This was no classic Masters, but it was certainly validation for Gerry Watson, the 35-year-old golf phenom from Baghdad, Florida.
Called Bubba since he was a baby in the hospital, he backed up his playoff win of two years ago by dominating the 78th staging of the Masters, here at Augusta National.
Judging by his performance, which was both strategic and entertaining, he has the tools to win several more Green Jackets and there won't really be a way to Bubba-proof the course.
Patrick Reed’s victory at the WGC Cadillac Championship was validation for sure. Validation in his golfing talent, proof of his own inner-belief mechanism and justification of the long and endless amount of work required to succeed at the highest levels of the game.
The 23-year-old delivered the goods under an enormous spotlight in Florida on Sunday and he wasn’t shy about projecting his ambitions in public.
The Texan's post-round comments about seeing himself as a world top-five player can be misconstrued as arrogance, but they are also an indication of the strength in depth that is emerging among the Tiger generation and their bulletproof certainty about where they see themselves going in the game. FULL POST
Form can fluctuate, but class is ever present. It’s a saying that comes straight from the commentator's book of clichés, but is intriguing nonetheless, especially when examining the potential fortunes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in 2014.
Woods is the undeniable world No.1, with five victories last year on his home circuit. McIlroy, on the other hand, endured his most frustrating season after some incredible hype 12 months ago, only to rescue his year with a splendid victory at the Australian Open in December.
The form right now would suggest that Northern Ireland’s young star is on the verge of reclaiming his rightful position at the top of the game, whilst Woods, who arrived here in Dubai on Monday night, could not have been pleased with his disappointing performance on the PGA Tour at the weekend, where he missed the 54-hole cut. FULL POST
Actions speak louder than words. So for Rory McIlroy, a missed cut in Abu Dhabi in his opening event of the 2013 season was far from ideal. The world No.1 was the talk of the sports world at the beginning of the week as Nike Golf announced his arrival as their newest and most significant signing. He is believed to have signed one of the biggest sponsorship deals in sports history with figures of $200 million over five years being suggested.
At the heavily stage-managed launch by Nike, McIlory confirmed he was making a wholesale change to Nike products throughout the bag. After an eight-week break since he closed out the 2012 season in stunning style up the road in Dubai, the plan for the new year was all about change. He would be playing a driver, fairway woods, irons, putter and ball, all made by Nike. Except that by Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship he had reverted back to his old Titleist Scotty Cameron putter for the second round.
It’s a new phase in McIlroy’s life and career. An established professional of five seasons, with so many expectations realized and so much hype justified, the two-time major champion and undisputed world No.1 was ready to move to a new level. Part of this was his long-held dream to become a sporting brand ambassador on a par with the likes of his heroes Tiger Woods, tennis stars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and footballer Wayne Rooney of McIlroy's beloved Manchester United.
With the Nike deal signed and no more logos or brands on public display other than the “Swoosh”, McIlroy is in the perfect position to focus all of his attention on his true goals, those of winning major titles and in the short term, gearing up for the Masters at Augusta and the realistic ambition of winning his first green jacket. No longer does he play for money, he has riches beyond his wildest dreams and he’s only 23. All that he lacks are air miles in the competitive sense with his new equipment.
Mcilroy’s performance in this pipe opener for his season in Abu Dhabi was far from satisfactory, but he will take it on the chin. He’s too good not to sort his game out and as his caddy JP Fitzgerald has stated, “he could play with a hockey stick and orange and still win!”
By the sound of it McIlroy’s off-season was far from relaxing. High altitude training and some downtime in Colorado with his girlfriend, the tennis player Caroline Wozniacki was followed by trips with her on the tennis circuit to South America.
After a few relaxing days celebrating Christmas at his new home with his parents and the Wozniacki family, he was quickly into some club testing with the Nike gurus at the Bear’s Club in Palm Beach near his Florida home, before flying to Australia to support his girlfriend as she warmed up for the Australian Open.
He returned to Dubai where he began an intensive week-long series of club fitting and testing at the Els Club before driving to Abu Dhabi for a busy few days of hype regarding his launch as the new face of Nike Golf and another distracting day of speculation over the election of a new Ryder Cup captain. One in which he became very much caught up in as a major supporter of Paul McGinley.
McIlory's very public show of support and outward displays of a conviction regarding how the captaincy issue should be dealt with, gave us a glimpse into the strength of mind which he possesses.
He will be smarting at his poor display and missed cut at Abu Dhabi. With four weeks until his next appearance in Arizona at the Accenture World Match Play, we should expect to see a more commanding performance from McIlroy as he truly begins his build-up to Augusta.
This performance was far from perfect and not what Nike will have desired, but at the end of the day there’s only one man that matters and he will be ready to continue his march towards his sporting destiny. The time for talking is over. Let’s see some action Rory. Just do it.
Paul McGinley emerged as the new European Ryder Cup captain after receiving the very public backing of the key members of last September's winning team at Medinah.
Led by world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the core group of stars such as Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari made their opinions known after it appeared that Colin Montgomerie might make a surprise return to the role for 2014. FULL POST
Two major championship wins at 23 years of age: Rory McIlroy’s validation as a world-class golfer continues to grow and grow.
He has become the sixth youngest multiple major winner in history, and how timely that he pushes Tiger Woods to seventh on that list, eclipsing him by a mere five months.
McIlroy is not targeting Woods' records however and is emphatic when discussing his own potential to carve out a distinguished career: “I mean, I've won my second major at the same age as he had. But he went on that incredible run like 2000, 2001, 2002 and won so many. FULL POST
Golf has just been injected with a breath of fresh air, and it’s taken a dramatic Masters Tournament for the golf world to fully appreciate what it now has on its hands.
Bubba Watson is the new Masters champion. Very few could have predicted that he would have the tenacity to bring this one home, despite recent good form and an outrageous talent to boot.
"Bubba Golf," as he calls it, can only be played by the owner: Booming drives, all played with shape, allied to a hit-it-find-it-and hit-it-again approach. It's very refreshing on the professional golf circuit. He plays the game in a unique way, relying totally on creative shot-making that cannot be taught. FULL POST
Augusta National, where the Masters Tournament is being played for the 76th time, is without doubt the place to be in world golf right now. It is a venue that strikes a chord with even the most casual of sports follower because of its unique qualities.
It’s the only one of professional golf’s four “majors” to be played at the same venue each year. It awards a green jacket to its winner and guarantees an annual invitation to that special player to play in the tournament for the rest of their competitive career.
It celebrates the values of its founder Bobby Jones through its tight rein on old-school adherence to etiquette and tradition. In other words, you behave yourself! It is no surprise that Augusta's club president refused to comment publicly this week on the debate over female membership - it is not their style.
There is no other place quite like Augusta and, as a result, demand for tickets is at a premium. Grown men, captains of industry and regular golf fans are all like children anticipating Christmas. This is the Disneyland of golf and, quite simply, the only show in town. FULL POST
Tiger Woods' victory at Bay Hill was his 72nd on the PGA Tour. For the 36-year-old, that’s two victories for each year of his life.
The reality is that he’s now been in the winners’ circle on his home circuit 72 times in nearly 16 years on Tour. Pretty special and just one short of the legendary Jack Nicklaus and 10 behind Sam Snead's all-time record.
That he has come through a torrid time these last two and a half years, mostly self-inflicted, and re-emerged in the style of old, gives hope not least to himself regarding his next challenge: that of winning a major championship for the first time since the U.S. Open in 2008.
All eyes are on Augusta National next week and his bid to win a fifth Green Jacket at the Masters Tournament. The stage is set for one of the all-time great Masters, with so many of the world’s elite peaking for the first major of the season. FULL POST