DORAL, Fla. -- Believe it or not, Bubba Watson actually took a couple of days off last week after finishing fourth at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Yes, he hit about five balls at the PING factory on Tuesday but Watson didn't play 18 holes until Thursday as he prepared for the Cadillac Championship. That's a significant layoff for a guy who loves the game so much he gets geared up simply playing against his buddies at home.
So just what is the fascination?
"Can't perfect it," Watson said. "Never going to be perfected. ... You can birdie every hole but nobody has ever done it. It's possible. It's just never been done. It's possible I can win this week; it's just never been done yet. I just haven't won this week but there's all chances.
"It's fun. I love it. I love the challenge. I love the challenge of how my body is going to react that day. Am I going it beat you? What if you have your best game that day and I have my worst game? You just never know."
Watson had one of his best earlier this year when he won his second PGA TOUR event at the Farmers Insurance Open. He punctuated that victory with a 12-footer for birdie at the 18th hole Sunday at Torrey Pines to hold off Phil Mickelson.
But the big-hitting Watson's two most memorable shots this year are probably the driver off the deck he launched from 330 yards out at No. 18 at Kapalua or the 3-iron that rocketed 280 yards on the 11th as he beat Geoff Ogilvy at Dove Mountain. And which was the most difficult to hit?
"Well, the iron, because it was a 3-iron, it looked like a butter knife and I'm trying to hit it 280 over a bunker," Watson said. "Kapalua was easier because it was a driver is going to slice and I knew it was going to slice. So all I have to do is aim it out far enough and hit it on the downslope. Pretty simple it seemed like."
Watson said he's always hit those kind of shots -- he just wasn't on TV when he did. "Before I was doing these interviews in the media center, there was no camera around me so I probably hit a lot of those shots but nobody ever saw them," he said. "So now that I'm 15th or 20th in the world, now I get to be on camera a little bit more."
Watson isn't the type to pound balls on the range like Vijay Singh. So he learned to be creative while he was growing up playing the tree-lined fairways at Tanglewood Golf and Country Club in Milton, Fla., where Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum also honed their games.
And one of the most creative was the one Watson liked to hit on the sixth hole. That's where he cut the corner of a dogleg and "shaped it around" the home of Weekley's parents.
"I've never hit his house, put it that way," Watson said with a grin. "I've never hit his parents' house. I can go on record and say that." – Helen Ross
MARANA, Ariz. – Defending champion Ian Poulter and Stewart Cink just headed to extra holes in their opening match.
Poulter led 2 up through14 holes, but Cink made a 2-footer for birdie to win No. 15 and squared the match with a par at No. 17. The American had to convert a 5-footer at the 18th to extend the match.
The match figured to be a close one. Cink had finished second, third and tied for fifth in his last three Accenture Match Play Championships while Poulter owned an 18-7 record and the title entering the first round match,
Graeme McDowell is getting close to finishing off his match with Heath Slocum. The reigning U.S. Open champ lost the first hole with a bogey, but promptly got that back with an eagle at No. 2 and has steadily built a 5-up advantage through 12 holes.
Alvaro Quiros, who leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings, just 21-footer for birdie at the 18th hole to send his match with Y.E. Yang into extra holes.
What did a bogey-bogey finish mean for J.B. Holmes? That he’s not guaranteed a trip to the Masters or U.S. Open next year. It also means that Heath Slocum is as the two flip-flopped spots on the money list with Slocum 30th and Holmes 31st.
“Oh, wow,” Slocum said when informed afterward. “I came here for a good tournament and a good finish. I’m disappointed that way but if I did hold onto the top 30, I’ll be honest, it was a good week.”
Slocum, who finished well back at 6 under for the week, was also relieved that he doesn’t have to worry about it now.
“You can’t win them without getting in them,” Slocum said. “I feel like I’ve at least got a chance.” -- Brian Wacker
Heath Slocum ended the day the way he started it: Atop the leaderboard after a final-round 68 to win for the second time in just over a year.
Slocum led by as many as four on Sunday but saw that lead evaporate on a busy day of scoring that was highlighted by an 8-under 62 by Charles Howell III, who finished three shots back. In the end, however, Slocum survived while others faltered. A 60-foot birdie putt from just off the 16th green certainly didn’t hurt, either.
The win also moves Slocum from 43rd on the money list to 29th, which is significant in that if he can finish the year in the top 30 he’ll be eligible for a number of tournaments next year, including the Masters.
Now all Heath Slocum has to do is hold on. The leader at the start of the day just extended his advantage to two strokes thanks to a 60-foot birdie putt from just off the green on the par-4 16th hole. He’s no 15 under with two holes to play with Bill Haas and David Toms both 13 under.
Should Slocum win, it would be his first victory since last year’s Barclays, where he sank a 20-footer for par on the final hole to win by one.
What was once a four-shot lead for Heath Slocum has now been cut to just one. Thanks to four birdies over his last seven holes, David Toms is 14 under with six holes to play and only one back of Slocum.
Bo Van Pelt is also putting some pressure on -- he’s 6 under through 17 holes and two back. Given that the 18th hole is the most difficult on the golf course, though, he’ll probably need help.
The biggest thing that Heath Slocum said he took away from his win at last year’s Barclays was how calm he was not only all week, but especially on Sunday. His goal today was to replicate that feeling.
So far, he’s done just that, making the turn in 3 under to stake a three-shot lead with nine holes to play.
The only blemish for Slocum so far was a bogey on No. 9, where he missed the green on his approach then missed an 18-footer for par. That, by the way, was just the second green that Slocum has missed today. He’s also missed just one fairway.
Thanks to back-to-back birdies on Nos. 4 and 5, Heath Slocum is now in the lead after Joe Durant had briefly taken that position earlier.
Perhaps more importantly, Slocum has just two bogeys this week, which includes a streak of 50 holes without one between his first and third rounds.
Not surprisingly, Slocum is getting it done with accuracy again today with just one missed fairway and no missed greens in regulation. He’s also taken just eight putts through his first five holes.
What did winning The Barclays in 2009 do for Heath Slocum?
“It just confirmed what I always felt,” said Slocum. “…that I could compete with the best in any given week.”
Slocum certainly has done that this week, shooting his third straight 66 Saturday to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the McGladrey Classic.
At one point, Slocum went 50 holes between Thursday and Saturday without a bogey. He finally made one on the par-4 16th in what was the only blemish on a scorecard that was almost as perfect as the weather at Sea Island Golf Club.
Now he’ll try to conjure up the same relaxed feeling he had at last year’s PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup event, which he won with a 20-foot par putt on the final hole to finish one stroke ahead of Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington.
“Using that experience to this week, the thing is with The Barclays I was relaxed from Thursday to Sunday,” Slocum said. “Even on Sunday on the 18th hole I was way more relaxed. I don't know how I was that relaxed.
“That's what I'll try to do tomorrow. I'll go out and just try to play golf, have fun with it and just draw on the experience that I've been here before, I know how to do it. I know I'm going to hit some bad shots tomorrow, but I know I'm going to hit some good ones.”
The field might not be as strong this week, but the goal is the same for Slocum.
“It's still a golf tournament,” Slocum said. “I've always tried to play in my head like a golf tournament is a golf tournament, no matter if it's a major, a Playoff event or Fall Series event. It still means the same to me. Still ultimately what I'm trying to do is win a tournament.”
A win would move Slocum inside the top 30 on the money list and secure him a spot in the season-opening winners-only SBS Championship, among a host of other perks.
If he keeps hitting it the way he has all week, that shouldn’t be a problem. Slocum is second in the field in fairways hit and seventh in greens in regulation. He’s also 14th in the field in putting after what was his best day of the week on the greens Saturday.
“I made some putts, and that's kind of I would say the formula to get around this place; you're going to hit fairways, get away with a few of your misses and make a few putts,” Slocum said. “Every shot from this point on was going to be huge, every shot you save, every putt you make.” -- Brian Wacker
The last time Heath Slocum made a bogey was his first hole (No. 10) in the first round – until now. Slocum just bogeyed the par-4 16th, ending a 50-hole streak without a black number on the card.
Slocum, who is now tied for the lead at 12 under, missed the green long on the 403-yard par-4 then failed to get up-and-down, missing a 19-footer for par.
Joe Durant also has just one bogey today and as a result he’s tied with Slocum. How good has Durant been this week? He’s missed just four fairways and five greens in nearly three full rounds. He’s also taken just 84 putts, good for fifth in the field.
Overnight leader David Toms, on the other hand, bogeyed two of his last holes, Nos. 14 and 15 and that dropped him back to even par for the day and two shots back as Round 3 winds down. -- Brian Wacker