Fairways And Roughs Title

Bubba Watson back to his old self at Waste Management Phoenix Open

By PGA Tour News
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Bubba Watson and his wife, Angie, adopted a son, Caleb, just prior to Watson winning the 2012 Masters. They adopted a daughter, Dakota, in December of 2014, the year Watson won his second Masters. Life and golf always coexisted peacefully. Until last year. “Last year was a challenging year for me and my family,” said Watson, who shot a bogey-free 69 to get to 6 under and within three of the early second-round leader, Daniel Berger (65) halfway through the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. “Me, physically, I went down to 165 pounds, which, I was up to 210 at one time during my career. I guess I fluctuate a lot. “So I wasn’t very healthy, as I needed to be last year,” he added. “So trying to get back healthy. My son’s in kindergarten, my wife had knee surgery, so there’s a lot of things we’re battling. But struggling on the golf course is not very bad.” A nine-time PGA TOUR winner, Watson, 39, comes into this week at 193rd in the FedExCup and 108th in the Official World Golf Ranking. (He hit a high of second in the world for four weeks in early 2015.) He prefers not to specify the nature of his illness, but whatever it was, he failed to seriously contend in any tournament, missed the cut by a mile at the Masters (74-78), and finished a career-worst 75th in the FedExCup. Today, Watson is back up to around 180 pounds, which, he says, “is about what I was when I won the two Masters.” After a brief bit of tinkering with his equipment, he has gone back to the ball he used in his prime. And, lo and behold, he’s playing well again. He made two birdies and no bogeys Friday, a continuation of the steady tee-to-green play he enjoyed at the recent CareerBuilder Challenge (MC), but in this case with a few made putts sprinkled in. “I missed the cut (at CareerBuilder) but I was tied for first in greens in regulation,” Watson said. “So my ball-striking is right where I want it to be. And my putting, I feel good over the putts, they’re just not going in. Right now, the ball’s just laughing at me.” Strictly speaking, Watson’s most recent victory was the 2016 Northern Trust Open, his second win at Riviera. Since then, well, uh, he opened a candy store, Bubba’s Sweet Shop, in July of 2016. Sometimes his mom, Molly, works behind the counter. So that was cool. But he’s still looking for that elusive 10th win on TOUR, which is now within reach in the desert. “You got to pick and choose your battles,” Watson said. “Last year I wasn’t very good at golf, but I guess I was good as a dad and a husband. I would rather be that than a good golfer.” OBSERVATIONS STALLINGS TRIES TIGER PUTTER: Scott Stallings (65, 8-under) missed the cut at last week’s Farmers Insurance Open, where he was a past champion. And it was a trend. The 32-year-old New England native, who spends his winters in Scottsdale, has slipped to 163rd in the FedExCup and 305th in the world. But with time on his hands, he began watching the Farmers telecast. When the cameras zeroed in on Tiger Woods’ putter, Stallings had an epiphany: He owned a Scotty Cameron just like the one Woods made famous. “It was sitting in my closet,” he said. “I pulled it out and went out and hit some putts with it on Sunday. It’s a Scotty Cameron that I’ve had forever, and I had never pulled the trigger in a tournament. I finally pulled it out and here we are.” Stallings took just 26 putts and shot 69 in the first round, and 31 putts after hitting all 18 greens in regulation Friday. He was one off the lead after the morning wave. THOMAS SHAKES OFF BAD HALF HOUR: Reigning FedExCup champion Justin Thomas was at 6 under and in contention after getting up and down eight times in eight chances and shooting his second straight 68. The secret to his second round? Not getting bogged down by the way he had ended his first. Thomas was cruising when he made a double-bogey 5 at the rowdy 16th hole, then pitched his second shot into the water and made bogey at the par-4 17th. In a half hour he had dropped three shots. “I just went to dinner (at Maggiano’s Italian restaurant) with my parents,” Thomas said after going bogey-free Friday. “I was going to get room service, but I knew I was going to be all miserable and sulky all by myself. I was like: I just need to get out. So I went to eat with them and had a good dinner and went back and got some sleep.” BERGER FRESH AFTER BREAK: Daniel Berger took the last two weeks off, so it was easy to forget that he was one of the hotter players on TOUR coming into the Waste Management, where he shot a second-round 65 to get to 10 under and lead the morning wave of players. Berger finished T11 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and a T14 at the Sony Open in Hawaii. It was a good start to 2018, but still, it felt somehow lacking after his breakout season last year, when he successfully defended his title at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, lost a thrilling playoff to Jordan Spieth at the Travelers Championship, and made his first Presidents Cup team. “It hasn’t been quite what I really wanted it to be,” Berger said of his start to this season. “I think the expectations from the last couple years were pretty high, so just trying to maintain a lower expectation and just have fun and play well, and that’s kind of what’s happened this week.” FOWLER ALL ABOUT FAMILY: After a 5-under 66 on Friday that was sparked by a 32-foot birdie at the par-4 first hole – one of seven birdies on the round – Rickie Fowler not only repeated his opening score, he iterated his surety that TPC Scottsdale is a track at which he could be posing for pictures with the trophy on Sunday with family and friends in attendance. "I know I can win here," said Fowler, who lost to Hideki Matsuyama on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff at the 2016 Waste Management. "It would be a perfect week to do it. Since I don't play as many tournaments on the West Coast, it (would) make for a fun Sunday night." DECHAMBEAU PSYCHED FOR SATURDAY: Bryson DeChambeau gushed about what he gleaned from Fowler during recent practice sessions together. Now the duo will be going out in the final threesome as co-leaders on Saturday afternoon. "It's going to be great," DeChambeau said of the promise of playing alongside his fellow Puma rep. "I'm super-excited for that opportunity and really looking forward to a fun day tomorrow." It will be his first foray into what promises to be an energy-charged Saturday at TPC Scottsdale, and DeChambeau said he isn’t ruling out a surprise for the fans at the rowdy par-3 16th hole. NOTABLES Phil Mickelson made a birdie putt of more than 34 feet at the par-4 18th hole, his fourth straight birdie, and shot 6-under 65. He's 7 under through 36 holes. Jon Rahm also reached the midpoint in 7 under after a 68 on Friday. Brandt Snedeker sits T19 and four strokes off the pace. He buried a birdie from 39 feet, 1 inch, at the par-3 16th hole. It was the longest of the day in The Coliseum. QUOTABLES I was probably playing golf swing versus playing golf a little bit.When we were making the turn, one of the nurses came up and said, 'We're happy we haven't seen you this year.'It would be awesome. This is my home tournament, growing up here my whole life and coming to the tournament and carrying the sign board. This is like the fifth major for me, so I'm excited to be playing well. CALL OF THE DAY WEEKEND OFF Tony Finau (Even) Jordan Spieth (Even) Ryan Moore (+1) Ryan Palmer (+1) Webb Simpson (+1) SUPERLATIVES Attendance 191,400 (Friday record) • Old record was 169,004 in 2017. Scoring • Full-field average = 70.05 Hardest hole Par-4 fifth (+0.264) Easiest hole Par-4 17th (-0.481) Longest Drive • Sung Kang = 372 yards at the par-4 sixth hole (bogey) Longest Putt • Derek Fathauer = 63 feet, 2 inches at the par-4 sixth hole (birdie) Longest Hole-out • Peter Malnati eagled the par-4 eighth hole from 189 yards. Par-3 16th hole • 3.023 (5th-hardest) • Closest to the pin: Charlie Beljan (37 inches) Par-4 17th hole • 3.519 (easiest) • 5 eagles (including Robert Garrigus, who drove it to 4 inches)

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