Pro Golf Weekly

The Starter: Legends Pass, Majors Arrive, Plus Payne, Paris, Bubba, Bush, and Whatnot

Nobody on the PGA Tour – heck, on any of the world’s top tours – has more wins than Bubba Watson in 2018. Though it’s another month until the Open Championship, this marks a double-major week elsewhere.

Plus, The Starter has to wonder whether Bush 41 will wind up outliving the event he helped tee off.


THREE HEADLINES

Credit: Getty Images/Tim Bradbury

1. Bubba Watson triples his pleasure at the Travelers Championship. Not only was Sunday’s come-from-behind charge his third victory in Connecticut, it was his third in the past four months – more than any other PGA Tour pro in 2018. And he capped it off with a closing 3 at TPC River Highlands.

2. After a four-day wait, Phil Mickelson finally apologizes. “I know this should’ve come sooner, but it’s taken me a few days to calm down,” Lefty said in a text message to selected reporters. The Hall of Famer went on to call his striking a moving putt on U.S. Open Saturday “clearly not my finest moment.”

3. Golf mourns loss of Hall of Famers on back-to-back days. Hubert Green won the 1977 U.S. Open while playing under shadow of a death threat, later adding the 1985 PGA Championship. His passing was followed by Australia’s Peter Thomson, whose 84 professional victories included five Open Championships.


THIS WEEK’S LINEUP

Credit: Getty Images/Andrew Redington

European Tour: HNA Open de France
Course: Le Golf National (L’Albatros)
Where: Paris, France
Defending: Tommy Fleetwood

PGA Tour: Quicken Loans National
Course: TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm
Where: Potomac, Md.
Defending: Kyle Stanley

LPGA Tour: KMPG Women’s PGA Championship
Course: Kemper Lakes GC
Where: Kildeer, Ill.
Defending: Danielle Kang

PGA Tour Champions: U.S. Senior Open
Course: The Broadmoor (East)
Where: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Defending: Kenny Perry

Web.com Tour: Lincoln Land Championship
Course: Panther Creek CC
Where: Springfield, Ill.
2017 champion: Adam Schenk


RANKINGS REPORT

Credit: Getty Images/Mike Ehrmann

Though Bubba Watson may have more wins than anyone else on the PGA Tour this season, it doesn’t put him at the top of the FedExCup standings.

That spot still belongs to Dustin Johnson, whose two wins and six other top-10s leave him just 27 points ahead of No.2 Justin Thomas (2 wins, 4 other top-10s). Watson jumped seven spots into third, with just two top-10s beyond his victories leaving him 211 points off the pace.

Just eight weeks remain, by the way, before the regular season concludes and the top 125 in points move into the FedExCup playoffs.

FEDEXCUP TOP 10

POS/PLAYER(LST WK)/PTS
1. Dustin Johnson (1) – 2,013
2. Justin Thomas (2) – 1,986
3. Bubba Watson (10) – 1,802
4. Justin Rose (3) – 1,743
5. Jason Day (4) – 1,603
6. Bryson DeChambeau (5) – 1,578
7. Patrick Reed (6) – 1,491
8. Phil Mickelson (7) – 1,464
9. Patton Kizzire (8) – 1,335
10. Webb Simpson (9) – 1,307


STAT OF THE WEEK

Credit: Getty Images/Tim Bradbury
Not only did Bubba Watson’s victory make him the PGA Tour’s only three-time winner this year, he’s also the only person to collect three trophies on any of the world’s significant tours in calendar year 2018.

A scan of 10 top tours worldwide, in fact, shows just 10 other players with even two victories.

Dustin Johnson and Jason Day join Watson in winning more than once on the PGA Tour, while the LPGA has played 17 events with just one double winner – Ariya Jutanugarn.

Two players have won once each on different tours: Jon Rahm (PGA Tour/European Tour) and Minjee Lee (LPGA/Ladies European).


HOLE OF THE WEEK

Credit: Getty Images/Andrew Redington

No.18, Le Golf National
Par 4, 471 yards
2017 average: 4.42 (toughest)

Requiring a second shot to an island green, the finishing hole for this fall’s Ryder Cup figures to ramp up even more pressure on any match that goes the distance at Le Golf National.

Of course, not every match will go the distance. On the other hand, everyone teeing it up at the HNA Open de France is faced with a daily encounter with No.18. A year ago, more than one-third walked away with bogey or worse.

It’s not just the second shot that’s built to intimidate. Water runs fully along the fairway’s left, pot bunkers are on the right and the landing area tightens at about 300 yards.

“It’s a tough tee shot,” said France’s Alexander Levy, “because you must leave yourself with a short club to then attack the island green. But too left or too long and you’re in the water hazard; too right and you’re in the rough.”

Four pars were enough last year for both winner Tommy Fleetwood and runner-up Peter Uihlein. At the far end of the spectrum was a pair of 9s, including one by former Open Championship winner Darren Clarke.

2017 Open de France: 0 eagles, 40 birdies, 264 pars, 101 bogeys, 46 double bogeys, 11 higher


HISTORY SPOTLIGHT

Credit: Getty Images/Sport

Kemper Lakes Golf Club, site of this week’s Women’s PGA Championship, welcomes its second major championship nearly three decades after its first. That was the 1989 PGA Championship, best remembered as where Payne Stewart made his major breakthrough.

The brash Missourian had compiled 10 top-10 finishes in majors over the previous 4 ½ years, including two top-four finishes at the Open Championship. Things didn’t look any more hopeful after an opening 74, but he rebounded with a second-round 66 to put himself back in the hunt.

Mike Reid appeared on pace for a wire-to-wire victory, holding a three-shot advantage over Stewart and Curtis Strange with three holes to play. But the man nicknamed “Radar” found water at No.16, with the ensuing bogey and Stewart’s closing birdie up ahead cutting the margin to one.

Reid flew the green at the par-3 17th, then three-putted from 14 feet for a double bogey that dropped him behind Stewart. Reid still had a chance to force a playoff with a 4-foot birdie chance at No.18 but missed.

“What he did on 17 is very uncharacteristic of Mike,” Stewart said, “but his misfortune is my gain. This is unbelievable. I was wondering when my time would come to win a major.”


DID YOU KNOW

Credit: Getty Images/Joe Amon/The Denver Post

When golf first came to The Broadmoor in 1918, the Donald Ross design was the highest golf course in the United States at some 6,400 feet above sea level. Ross himself declared the Colorado Springs layout his best work – high praise considering his previous project had been Pinehurst No.2.

In 1948, the resort brought in Robert Trent Jones Sr. to design nine additional holes, which joined with nine of Ross’ originals to comprise the East course. Sixteen years later, Jones returned to carve out nine more holes to mix with the remaining Ross holes as the West course.

This week’s U.S. Senior Open will be the seventh USGA championship at The Broadmoor, including Jack Nicklaus winning the 1959 U.S. Amateur and Annika Sorenstam’s first major title at the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open.

Other notables: The 1982 U.S. Women’s Amateur (Juli Inkster), 2008 U.S. Senior Open (Eduardo Romero) and 2011 U.S. Women’s Open (So Yeon Ryu).


A SWAN SONG IN D.C.?

Credit: Getty Images/Hunter Martin/WireImage

It was 11 years ago that a former U.S. president – George H.W. Bush – was given the honor of hitting the ceremonial first tee shot at the new AT&T National. With Tiger Woods as host, Congressional Country Club as the site and a theme of honoring U.S. servicemen, the concept was an instant hit.

The fanfare of 2007 has given way to indifference in 2018.

The tournament was without a sponsor until just a few weeks ago, when Quicken Loans agreed to a one-year extension – as a bridge to its sponsorship of a new event in Detroit next year. Congressional has severed ties.

Even Woods has been less involved – part owing to injury and last year’s rehab stint to deal with prescription painkillers, part as his firm has poured its energy into the Genesis Open near his southern California roots.

Woods is joined by just four of the top 30 in the current world rankings. And while journeymen pros often struggle to get into invitational fields, this one includes such bygones as Ben Crane, Jason Gore, Hunter Mahan and Shawn Stefani.


END QUOTE

Credit: Getty Images/Stan Badz

BUBBA’S RIDE
“It’s been an amazing ride. My whole career, but this year has been outstanding. After last year, who knows what to expect. It’s amazing what some good energy and some healthy energy will do,” said Bubba Watson following his win at the Travelers Championship. Watson now holds down No. 13 in the Official World Golf Rankings, gaining 104 spots since January. A mystery illness derailed his 2017 campaign, causing him to lose 25 pounds.

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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