The Starter: Bubba’s Court Date, Hogan’s Alley, Adam’s Tailspin, and Whatnot

After two weeks of understudies stealing the final scene, maybe the star power of Tinseltown will get the PGA Tour’s top names to act like it.

Larry Fitzgerald is a champion outside his chosen field, while Tony Romo and Bubba Watson opt for a little moonlighting themselves. The Starter, though, embraces his role.


THREE HEADLINES

1. Ted Potter Jr. crashes the Clambake. We won’t say the Florida journeyman is the biggest upset tale in Pebble Beach annals. But consider that Potter had missed 46 of 83 PGA Tour cuts in his career entering last week. That said, he wins one of every 19 when he makes it to the weekend.

2. Once again, the PGA Tour’s A-listers cede the Sunday spotlight. Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Phil Mickelson in a Pebble Beach playoff had all the elements for serious sizzle. Alas, they were all part of a four-way tie for second. Familiar? Phoenix had a similar scenario a week earlier.

3. Tony Romo is set to play a PGA Tour event on a sponsor invite. The former Cowboys quarterback, now CBS’s top NFL analyst, will tee it up in the new Dominican Republic stop opposite the WGC Match Play. Romo is a scratch golfer who reached the final stage of U.S. Open qualifying in 2010.


AROUND THE TOURS

PGA: Genesis Open
Course: Riviera CC
Where: Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Defending: Dustin Johnson

LPGA: Women’s Australian Open
Course: Kooyonga GC
Where: Adelaide, Australia
Defending: Ha Na Jang

European: NBO Oman Open
Course: Al Mouj Golf
Where: Muscat, Oman
Defending: Debut event

Champions: Chubb Classic
Course: TwinEagles Club (Talon)
Where: Naples, Fla.
2017 champion: Fred Couples


RANKINGS REPORT

While Phil Mickelson’s recent run of form has allowed him to maintain his 24-year residence among the world’s top 50 – he’s now back up to No.35 – the same can’t be said for Adam Scott.

Last week’s missed cut in Pebble Beach dropped the former Masters champ to 51st in the newest rankings, ending a top-50 streak that dated back to December 2001.

Scott has two weeks to move back above the line or miss an invite to the WGC Mexico Championship.

It’s been a steep drop for the Aussie, who entered the last year’s Genesis Open ranked No. 7, and stood at No. 8 as recently as last May, following a T6 at The Players Championship.

Rank – Date – Recent Finish
14th – Jun ’17 (MC – U.S. Open)
17th – Jul ’17 (T22 – The Open)
19th – Aug ’17 (T66 – PGA Championship)
20th – Sep ’17 (MC – Dell Tech Championship)
29th – Oct ’17 (T50 – WGC-HSBC Champions)
31st – Dec ’17 (MC – Australian PGA)
39th – Jan ’18 (DNP – Winter Break)
51st – Feb ’18 (MC – Pebble Beach Pro-Am)


HISTORY SPOTLIGHT

Though Ben Hogan might not have been the most natural fit amid the Hollywood crowd that graced Riviera Country Club – finding solace on the range – he turned the place into “Hogan’s Alley” with his success at the venue.

Hogan won three times at Riviera in a 16-month span of 1947 and ’48 – two Los Angeles Opens and the 1948 U.S. Open in the event’s first venture out to the West Coast. His U.S. Open score of 8-under-par 276 smashed that scoring record by five shots, standing for 19 years.

Riviera also was the site in 1950 of Hogan’s first competitive rounds after the highway crash that crushed his legs and nearly took his life. And he nearly won – going to a playoff when Sam Snead birdied the final hole of regulation. Snead captured the 18-hole playoff by four.


STAT OF THE WEEK

Colombian businessman Julio Bell, playing on a sponsor exemption, turned in a 22-over-par 93 on the first day of the Web.com Tour’s Club Colombia Championship.

And that was his better effort.

He made it around the next day with a 105, leaving him at 56-over and officially DQ’ed. Bell picked up the game four years ago.


HOLE OF THE WEEK

No.10, Riviera Country Club
Par 4, 315 yards
2017 average: 3.87 (15th toughest)

A pioneer of the short risk/reward par-4, No.10 has stood the test of time and technology to remain one of the best of its genre.

Though listed at 315 yards on the scorecard, it’s frequently set up shorter, including one round at less than 300 in each of the past two years. The challenge? It’s a deep, narrow green surrounded by bunkers right, back left and behind the green. And trees complicate a left miss.

Of course, the two-shot option remains in play. The optimum angle is to hit an iron down the left side of the fairway, but that area is guarded by a bunker about 50 yards from the green.

One would think guys like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson would overpower No.10, but Johnson made four pars in last year’s victory and Watson has played it in 1-over in each of his two victories. On the flip side, Thomas Pieters made three birdies in last year’s runner-up finish.

2017 Genesis Open: 5 eagles, 117 birdies, 236 pars, 60 bogeys, 5 double bogeys, 1 higher


DID YOU KNOW?

Sunday’s other winner at Pebble Beach almost surely has better name recognition among sports fans.

Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald helped run away with the pro-am crown, teaming with Kevin Streelman to finish seven shots ahead of their nearest pursuers.

Fitzgerald, who sports a 13 handicap, is the first pro athlete to win the team crown since Dan Marino in 1988.


BUBBA’S COURT DATE

Dustin Johnson got his basketball genes via his grandfather, who was an All-ACC standout in the 1960s. Gary Woodland actually played college hoops at Division II Washburn.

Yet they’ll take a back seat to Bubba Watson when it comes to the NBA All-Star Weekend’s celebrity game.

The two-time Masters champion managed to wrangle the invitation for Friday’s contest, where he’ll share the court with retired stars Tracy McGrady and Paul Pierce, along with actors Jamie Foxx, Anthony Anderson and Caleb McLaughlin and rapper Common.

“As soon as I saw it was going to be in LA and the dates were the same time as the Genesis Open, I started petitioning,” he told reporters last week. “I said, ‘Hey, I’m available. I’d love to play.’ Finally they said I could.”

Watson played a little high-school hoops in Florida, though baseball was his second love behind golf. “I can shoot the ball a little bit,” he said, promising he wouldn’t venture into the paint.

Tour officials have granted Watson a Friday morning tee time, allowing him to fight traffic from Riviera CC to Staples Center for a 4 p.m. tipoff.


END QUOTE

“I’m not a person that likes to go hit a bunch of balls on the range or just work as hard as I probably should. When I start working on it … I’ll get results like this that happen. But then I’ll probably back away from it a little bit and have to regroup again,” Ted Potter Jr., explaining his acute up-and-down tendencies.


Credit: Getty Images


Jeff Shain

Jeff is a contributor to Pro Golf Weekly. He is the managing editor of Prime Sports, and a weekly contributor to PGATour.com. As a member of the Golf Writer's Association of America, Jeff has covered golf for nearly two decades, including stops at the Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald and The Island Packet in South Carolina.

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