Bubba Watson’s favorite memory from two years ago at Quail Hollow wasn’t how close he came to winning.
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”That was the first time I beat Tiger Woods,” Watson said Wednesday. ”And you can tell him that.”
That kind of celebration for besting Woods is fading these days as it becomes more routine. And Watson thinks he knows why Woods is struggling: too much thinking.
”I’ll just go ahead and say it. I think Tiger’s going the wrong way,” Watson said. ”I think he’s so mental right now with his swing. Just go ahead and play golf. He used to hit shots, he used to bomb it, he used to do all that stuff.
”In 1997, I think he did pretty good. He won the Masters by 48 shots, whatever he won it by.”
Woods’ last victory came at the Australian Masters in 2009. That was followed by a sex scandal, coaching changes, swing tinkering and now another left knee injury at the Masters last month that forced him to skip this week’s tournament.
Woods, who won at Quail Hollow in 2007, finished fourth in 2009, two strokes behind winner Sean O’Hair and one behind Watson.
”When he came off he saw me standing right there and I was smiling,” Watson said about Woods. ”He said, ‘I know.’ He knew that I beat him for the first time.”
Most of the field beat Woods last year, when he missed the cut with his highest 36-hole score. His struggles have led some to question whether he’ll get the five more major championship titles needed to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.
”Sometimes I think a lot of the great players, they get too wrapped up in the mental part,” Watson said.
The carefree Watson, who won his second title of the year last weekend at New Orleans in a playoff, has never spent much time worrying about his swing or mechanics.
”When you start talk about other people trying to help you with your swing, look at this, look at that, I think they take a step back. So I’m hoping they all get coaches,” Watson said, smiling. ”Come on, Rickie (Fowler), get you a coach.”
ARNIE’S SUPPORT: Webb Simpson has earned Arnold Palmer’s respect for the way he handled a bad-luck, one-stroke penalty Sunday.
Simpson, winless on the PGA Tour, was leading at New Orleans by one shot and his ball was less than a foot from the cup on the 15th green when it moved. Simpson believed it was caused by the wind.
It didn’t matter. Since Simpson had already addressed the ball, he was assessed a one-stroke penalty. Simpson ended up losing to Watson in a playoff.
The U.S. Golf Association said this week it’s discussing modifying the rule. The 81-year-old Palmer, after a rare round of public golf in the pro-am Wednesday, thinks it should.
”I think they’ll look into that properly and I hope they find something to do that will alleviate things like happened to Webb last week,” Palmer said. ”He really deserved a little better fate. But he handled it extremely well, and that’s kind of the name of the game as far as I’m concerned.
”He handled it well. He’s a good player and he will win down the road. That’s the important thing.”
TESTING: In anticipation of hosting the 2017 PGA Championship in the middle of a Southern summer, Quail Hollow is testing strands of Bermuda grass on the chipping green in the practice area.
Golfer Mark Wilson believes that could make already treacherous greens full of ”double- and triple-breakers” even more difficult to navigate.
”I couldn’t get a ball to stop on that green within 20 feet of the hole,” Wilson said of the chipping green.
Quail Hollow, which plays with overseeded rye grass for this tournament, will switch to Bermuda for the PGA Championship because of the intense heat that’s expected in August.
”When they put that grass in and with these humps and bumps and then all of a sudden throwing in rock-hard greens into it that won’t hold, it’s going to be a crazy challenge,” Wilson said.