Yeah, that’s a part 3 that Bubba Watson is in the middle of. A par 3 on a desert-resort golf course outside of Scottsdale. And that for 1 week a year, is completely enclosed in stands, seating, with bars underneath, 20,000 people, and the requisite mayhem you’d expect. But before we explore that further, a quick recap of last week’s A&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Ryuji Imada did shoot even par the first day, but couldn’t back it up and missed the cut by about a dozen strokes.
A 2nd round 76 derailed Kevin Kisner’s chances, and he missed the cut by 6.
Chris Kirk opened with 74, but improved each day, yet he was still 2 off the cut line and didn’t play Sunday.
Brian Harman did make the 54 hole cut, but he along with 12 other pros did not play Sunday due to the large number of players who made it on the number. The dreaded “MDF” designation rears its ugly head again.
Greyson Sigg was sitting pretty in the top 10 Sunday, but faltered and fell to T33.
Brendon Todd scored very consistently and his 10 under par notched at T16 finish.
And Keith Mitchell messed around and hung onto a T12 spot.
Now the Tour heads east from NoCal and hits the Arizona desert for one of the more famous, and infamous, PGA Tour stops.
Tournament: WM Phoenix Open, February 10-13, 2022
Course: TPC Scottsdale (Stadium), par 71, 7,261 yards
Purse: $8.2 million total, $1.476 million to the winner
Defending Champ: Brooks Koepka played spoiler, shooting a final round 65 to push past crowd favorite Jordan Spieth. Having been struggling to regain his winner’s form for 18 months, Spieth carded an electric 61 in the 3rd round and had his faithful hot and bothered for a return to glory. But Brooksy chipped in for eagle on 17 and snuck into a 1 shot victory.
Fun Fact: It is apparent that this week is more about the fans than the golf on the course. The fact that the tournament is rebranded to take the words “Waste Management” and shortened to “WM” is a clue... no longer can everyone call it the “Wasted Management Open” as ode to the copious drinking and party atmosphere. So to give you a taste of what you would see on the grounds, I’ll just leave you with this.
TV Times: With the Super Bowl on NBC, CBS will take the golf coverage and Jim Nantz will still be gainfully employed. Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m.-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (CBS). And plenty more coverage on PGA Tour Live via ESPN+.
‘Dawgs in the Field: 10. Brian Harman, Chris Kirk, Russell Henley, Sepp Straka, Keith Mitchell, Hudson Swafford, Harris English, Bubba Watson, Brendon Todd, Kevin Kisner.
So the field is replete with former Bulldogs; Greyson Sigg is the only PGA Tour member and ‘Dawg not teeing it up this week. And this is the season debut for Bubba Watson - he of 12 Tour wins, 2 Masters, and a journey of mental health.
Bubba stayed quiet last fall, making a couple of Georgia football games, but not playing any golf publicly. He did make a start on the Asian Tour, the Saudi International held in King Abdullah Economic City (I adore that name). One would expect a lot of rust on his game.
But Gerry Leston Watson Jr. doesn’t do the expected. He played solid all week, and finished his last two holes birdie-eagle to take a one stroke lead into the clubhouse. Harold Varner III would need birdie-birdie on the same holes to force a playoff. The proud alum of THE Eastern and Pitt County University of Northern Carolina did birdie the 17th, and sank a 92 foot putt from off the green on 18 to win the tournament outright.
Did Bubba pout? Cry, as he has often done on camera? No. He physically ran from the scoring tent/clubhouse out onto the 18th green to hug and congratulate HV3 on his victory. It’s well covered in this week’s golf media, a close second in coverage to the victory itself. That’s DGD status right there.
Watson made the flight from halfway around the world and will tee it up for his first PGA Tour event since last fall. He’s played well here, a couple of runner-up finishes and is a former resident of the area. And based on how well he played last week against a pretty stout field, there’s reason to believe he will contend yet again.
I’ve never attended this tournament, and don’t particularly care to. I’m old and much more in the camp of “hey you kids, get off my lawn!” than double-fisting Bud Light Platinum aluminum bottles with recent Arizona State alums working in marketing. But I have to admit the people-watching is probably second only to the Masters - people dressed to impress and not necessarily focusing on the sport. I imagine based on pure numbers it is the number 1 tourney in the world with fans wearing stiletto heels - a serious no-no on manicured turf where the heels will sink with every step and high ankle sprains aplenty. And doubly so because of the desert hardscapes with rocks everywhere. Add in the heavy drinking, and this has to be a comedy of the highest order.
If 6 hours of pre-game coverage of the Super Bowl just isn’t doing it for you, and you come to the realization that the Puppy Bowl is actually staged and not competed fairly, then you have some live sports to follow this weekend. Enjoy the golf, enjoy the weather, and as always...