BBC BLOGS - Rob Hodgetts

Archives for April 2012

All hail the feel and imagination of 'Bubba golf'

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Rob Hodgetts | 06:57 UK time, Monday, 9 April 2012

Forget lessons, just laugh in the face of caution and play "Bubba golf".

That is, after all, what won the Masters for Bubba Watson.

The exuberant American is of the "grip it and rip it" variety. Self-taught, a huge hitter with a wildly unorthodox swing and a liking for nothing more than "goofing around" off the golf course, the 33-year-old snatched his first major title on a tense final afternoon at Augusta.

Everyone expected a left-hander to make a charge, but most thought it would be the other one.

Watson is similar to Phil Mickelson in that he plays through feel and imagination and conjures shots most others don't see.

When it comes off, this approach seems genius. Watson's deliberately hooked second to the heart of the green from behind trees on the 10th, the second hole of a play-off with Louis Oosthuizen, was in this category and set up his victory.

"My caddie has always called it 'Bubba golf'," said Watson. "We always say it walking down fairways. I just play the game, the game that I love. And truthfully, it's like Seve (Ballesteros) played. He hit shots that were unbelievable. Phil Mickelson hits the shot, he goes for it.

"That's what I do. I just play golf. I attack. I always attack. I don't like to go to the centre of the greens. I want to hit the incredible shot; who doesn't? That's why we play the game of golf, to pull off the amazing shot.

"I just play golf, fun-loving Bubba, just try to have fun and goof around."

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Phil Mickelson the man to beat after setting up scintillating Sunday

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Rob Hodgetts | 08:54 UK time, Sunday, 8 April 2012

An air of expectancy hung over Augusta. Moving Day they call it, but it was more of a shuffle. Until Phil Mickelson stepped on the gas.

The electrifying American ignited the famous roars again in what has become something of a Masters tradition, like the par-three contest, pimento sandwiches and veteran Fred Couples having an early run.

The popular left-hander didn't disappoint on Saturday, and has helped set up a scintillating Sunday.

Mickelson's eagle on the 13th to grab a share of the lead prompted the first ground-shaking roars of the weekend. He followed it up with an outrageous high flop shot from behind the 15th green to set up another birdie.

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A heady tale of two former Masters Champions

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Rob Hodgetts | 06:19 UK time, Saturday, 7 April 2012

Two past champions, two very different rounds. Fred Couples defied his 52 years to breeze into a share of the Masters lead; Tiger Woods appeared a man beset by demons as he fought to stay in the tournament.

Couples fired a stunning 67 to join fellow American Jason Dufner at the top of the leaderboard, 20 years after claiming the Green Jacket.

With a laid-back, easy-going demeanour, long, smooth swing and an ability to keep performing at the Masters, Couples is a firm crowd favourite.

"He's just cool. I hope I'm that cool when I'm 52," said Rory McIlroy.

Despite being beset by back problems, Couples - nicknamed "Boom Boom" earlier in his career because of his power - is a course specialist at Augusta and went close as recently as 2010 when he finished sixth after leading with a first-round 66.

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The mysterious Rae's Creek

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Rob Hodgetts | 17:19 UK time, Friday, 6 April 2012

If lightning quick putts and huge slopes were not enough of a problem on the greens, there is a hidden influence at work.

Trickling innocently in front of the 12th green and behind the 11th green, the shallow creek is the lowest point on the property, some 160ft below the first tee.

And those in the know, know it tugs silently at every putt on the course.

"If in doubt, every putt goes that way," Paul Casey told me.

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Serene Westwood sets course for Masters cruise

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Rob Hodgetts | 08:01 UK time, Friday, 6 April 2012

Lee Westwood bridled earlier this week when asked about the impending Tiger v Rory show at the Masters.

But after hitting a serene 67 to lead the Masters by one after the first round, the laconic Englishman appeared vindicated.

Westwood's response to questions about a "two-horse race" was to pointedly remind the press there were other players in the field.

"I didn't really try and remind everybody," he grinned on Thursday. "I was just trying to be a voice of common sense."

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The view from Amen Corner

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Rob Hodgetts | 20:51 UK time, Thursday, 5 April 2012

It's just after breakfast in an enchanting corner of Georgia. A green curtain of trees forms a backdrop, the lawns are manicured to perfection and a stream slides silently by.

Except that this idyllic little spot is Amen Corner, arguably the most famous piece of golf real estate in the world. And the brook is the infamous Rae's Creek, where so many dreams have foundered. For this is the Augusta National and somewhere behind, back up the hill, the Masters got under way earlier.

Play is yet to reach here, but rows of green chairs with the yellow Masters logo sit 20 deep behind the 12th tee. Most are empty, awaiting their owners' return to reclaim the spot they bagged shortly after dawn. They'll still be there.

"This is the picture of Augusta you see in every painting," said Glenn Field, who with 84-year-old father Frank nabbed a spot in the second row. "This is the best place in golf."

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Exploding the myths of the Masters

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Rob Hodgetts | 08:13 UK time, Wednesday, 4 April 2012

With the Masters in the same place every year we all think we know a bit about the course and the attributes needed to do well.

But how well do some of the common traits stand up to scrutiny? Let's find out.

You need to be a big hitter to do well at Augusta

You will hear plenty of chat about how so-and-so is not long enough around Augusta, and how since the course was lengthened it has become a "bombers' paradise".

The extra length, dubbed "Tiger-proofing" to combat the new generation and new technology, took the course from 6,985 yards in 2001 to 7,270 yards in 2002 and then 7,445 yards for 2006. (10 yards were then lopped off after 2008).

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Chasing pack target Woods and McIlroy

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Rob Hodgetts | 22:39 UK time, Tuesday, 3 April 2012

If you are after a good, clean fight between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy at the Masters you may be disappointed.

Not so much that they might not perform, more that they could be just two combatants in a gang scrap.

"Tiger v Rory - the only story in golf," screamed Sports Illustrated this week. It's a juicy headline and the parallels make it a compelling tale. Prodigies, only children, record-setting first major titles as young men. One hoping for greatness, the other redemption (I'll let you work out which).

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Augusta buzzing with Masters expectation

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Rob Hodgetts | 15:42 UK time, Monday, 2 April 2012

Out here, the Masters doesn't start on Thursday. It's started.

The National, as locals call the course, is already packed and buzzing with anticipation.

This week's 76th edition is shaping up to be a blockbuster, an old-fashioned clash of the titans. And for good reason.

Tiger Woods is back in form and eyeing a fifth Green Jacket in what would surely rank as his greatest win. Rory McIlroy, a young man at the other end of the spectrum, is arguably the hottest property on the golfing planet. A win 12 months on from his infamous collapse would eclipse his spell-binding US Open triumph.

Then there is three-time champion Phil Mickelson, another Augusta specialist, and world number one Luke Donald. All four with wins this season. All hungry for different reasons.

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What I think about when I think about Augusta

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Rob Hodgetts | 14:07 UK time, Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Masters. Augusta. Three words but 1,000 images. What's yours?

What do you think about when you think about Augusta? I asked a number of key men this week what came into their minds. Here's what they said:

Ian Poulter
It's like being sucked into the most perfect picture that has ever been painted. Everybody gets excited going there. It tests you to the highest, most intense level. It's an amazing, electric atmosphere around the golf course. There are so many little bits that make it up to be the best event of year. Maybe because it is the same course year in, year out, we know the shots we need, we've seen shots that have or haven't been pulled off - you know the dangers and it creates that buzz.

Justin Rose
My mind invariably drifts back to my first impression in 2003 when I played a practice round the week before the tournament. What struck me was the openness and how the ninth and 18th greens were just in the middle of a vast space. It was incredible to see it with no crowd to distract you from its beauty. Walking down the 11th fairway, when you can see the 11th green, Rae's Creek, the 12th green and 13th tee - that picture is Augusta right there in my head.

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