as the four players ranked ahead of Watson.

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The noise generated by the four 20-somethings leading golf’s youth movement have overshadowed some great play by other pros, namely Watson. He’s been flying under the radar … you know, as much as a guy with a neon-pink driver can.

He recorded 10 top-10s in 2015 (a career high), including six top-3 finishes and a win at the Travelers Championship.  He ended 2015 with a win at Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge (an unofficial event), and began 2016 with a T-10 at Kapalua.

Compared to the four players ranked ahead of him, Spieth had 17 top-10s in 2015, McIlroy and Day had 11, and Fowler seven. They’ve had more success converting those high finishes to wins, and it’s a fine line Fowler knows all too well.

“It can be one little bounce,” Fowler said Tuesday in Phoenix. “Can be a certain putt that goes in and you go off and birdie four, five of the next few holes. It's pretty crazy how fine a line it is. I mean, you look at what Sneds did last week to being a little ways back and just happens to put together an amazing round and ends up winning.”

When asked what’s holding him back from turning more of those close finishes to wins, Watson cites his putting.

“That's what I need to do,” Watson said. “We know my stats. I don't make that many putts. I've got to try make some putts … I missed the putt to force a playoff (in 2014), and then I just fell short last year. So I've got to just try to make one or two more putts than the other guys.”

While a few more made putts would help Watson, it’s no secret his mental toughness is not on the level of the four players ahead of him in the rankings. And despite what he says, his putting is not that bad. He ranked 54th last year in strokes gained-putting. He was ranked 110th in 2014.

With Spieth and Day sitting out this week and McIlroy in Dubai, the spotlight will no doubt be on Watson, good buddy Fowler and, as always, Arizona State alum Phil Mickelson.

While Mickelson has three Phoenix Open titles, Watson is still seeking his first.

Since his first WMPO start in 2007, Watson has compiled some gaudy stats.

He’s a combined 55 under par in this event since 2012, seven strokes better than anyone else. No one has scored lower on the par 5s since his ’07 debut at TPC Scottsdale. And in his 34 career rounds, he’s never been over par with a scoring average of 68.24, the best in tournament history with a minimum of 10 rounds.

But most of those stats were compiled before Tom Weiskopf toughened up TPC Scottsdale last year, and the changes were the source of Bubba’s grumpiness on Wednesday.

"I didn't see any reason to change it," he said. "You know, again, they didn't ask me. It's just my own opinion. I didn't see any reason to change it ... Scores didn't change. It just makes it goofier and tougher, which is not fun for us. We came here for a reason. We came here because we want to play golf and shoot good scores."

Even with tighter driving areas and more bunkers to carry, TPC Scottsdale should still be a course Watson can thrive on. But now that his attitude has soured on the course, it remains to be seen if Watson can get out of his own way and break through in Phoenix.

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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.”