Bubba’s last man standing in Match Play

A month ago, Bubba Watson was viewed as a player headed to pasture, his career lost in the wilderness. Now, with the Masters just a week away, Bubba’s one of the favorites to bring home the green jacket.

Proving his win at Riviera was no aberration, Watson upset Justin Thomas in the WGC-Match Play semi-finals on Sunday before quickly dismissing Kevin Kisner in the championship to capture his second title of the season.

“It’s one of those things, I got off to a hot start and I’m just focused on golf,” Watson said after his victory. “So focused on committing to the shots, there was about four or five shots throughout the week where I wasn’t committed, where I kind of blanked out, and so, that’s pretty good over a 100-and-something holes, however many holes we played.”

Although his triumph at the Genesis Open was unexpected, it wasn’t a shock, as Watson had won the event twice. The same could not be said for this tournament, as match play had historically given Bubba fits. Not that one could tell from his work at Austin Country Club. Following a 2-0-1 pool-play record, Watson eliminated Brian Harman 2 up and Kiradech Aphibarnrat 5 & 3 on Saturday before knocking out Thomas 3 & 2 and Kisner 7 & 6.

It was further testament that Watson has shaken the troubles that dropped him from No. 4 in the world to 117th in an 18-month span, and that, as he nears his 40th birthday, the sun is far from setting on his career.

Poulter misinformed over Masters invite

Remember when Ian Poulter thought he lost his tour status last year, only to find out through the detective work of Brian Gay that he actually had done enough to earn his card? This is just like that, only the exact opposite.

Following a Saturday morning victory in the Match Play’s Sweet 16, the 41-year-old Englishman was told by officials and media that he had done enough to jump into the world’s top 50, thus earning an invite to the Masters. One slight problem: before his afternoon match against Kevin Kisner, Poulter was told he, in fact, had not yet breached the top 50. With this information in hand, Poulter lost to Kisner 8 and 6, and was not particularly pleased after his loss.

Can sympathize with the man. I won the 2016 Masters lottery, only to find out that A) Because I changed addresses, my winning bid was no longer accepted and B) I would not be covering the event in person. I’m sure this knowledge will go ways in alleviating his pain.

Luckily for Poulter, an Augusta invite is still up for grabs, as a strong performance at this week’s Houston Open can move him into the top 50.

More fan misbehavior on tour

Crowd etiquette, or the lack thereof, was a subject mostly canvassed at the Phoenix Open and Ryder Cup. Through a third of the 2018 season, it’s now become a weekly theme.

Joining the choir of Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, James Hahn took to Twitter following his Friday loss to Jason Dufner to lament the actions of a fan in the gallery:

“Fought hard today after a bad start. Two down, 4 to go, guy yells purposely on my back swing,” Hahn wrote. “Whether we like it or not, this is where the game is going. My fault for not expecting the worst from fans. Just sucks to lose a match that way.”

Hahn later deleted the Tweet, saying that many were misinterpreting his statement. “I respect and love all golf fans but I can expect bad behavior from them,” Hahn said. “And I’m not blaming the fan for losing the match. Just disappointed I lost the deciding hole in that fashion.”

Interestingly enough, commissioner Jay Monahan said earlier in the week that players need to adjust to this new behavior.

“I believe that there was more that went into it that preceded and in a situation like that we’re hopeful our players will reach out to our security staff and they can handle that,” Monahan said. “But yelling, ‘get in the bunker,’ that’s part of what our players have to accept. In any sport, you go to an away game, in any other sport, and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”

In short, don’t expect this issue to disappear anytime soon.

 

Garnett wins inaugural Corales

Brice Garnett went wire-to-wire to win the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic, the tour’s alternate event to the WGC-Match Play, for his first career victory. Garnett, who finished first on last year’s Web.com Tour regular-season money list, turned in a two-under 70 in brutal conditions to win the inaugural tournament by four shots.

“It was a hard day, but man it was a lot of fun to do this,” said Garnett. “I was just excited for the day. I knew it was going to be tough.”

Since the tournament was played opposite the Match Play, Garnett’s victory does not earn him a spot into the Masters in two weeks. But it does get him into the Sentry Tournament of Champions next January and secures his tour card through 2020, as well as earning him spots in the Players Championship and the PGA Championship.

 

Romo missed cut in tour debut

While Garnett won in the Dominican, Tony Romo stole the tournament spotlight, as the quarterback-turned-commentator was in the field via sponsor’s exemption. Similar to Steph Curry’s participation in a Web.com Tour event last summer, the invite drew its share of skepticism. Unlike Curry, Romo’s play did not silence the criticism.

The former Cowboys star actually enjoyed an auspicious start, playing his first 12 holes in even par. The final 24, however, were not as prosperous, as Romo went 15 over in this stretch to finish last.

“Short-sided a few times, made too many mistakes,” Romo said. “So a lot of stuff to learn from, and in a good way. I’ll be able to kind of assess why I didn’t play as well as I wanted to and then you go attack it. In a month from now I think we’ll see things a little better.”

Romo missed the cut by 16 shots and was six behind the next closest competitor. Romo won’t be the only celebrity to participate in a professional event this season, as musician Jake Owen is expected to play in the Web.com Tour’s Nashville Open in June.

 

Source: golfdigest.com

Tiger Woods is making another run at Bay Hill, a place he has won eight times in his PGA Tour career.

Woods made the turn in nine under, five off the lead, and then made three birdies in a four-hole stretch to jump to 12 under and get within one of co-leaders Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson.

Check out Woods’s birdies on the 10th, 12th and 13th below, and follow the final round here.

 

https://twitter.com/PGATOUR/status/975460832590012417

Source: Golf.com

There might be a few misguided souls that question the relevance and attraction of Tiger Woods in 2018. But they sure aren’t advertisers.

On Monday NBC Sports released its audience numbers from the Valspar Championship, where the 42-year-old Woods came this close to winning for the first time in five years. And according to the Peacock, viewers flocked to the broadcast in record numbers. The Golf Channel PR department reports that the final round at the Copperhead course drew a 5.11 overnight rating. A figure that is the highest non-major audience since the 2013 Players Championship (won by, you guessed it, Tiger Woods), and the highest non-Masters rating since the 2015 PGA Championship.

The group also announced that the final round lead-in on Golf Channel earned a 1.65 rating, becoming the highest-rated Golf Channel tour lead-in on record.

As for the digital front, only the last two Open Championships and the 2016 Ryder Cup drew higher than the 27.2 million minutes streamed on Golf Channel and NBC Sports platforms.

This is not particularly a surprise; two of Tiger’s other outings—the Farmers Insurance Openand Honda Classic—tied for the best TV marks of the season.

“He may be the biggest name in sports, matched only by Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali,” Neal H. Pilson, former president of CBS Sports and president of Pilson Communications, Inc., told Golf Digest after the Famers Insurance Open. “Does he still move the needle? The answer is yes.”

Tiger Woods is scheduled to play at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, an event he’s won eight times in his career.

Source: golfdigest.com

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Michelle Wie keeps putting herself back together again.

Broken down by injury or illness or slump so many times in her career, she keeps finding ways to overcome.

She did it again Sunday in brilliant fashion, coming from five shots behind in the final round to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore with a dramatic putt at the final hole, a 36-foot birdie from just off the front of the green.

Wie thrust her fist into the sky when that last putt fell, and then she punched the air twice more in giddy delight.

“I think that has to be the best putt of my career so far,” she said.

Four long, frustrating years after winning the U.S. Women’s Open, Wie was finally able to claim her fifth LPGA title.

“It’s been a tough journey since 2014,” she said. “It’s been kind of well documented. I’ve had some injuries, had a really bad year, just lost a lot of confidence. I’m just really proud of myself for pulling myself out of it.”

Wie’s parents, B.J. and Bo, were in the gallery following, as they always are. Her parents have been scrutinized and criticized as much as any in the sport over their handling of the former phenom. Wie, 28, said they were on her mind when that last putt dropped.

“When I made the putt, I could just picture my parents kind of celebrating,” Wie said. “My family believed in me relentlessly, and with that, I started to believe in myself.”

Wie beat a star-studded lineup Sunday that included 19 of the top 20 players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

“This is Asia’s major,” Wie said.

With a bogey-free 7-under-par 65, Wie prevailed in a crazy afternoon of high drama, breaking out of a four-way tie for the lead with that birdie at the last. She finished at 17 under overall, a shot ahead of Brooke Henderson (67), Danielle Kang (70), Nelly Korda (71) and Jenny Shin (65).

“Everyone was really clustered up there on the leaderboard,” Wie said. “I’m just really proud of myself for making a lot of birdies, and [to] keep going.”

So many players got in the mix on the back nine, with one player after another mounting charges. The course record was 64, but five players equaled or broke the mark in the final round.

After her closing birdie, Wie had to wait in the wings and watch Korda and Kang miss birdie chances at the last that could have forced a playoff.

The victory was sweet for Wie for a lot of reasons, including her inability to close out a 54-hole lead in this event a year ago.

“I just wanted to get revenge after last year a little bit,” Wie said. “I kind of came with a slight chip on my shoulder in the morning.”

Wie overcame so much winning that U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst in 2014, when she finally looked ready to realize all her potential in a run to No. 1. But, she was derailed by a finger injury later that summer, and then by hip, knee and ankle injuries that led to an awful slump after that. When she finally looked as if she was turning a corner again last year, neck spasms and an emergency appendectomy derailed her in the summer.

“Definitely, my team and my family and my friends have pulled me out of the hard times and kept me going,” Wie said. “There have been moments where it was hard. It was hard to keep going and to keep playing.”

Wie’s longtime swing coach, David Leadbetter, has been there through all the challenges with her since she was 13.

“I can’t list all the injuries Michelle has had in her career,” Leadbetter said at year’s start. “I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue.

“The main goal this year is really to see if she can go injury free.”

Leadbetter believes Wie hasn’t reached what she’s really capable of yet, but he’s hopeful this might be the year. There was promise loaded in Sunday’s victory.

 

Source: http://www.golfchannel.com/

By AP NEWS

Sunday, February 25, 2018

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) – Justin Thomas was down to his last chance when he delivered his most clutch shot of the final round in the Honda Classic.

Turns out he wasn’t finished.

Thomas nearly holed a gap wedge on the par-5 18th hole for a birdie to force a playoff with Luke List. Moments later, he hit 5-wood over the water, urged it to keep going and lost it momentarily in the darkening sky over PGA National.

“All I was looking at was the water to see if it splashed,” Thomas said. “And it didn’t. So I figured I was in the bunker, and then people started clapping and I could kind of see some little white dot on the green.”

That set up a two-putt birdie that made him a winner when List, who hit his own bold shot in regulation to the 18th to set up birdie, could only manage par in the playoff.

Thomas closed with a 2-under 68 and won for the second time this season. He also won in a playoff at the CJ Cup in South Korea last fall. With eight career victories, including seven in his last 31 starts on the PGA Tour, he moved to No. 3 in the world. He is one spot ahead of longtime friend Jordan Spieth for the first time, which was of little significance to Thomas.

“Not really,” he said. “Because there’s still two more spots that I want to climb.’

List, going for his first PGA Tour victory, shot 32 on the back nine and closed with a 69. His only regret was a tee shot wide right in the playoff that landed amid palm trees and left him little options. He went left against the bleachers, and hit a superb approach to about 25 feet and two-putted for par.

“Obviously, it hurts right now,” List said. “But I think that when I look back on it, I’ll be proud of the way I hung in there.”

Alex Noren (67) finished third. He was tied for the lead when he went for the green on the 18th, only for the ball to hit hung up on the side of the collar of a bunker, leaving him a tough chip. He missed a birdie chance from 20 feet.

Tiger Woods was briefly within three shots of the lead on the front nine. He closed with a 70 and finished 12th.

The 5-wood turned out to be the winner for Thomas. The wedge made it possible.

Jack Nicklaus was in the broadcast booth for most of the final round, leaving before Thomas and List reached the 18th hole. It might have all looked familiar to Nicklaus, the U.S. captain of the 1983 Ryder Cup at PGA National. The big moment that year was Lanny Wadkins nearly jarring a wedge on the 18th hole, a shot so meaningful to the outcome that Nicklaus kissed the divot.

Thomas missed the 18th fairway in regulation and had no choice but to lay up. List followed with his 4-iron to 35 feet.

“I have a lot of confidence in my wedge game,” Thomas said. “I knew if I got a decent number that I was going to be able to get inside 10 feet. That’s all I wanted was a chance to try to get into a playoff. And then ended up hitting a great wedge.”

Thomas and List finished at 8-under 272. It was the seventh playoff in 15 PGA Tour events this season.

Woods made that Sunday red shirt look a little brighter, at least for a while. With an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-4 eighth hole, he momentarily pulled within three shots of the lead. That only lasted the few minutes that it took Thomas to tap in for birdie on the par-5 third.

 

Woods made bogey to close out his front nine, and he still was four shots behind until getting swallowed up again by the water-filled closing stretch. He put his tee shot into water and made double bogey for the second straight day, three-putted the 16th for bogey and was out of hope.

“I made a big leap this week because I really hit it well,” Woods said. “I was able to control it, especially in this wind, which is not easy to do.”

Woods led the field in proximity to the hole on his approach shots at just over 29 feet.

Not to be overlooked was Sam Burns of LSU, who last year won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the top college player who received a sponsor exemption. Playing alongside Woods in such a chaotic arena, he was bogey-free for a 68 to tie for eighth. That will get him into the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook in two weeks.

Five players had at least a share of the lead. Only three of them stuck around until the end.

Webb Simpson missed the fairway on the 11th hole and had to lay up instead of taking on the water. That led to the first of three bogeys in a four-hole stretch and sent him to a 72, four shots behind. Tommy Fleetwood was tied for the lead until a three-putt bogey from long range on the 14th, and a bogey from the back bunker on the 15th. A birdie on the final hole for a 69 left him two shots behind.

Source: Golf.com

By SEAN ZAK

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

It was a quiet race for Chairman of the PGA Tour Advisory Council. That was until Billy Hurley III made a late splash this week.

Hurley III was going up against Jordan Spieth, Golden Child and no. 3 golfer in the world. It was tough competition, and with just one day left for Tour players to vote, he turned to a classic campaign strategy: mudslinging.

Hurley III released a video pinpointing all of Spieth’s flaws, from him being an elite, “one percenter” golfer, to the ways in which he treats his caddie Michael Greller. Beyond that, Hurley III called attention to his own military history.

The video swept across PGA Tour circles Monday, with many players tweeting it out saying Hurley III had captured their vote. Why? Well, because the video is hilarious and you’d need to watch it for yourself. The impact of the video was so great that Jordan Spieth himself even admitted he would vote for Hurley III.

Source: Golf.com

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – It had been five long years since he won, but that wasn’t what was on Gary Woodland’s mind when he made the final putt and pointed to the sky.

He was thinking of the family member who was gone but not forgotten.

“Yeah, that was just kind of a tribute to last year,” Woodland said after shooting a final-round 64 and beating Chez Reavie with a par on the first playoff hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. “Obviously, we lost a little girl, and being there, seeing my wife give birth to her, that’s real.”

Woodland’s eyes flooded with tears. “Just wanted her to know I still love her,” he said.

On March 29 of last year, Woodland released a statement that he and his wife, Gabby, had lost one of their unborn twins. He had just withdrawn from the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, and in the statement he added that “doctors will be monitoring the health of my wife and the other baby for the remainder of the pregnancy.”

Just over 10 months later, Gabby and their son, Jaxson, surprised him on the 18th green as the family celebrated Gary’s first victory since the 2013 Barracuda Championship. Woodland calls Jaxson his “miracle” son, and he and Gabby held him close and continue to do so after the trials of 2017.

“Really took off about four months,” said Woodland, who moves from 38th to fifth in the FedExCup standings. “But I found a way to get to the TOUR Championship, kind of battled through the end of the year, and I couldn’t wait for 2018 to start.”

Said Brennan Little, Woodland’s caddie: “His demeanor has been better. Last year was a bit of a mess. I mean, not really knowing his schedule, missing a few events, going home. Now the wife and the baby have been out; his attitude has been really good, which I think you can see in some of the rounds in Hawaii and San Diego, he got off to some bad starts and brought them back.”

Woodland was trending in the right direction after a T7 at the Sony Open in Hawaii and a T12 at the Farmers Insurance Open. Matt Kuchar, who hung around to congratulate Woodland after the victory, said he played nine holes with Woodland on Tuesday before the start of the WMPO and was wowed. “He was driving it just so well,” Kuchar said.

In addition to his wife and son, Woodland was cheered on by his parents, his sister and her husband, and others from back home in Topeka, Kansas. (He now lives in South Florida.) He got a text from his coach, Butch Harmon, on Thursday, urging him to put four good rounds together and not worry about the score. He did that, and recent putting lessons from friend Brad Faxon paid dividends, as well, as Woodland made 200 feet of putts on the weekend.

“I was in the zone,” he said. “I mean, I really had it going. My caddie asked me when I got done, did I know I made nine birdies. I didn’t even know I did that.”

Now it’s on to California for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and the resumption of a career that for five years was sidetracked by frustration, injuries and loss.

“It’s really hard to put in words right now,” Woodland said. “Last year we battled through it, couldn’t get to the off-season quick enough, couldn’t start 2018 soon enough. For [Jaxson] to be here, it’s obviously a miracle, but I’m just so excited to share this with him and my family, and hopefully it’s the start of something special.”

Source: PGATour.com 

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