Not So Elementary

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Mike Glasscott
Bubba Watson needed a closing chip-in eagle to make the playoff and a 30-foot putt to win it at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai
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For the third time in 10 months American Bubba Watson found himself in the winner’s circle after a dramatic playoff victory at the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions at the Sheshan International course in Shanghai. Watson holed a 30 yard bunker shot for eagle to force a playoff with South African Tim Clark. Both players finished 11-under-par 277. In the playoff, Watson found the same bunker as they played No. 18 again. This time he fatted his third shot to 30 feet. Clark was still away and his birdie putt went begging. Watson, essentially on the same line as his bunker shot previous, trundled it down the slope and it went in.

Wiiner, winner, General Tso’s dinner.

Graeme McDowell, the 54-hole leader, Hiroshi Iwata, Rickie Fowler and Martin Kaymer all had chances to birdie the final hole to force a playoff. McDowell, Iwata and Fowler rounded out the podium (T3). Kaymer made double on the final hole to finish T6 after his third found the water. Did I mention he was my Group 2 AND OAD choice this week? Good. Good try, good effort.

At least that’s what I remembered at 3:45 AM EST.

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Why this doesn’t surprise gamers:

Watson has shown his pedigree to win on old-school courses such as Riviera this winter and Torrey Pines in the winter of 2011. He won, for the second time in four years this spring on an all-time course, Augusta. He’s racked up two wins by going low at TPC courses (River Highlands and Louisiana). And this week he won on a new-school course half-way around the world giving him his third win in calendar 2014.

He backed up his best season on TOUR with a win in his first event of the 2015 season. Anytime ball-striking is necessary, Watson will be involved in the conversation. Watson has also proved that when his short game is on (see: Augusta and this week) that he can make plenty of birdies as well. Watson is now 4-1 in playoffs (Travelers, Masters, Zurich and WGC-HSBC wins; 2010 PGA, loss).

Why this surprises gamers:

It’s hardly a secret that Watson’s game doesn’t travel that well outside of the USA. He has struggled in two Ryder Cups in Wales and Scotland. He was chided in France due to his lack of respect for their culture and his behavior on the course with cell phone issues. Also, his Open Championship record is nothing impressive as he’s only made three of six cuts and has nothing better than T23, He was 33rd at Sheshan two years ago before T8 last year that included a ton of putts. Watson proves to me after this performance that he should not be automatically written off if he’s playing outside the States in the future.

How Watson Won This Week:

Quite frankly, with a bag full of guts.

He began the final round two shots back and made his presence known with five birdies and 33 on the front to get to 12-under. He threw all of those shots away with a bogey on No. 16 and a double on the penultimate hole to fall back to nine-under. He showed his nerve by holing a must-make bunker shot for eagle to force himself into the playoff. His bunker shot in the playoff, essentially the same one he had on the final hole, showed how hard a shot it actually was because Watson left the playoff edition 30 feet short. Watson isn’t known for his ability to consistently hole putts but he made the that counted in the playoff.

For the week Watson led the field with 25 birdies and an eagle. He needed every single one of them because he also had three doubles and 10 bogeys. He only made 33 pars! He hit less than 50% of fairways and only 50% of GIR but he did cash on those greens as he was T18 in putts per GIR. This also tells me he got up-and-down from most places as well. Bubba Golf can grind with the best of them but making 25 birdies and an eagle is no joke either. Is it possible for him to have MORE confidence? I think so because his record abroad had been so abysmal. He’s overcome another hurdle and now has seven wins on TOUR. In those seven wins, five of them have been from off the pace and four in a playoff. That’s strong.

Moving Forward:

Gamers will argue that Watson would be a difficult sell in season-long leagues coming off his best year on TOUR. He was FREE MONEY last year as he came off a terrible, by his standards, 2013, and he cashed for players handsomely. He’s in his prime at 36 and has won two majors, a WGC and four other tournaments. Gamers love consistency and Watson hasn’t missed more than three cuts in a season since 2010. If he’s overpriced in season-long games he should definitely be in gamer’s plans on a week-to-week basis. Remember, he lost in a playoff at the PGA Championship. He was in the top five at Oakmont on Sunday in 2007. He’s won two Masters. I’m running out of places to write him off. That’s good news for gamers.

With This Win:

He racks up 550 FedExCup Points and $1.4 million. He joins a very loaded club of players who have won a major and a WGC event.

Déjà vu All Over Again?

After 28 wins in 45 events last season, Bubba Watson joins Ryan Moore, Robert Streb and Ben Martin as the USA has won four on the trot after Korean Sang-moon Bae kicked off the season for the internationals at the Frys.com.

Watson joins Nick Taylor, winner at the Sanderson Farms Classic and Robert Streb as the three players to come from behind to win on Sunday. Bae, Martin and Moore closed out their 54-hole leads.

After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. After six events in 2015, Martin, Streb and Taylor make it half of the winners!

Watson continues the tradition of premium players winning WGC events. He also carried on the tradition of premium players winning at Sheshan as Y.E. Yang is the only player outside of the OWGR top 30 to win here (non-WGC event). Watson was seventh in the OWGR entering the week.

Watson also continues the tradition of winners that have played on Ryder or Presidents Cup teams. #BigTimePlayers

Watson joins Kaymer, Mickelson and Yang as major champions to win this event.

Nine of the last 20 WGC winners have been major champions.

The most eye-opening part of this week was the scoring. The 11-under 277 was the lowest tournament winning total on this course. The average winning score the last four years was 20-under and the tournament record was set in the previous two events. I guess HSBC was tired of having Sheshan ran over. They grew up the rough and stuck pins all weekend. That didn’t help players, or gamers, this week.

All players in the top 17 last year were double-digits under par. There were five players this year.

On the “new” set up, the low round of the week was 65 in round two by Hiroshi Iwata and round four by Henrik Stenson. Stenson played the weekend 81-65. Good grief. What “nappy factor” does that cover?

Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys

Bae got the youngsters (under 30) on the board first in 2014-15 followed by Martin and Streb, both 27.

I annually keep track of the age of the winners on TOUR because I’m an ageist.

Bubba Watson, 36, and Ryan Moore (31) are on the board for the prime time guys (30-39 years)

The old guys (40 and over) were led by Lee Westwood, 40, who finished T20. He began Sunday T10 but a final round 73 killed gamers around the world.

Hindsight

What I learned from the finishers in the top 10

Tim Clark: Well gamers, you missed it. With his P2, Clark now has finished second at least one time in every season since 2005. He remarked that he was playing poorly and had zero expectations entering the week. He wasn’t lying as in his three events this season he finished T57, T42 and T56. Similar to Watson, it was Clark’s putter that woke up and pushed him into the playoff as he made five birdies in his last 10 holes to join Watson for extras. He racked up 22 birdies on the week after making 39 in his first three events of the year. Clark was T25 in 2010 and didn’t put a round in the 60s so I sympathize with gamers this week bellowing “where in the hell did this come from?”

Rickie Fowler: I usually like to see a guy put a tournament under his belt before I get back to endorsing him but Fowler proved to all of us this week that he might be cut from a different cloth. The long-time haters will point out that he didn’t win, again, but I’m not flustered. It’s not like he’s in his mid-30s and is carrying bags of scar tissue. He’s 25. He’s learning. Let’s make it eight of his last nine finishes in the top 10. This was his second top 10 in WGC events in 2014 as he was third at Match Play. For those keeping score, that’s top 10s in all four majors and two top fives in four WGC events. No point in fighting it. Get on board.

Hiroshi Iwata: He was third this week and entered the week third on the Japan Tour’s money list. He won for the first time in July at the Fujisankei Classic at 33 years of age. I heard the broadcast liken him to Jimmy Walker. In age, maybe, but let’s not get carried away. His T3 in his first WGC event deserves props as does his 65 on Friday to share the low round of the week. Known more for his temper than his golf, he held it together better than I thought he would playing in the final group on Sunday. His putt to make the playoff at least went PAST the hole so that shows me he had the guts to stroke it. His three birdies in four holes on the back to drag him back into contention when I thought he was going to fold also counts. I’m curiously optimistic but I can’t tell you the next time we’ll see him on TOUR.

Graeme McDowell: The 54-hole leader is now 0-3 in holding the lead heading into Sunday after his 12-footer didn’t fall on the final hole. He remarked in the presser after the round that he was impressed that he played that well because his game he felt was in such poor shape. His game is rarely in poor shape when the WGC comes calling as this is his fourth consecutive top 10 in stroke play events and fifth in six tries. The last three times he’s played Sheshan he’s finished third, third and T3. This course obviously fits his eye. After opening 10-under, he played the weekend even par to finish T3. Gamers would have gladly taken that Wednesday night. Winning golf tournaments is hard; picking winners is even harder. Enjoy the podium finishes!

Ian Poulter: New clubs, better attitude and a great week ball-striking vaulted Poulter into the top 10 for the first time since FedEx St. Jude in June (T6). He chided himself on Twitter about his putting remarking that he made his longest putt of the week, 18 feet, on Sunday and that’s not good enough. It was also his last hole of the tournament! His last four at Sheshan are T13, T13, second and T6. Write him down AGAIN next year folks. He likes it here as well.

Thorbjorn Olesen: He backed up his run of T21, Win, T28 with T6 this week and was one of two longshots in my preview column this week. He’s now made 11 cuts in a row worldwide and he remarked in his press conference that he enjoys tougher courses. #Noted.

Martin Kaymer: Bittersweet to wake up to see him dunking it in the pond on the final hole when all he needed on that par five was a birdie to force a playoff. I fell asleep when he missed a two-footer for birdie on No. 5. Glad that didn’t come back to haunt him. I’m bitter because he was my Group 2 pick and OAD pick this week. A par keeps him T3; his double bogey cost me $168k. A regular bogey would have seen him take fifth alone. I’m over it. Sort of. Whatever. In his last three at Sheshan he’s won on 20-under, made 29 birdies to finish T8 and doubled the final hole to rack up T6. At least he’s exciting if not infuriating. AUTO-MATIC PICK HERE FOREVER.

Marc Leishman: In 2008, his first time here, he didn’t break par in four rounds. In 2014 he opened with 72 but followed that with 71-69-69 to finish solo ninth. For the second week in a row during the chat we’ve had a reader pull out a name to hit the top 10. Leishman had only four of eight rounds this season under par and finished T46 and T39 in those starts. He was T72 (of 75 players) in fairways and T73 in greens. Fantasy golf doesn’t always make sense but his putter, 17th in putts per GIR, saved his bacon.

Jason Dufner: His final round 68 moved him up nine places to T10 as the American’s recovery from a neck issue looks to be complete. Dufner backed up back-to-back T26 or better with his first top 10 since losing to Adam Scott at Colonial in a playoff. Gamers will be licking their chops as he only pocketed a little over $1.6 million last season. If he’s healthy, he should double that.

Brandt Snedeker: He looks to be back on schedule after his WD from the Bridgestone Open in Japan. After a steadying T10 in Las Vegas he WD with stomach issues which left gamers wondering entering this week. He alleviated those fears with a very solid T10 that included T13 in fairways, T24 GIR and fifth in putts per GIR. He put up those numbers on a course where he was T55 last year with zero rounds in the 60s. THAT is the Snedeker gamers remember and are can’t wait to see again on a consistent basis.

Chalk Dust

A quick recap of what happened to the Chalk from my preview column

Sergio Garcia: He finally put it together on Sunday as his final round 69 pushed him up 13 spots to T28. Hey, he’s not going to finish second EVERY week! It’s disappointing when course form meets current form and eggs are laid. It happens EVERY WEEK!

Justin Rose: With his T7 and solo fifth in his last two at Sheshan, gamers were excited to see his T4 last week at Lake Maralen as a primer. Rose broke par once, 71, and finished T48. Hardly saw that coming!

Graeme McDowell: Listed third, finished T3, see above.

Adam Scott: Admittedly was tournament rusty before the week started but his T12 shows what kind of class he continues to carry. Bags and bags of talent and didn’t break 70 once this week yet still almost found a top 10.

Martin Kaymer: Hurts to type his name again…

Henrik Stenson: After the birth of his third child the “nappy factor” was in play. He shot 81-65 to jump back into the top 25 (T24) but 81 is 81. Barf.

Lee Westwood: He began Sunday T10 but his 73 sent him packing to T20. He needed another big Sunday in 2015 but didn’t get one. Another terrible week in the Golf Channel game for me. 2014 needs to end.

Hideki Matsuyama: Might be time for a rest as his last results on TOUR have been heading the wrong direction. He closed 73-75 to finish T41 after beginning Sunday T24.

Jamie Donaldson: I have to keep reminding myself that it is really difficult to play consistently well in these events. His T24 was decent but a second round 77, after closing with 75 last week, stunted his cash pickup. This was his first finish outside T13 in seven starts worldwide. Remember he KILLS at Lake Maralen and plays decently at Sheshan (T8 and T24).

Victor Dubuisson: WD with lower back issues. Watch Rotoworld.com for any injury updates as he looks to defend his Turkish Airlines title next week.

Ryan Palmer: He saved his best for last with 68 on Sunday, his first round under par of the week, to finish T22. His steady streak of T22 or better extends over eight events worldwide.

Charl Schwartzel: Four rounds over par and T64 in a field of 76. Turd in a punchbowl.

Ryan Moore: The hardest part of fantasy gaming is figuring out what to do with the previous week’s winner. His T28 was respectable and follows T50 last year, also off a win.

Gary Woodland: All four rounds over par in his first trip around Sheshan. I’ll stick to him in Malaysia instead.

Bubba Watson: See above.

Rickie Fowler: See above.

Chris Kirk: An excellent T14 could have been better but he couldn’t break par on Sunday firing 72 to drop out of the top 10. His maiden voyage confirmed his continued excellent play. Get on board.

John Senden: T35 and no rounds under par. He’s never been better than T19 or worse than T35. Solid roster filler but nothing else here.

Jimmy Walker: He birdied the last three to finish T35 so that tells you what kind of week he was having. He only made 12 birdies on the week total and made an eight on Sunday on a par four. This isn’t a track I’m circling him on in the future after T46 last year and T35 this year.

Sanderson Farms Championship

Canadian rookie Nick Taylor closed with a final round six-under 66 to run away with his first professional victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss. Taylor rounded the Country Club of Jackson in 272 shots (16-under) to defeat Americans Jason Bohn and Boo Weekley by two shots. American youngsters Peter Uihlein and Justin Thomas joined grizzled vet and 54-hole leader John Rollins two more shots back in T4.

Nick Taylor jumped on to the amateur scene in winning the 2006 Canadian Junior Championship and the 2007 Canadian Amateur. He was second at the NCAAs in 2008 and was 10th that same year at the U.S. Amateur so he’s had plenty of big-stage experience. He was the No. 1 amateur in the world for 20 weeks in 2009 and won the coveted Mark H. McCormack medal while playing at the University of Washington. It didn’t hurt that he was the low amateur at Bethpage Black (T36) and fired the T-lowest round ever for an amateur, 65! In 2010 he won the Ben Hogan Award as the best collegiate golfer and turned pro after the college golf season ended.

And then we didn’t hear much at all from this decorated player until late this summer.

He needed a big tournament to make the Web.com finals and he did.

He needed a big round on Sunday in the final Web.com Playoff event and he posted 63 to claim his TOUR card.

Sunday he posted 66 to win his first professional golf tournament. It took all of 13 events and just nine TOUR tries as a professional.

His pedigree suggested that this was coming but we’ve seen plenty of guys never win on the big circuit.

After opening the season MC, T56 and T86 last time out at McGladrey, gamers weren’t lining up to add him to their weekly or seasonal lineups. Oops. There were signs of life with 65 at TPC Summerlin and 66 at McGladrey but anyone who saw this coming this quickly, besides his mom, isn’t being truthful. In 24 Web.com events last year he only made 13 cuts and posted three top 10s so it wasn’t like he was a can’t-miss prospect in fantasy land.

Now he has our collective attention! He led the field in strokes gained total after finishing seventh in SGP and sixth in strokes gained tee-to-green. His 22 birdies, including eight on Sunday alone, led the field for the week. He began Sunday five shots off John Rollin’s lead but eight birdies and two bogeys saw him overtake the lead after going out in 32. Birdies on Nos. 13, 14 and 15 saw his lead open up to three shots and he was never challenged the rest of way making his bogey on the final hole inconsequential.

Moving forward it will be interesting to see how the 26-year old handles the job security. He won $720,000 and a two-year exemption so he should be resting easy tonight.

Hindsight

What we learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week

Gamers remember: this was the first ever event at the CCofJ.

Boo Weekley: The 41-year old Weekley returns to the top 10 for the first time since T5 at Byron Nelson in mid-May. This was his best finish since winning the 2013 Colonial. The question that always fools gamers with Weekly is whether or not he’s healthy. He WD at the PGA after an 80 and his best finish in four starts after that was T61 at the Barclays. He began 2015 MC and 70th with no rounds lower than 71 so playing him this week was nothing short of Devine Intervention. He made only three bogeys on the week and was sixth in SGP.

Jason Bohn: As I alerted you in the preview column, he would be handy if a bunch of birdies would be necessary this week. His 21 birdies were good for T2 and he co-led the field in GIR at almost 85%. He was T2 in strokes gained total so he had an excellent all-around week. His T2 finish at CCofJ is his third top 10 in a row in the state of Mississippi (T9 and second in the last two at Annandale).

Peter Uihlein: Uihlein’s T4 is second consecutive top 10 (T9, Perth) and eight consecutive T36 or better. That’s now nine on the bounce all over the world. Uihlein is trying to pull a Jordan Spieth as well as he doesn’t have status on TOUR and will need to rack up points or a win via sponsor’s exemptions. He’s won twice in Europe and is battle-tested internationally. I’m buying, especially after his closing 65 moved him up 15 spots to T4.

Justin Thomas: His slow start (MC, MC and 71st) in his first three starts might have discouraged gamers in the short run but his pedigree should keep them encouraged moving forward. His closing round 67 saw him finish T4, his best in 11 starts (T10 at Torrey Pines last year) as a pro. He led the field strokes gained total as well. Season-long gamers are not complaining and now weekly players will also need to pay attention.

John Rollins: The 54-hole leader carried his lead into Sunday for the sixth time in his career. For the fifth time in his career he couldn’t close the deal. His T4 is his first top 10 since 2013 St. Jude (T6). Last year he MC in half of his 28 attempts and chalked up TWO top 25s. He gained his card in the Web.com finals where he was T11 in their Tour Championship. He began 2015 MC and T73 so I don’t think there are many of us who were sweating it out on Sunday. I’m curious to see if this gets Rollins back on track but I’m hardly rushing to the front of the line especially after 73 on Sunday.

William McGirt: He began the day alone in second two shots behind Rollins but their final twosome combined to finish one-over. McGirt was even but that dropped him five spots to solo seventh. He’s now made 10 cuts in a row. Quietly hanging about.

Robert Streb: Free money again this week with his solo eighth. He was second in strokes gained tee-to-green and made only five bogeys. That’s now three straight top 10s in a row. #Sold

Blayne Barber: His closing round 66 moved him up 28 spots to T9 and his best finish in seven TOUR events. He had eight top 10s in his first 27 Web.com starts including a win, second and third over the last two seasons. He MC in his last two before this week but bounced back nicely on a new course this week. Barber is more famous for signing incorrect scorecards than he is playing golf but I have a feeling that’s going to change. He only made four bogeys on the week!

Garrett Osborn: This was his fourth TOUR event. He finished T9. He turns 30 on November 12. He picked up golf before his freshman year in college. Sounds like a Disney movie.

Carlos Sainz, Jr.: The Mississippi State University grad couldn’t putt this week but had no problem finding fairways and greens. He won on the Canadian Tour in 2013 and finished 74 on the Web.com money list last year. This was his second event on TOUR after his 72-75 MC at McGladrey. I would have had a better chance filling out Keno cards this week than finding random top 10 finishers here.

Mark Wilson: Seasoned gamers will tell you there is only one time to play Mark Wilson and it is now until the end of April. He’s posted back-to-back top 10s (T8 last week) for the first time since spring of 2013. To put this in perspective he had zero top 10s in 25 events last year. Heck, he had only one top 25. He turned 40 on Halloween. BOOOOO!

David Toms: After closing 66-67-65 last week at a track where he’s had plenty of past successes it’s understandable why gamers were cool on Toms entering the week. He was bogey-free and 10-under heading into the weekend. He made six birdies and six bogeys on the weekend to finish T9. Not surprising he was second in fairways but his usually steady putter is going to be as steady for the 47-year old moving forward. He’s earned a look in “Southern” golf stops, especially in light fields.

Coming TUESDAY Afternoon

I post my weekly preview column, Range Rover, and Playing the Tips. Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature.

Coming Wednesday

And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.