Tag Archives: bubba

Bubba Watson in tears AGAIN at The Masters

Blubba Watson II! Masters champion in tears AGAIN on return to defend his title at Augusta (two days before the tournament even starts!)

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Breakdown: Watson cries on the shoulder of his mother Molly after his 2012 victory

Seemingly beaten, with his ball
trapped in the straw between the pine trees and towering magnolias, he
somehow contrived to find the green from 165 yards with his wedge before two-putting to
victory.

Watson starts his defence on Thursday
alongside Ian Poulter, with 2012 US Amateur champion Steven Fox, in
what promises to be a fascinating group.

The Englishman, of course, reduced
Watson to tears of sorrow last October as he steered Europe to a
miraculous Ryder Cup victory in Medinah.

For Bubba's sake, let's hope he makes the cut on Friday. Or else he might just cry again…

Heady times: Bubba Watson gestures after his play-off victory at Augusta last year

Heady times: Bubba Watson gestures after his play-off victory at Augusta last year

VIDEO Watch Bubba's emotional press conference

Masters champion Bubba Watson bursts into tears

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Grand Slam of Golf: Live leaderboard

PGA Grand Slam of Golf leaderboard: Keep up to date with the latest scores

A midweek treat for fans is the PGA Grand Slam of Golf with four of the world's top players battling it out over two days in Bermuda.

The event is open to the year's four major winners but Bubba Watson (Masters) and Webb Simpson (US Open) are the only two taking part.

Open champion Ernie Els is injured and Rory McIlroy – the US PGA winner – is defending his BMW Masters title in Shanghai.

Keegan Bradley and Padraig Harrington have stepped in and you can keep track of all the latest scores right here.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LIVE LEADERBOARD

Big winner: Keegan Bradley won the Grand Slam of Golf last year

Big winner: Keegan Bradley won the Grand Slam of Golf last year

Ryder Cup 2012: Yanks for the memories to gracious America – Derek Lawrenson

Why we should be saying Yanks for the memories to gracious losers

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 1 October 2012

You can imagine the reaction among the cynical hacks from the host nation when United States captain Davis Love said on Sunday night that every American should be proud of each member of his team. Almost to a man in the press room, they chorused: 'I'm not.'

If not proud, this non-American certainly thought them wholly admirable. Judging great Ryder Cups is always like being asked to choose between your children, so many of them have been special. But this one might just edge the rest simply because the heroics in victory were matched by the contribution made by the team in defeat.

The Americans did the Ryder Cup an invaluable service on Sunday by doggedly sticking to their captain's belief that when it came to the crowd, there was a line that under no circumstances could be crossed. The only reason this one didn't become as ugly as Kiawah in 1991 or Brookline in 1999 is because the American players didn't let it.

Cheerleader-in-chief: Bubba Watson (right) roused the home fans but remained gracious in defeat

Cheerleader-in-chief: Bubba Watson (right) roused the home fans but remained gracious in defeat

'We accept that the Ryder Cup is so big now there are fans from other sports coming to watch it and we had plenty of incidents where there was inappropriate behaviour,' said Justin Rose. 'But as long as the bond between the players inside the ropes is strong, the Ryder Cup is in a great place. I can't speak highly enough for the manner in which the Americans, to a man, went out of their way to make sure it didn't get out of hand.'

Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley were the two principal cheerleaders, telling the crowd to ramp up the volume whenever the occasion demanded it. The scenes on the first tee when Watson told the crowd to cheer as he played was one of the unforgettable memories of this Ryder Cup. But it was the same Watson who asked the gallery for quiet at the 16th hole on Sunday so that his opponent Luke Donald could putt out.

Debut to remember: Keegan Bradley's passion for the Ryder Cup was clear for all to see

Debut to remember: Keegan Bradley's passion for the Ryder Cup was clear for all to see

Yes, I suppose you didn't need to look very hard if you wanted to indulge in some Yankee bashing. Why not dwell on Jim Furyk's propensity for choking this year or the fact that Steve Stricker is too old for such tense matches now, or slam the captain for making both of them wild cards.

But when all is said and done, this Ryder Cup was the magnificent feast of attacking golf and sportsmanship we all hoped it would be. For that, we should offer both teams our thanks and the Americans our gratitude.

Quote of the week

'It is quite clear that the European Ryder Cup qualifying system needs to change in time for the next match. There should be nine automatic qualifiers, two wild cards – and Ian Poulter.'

Lee Westwood wryly sums up what the self-proclaimed postman, after another spot-on delivery, has come to mean to the European cause.

Right time for McGinley to step up

It is one of the traditions of the Ryder Cup that no sooner does one match finish than the question arises as to who will be the next European captain.

Quite plainly, the shortlist need contain no more than the names of two of the men who were part of Jose Maria Olazabal's backroom staff – Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley.

No Irishman has been a Ryder Cup captain and clearly the time is right given you're not going to have two more outstanding candidates than McGinley and Clarke.

Ollie's successor Paul McGinley (second left) and Darren Clarke (second right)

Ollie's successor Paul McGinley (second left) and Darren Clarke (second right)

Personally, I'd like to see them both do it, with McGinley next in line at Gleneagles in 2014.

Could Clarke be persuaded to wait for his chance until America in 2016 He has intimated that he would like to be considered for the next match and would get the nod as the more popular man among the Tournament Players' Committee, who will decide.

More from Derek Lawrenson…

Derek Lawrenson: McIlroy a victim of trash talk in American press ahead of Ryder Cup
24/09/12

Derek Lawrenson: Westwood at fever pitch to boost his holiday funds by $10million
17/09/12

Derek Lawrenson: Now Tiger has the chance to rewrite McIlroy's story
10/09/12

Derek Lawrenson: Old heads or long hitters Your wildcard call, Love
03/09/12

World of Golf: Coming good in the Nic of time for the Ryder Cup
27/08/12

Derek Lawrenson: Garcia's sprint for the line earns place in Jose's Ryder Cup plans
20/08/12

Derek Lawrenson: McIlroy wins by a mile after he remembers to smile
13/08/12

World of Golf: It's time to play follow the leader as the guessing game begins for the next Major winner
06/08/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

But let's hope they do it in turn, for it
would be a great loss if the eloquent and passionate McGinley were to
miss out. The announcement will be made in Abu Dhabi in January. Let
the lobbying begin.

Why Tiger's no Ryder hero

We can only imagine how difficult it is to be playing in the 12th singles match when the one in front has determined the destination of the Ryder Cup, and the area in front of the green is a sea of rapture. But it was interesting to note the different reactions of the two camps.

Tiger Woods thought the game meaningless since Europe had retained the trophy, and eventually conceded his opponent Francesco Molinari a missable putt.

So did the Italian, until his captain Jose Maria Olazabal pointed out that an overall win in the record books looks so much better than a tie. And so it is that posterity will record that Europe won the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah, rather than the scores being level.

Olazabal is right, of course. Which, in turn, might tell us something about why he is a Ryder Cup legend and Tiger isn't.

Ryder Cup moments

Ryder Cup 2012: Peter Hanson focused after son"s health scare

Hanson ready for Ryder Cup with baby son recovering after health scare

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UPDATED:

14:08 GMT, 25 September 2012

Sweden's Peter Hanson can focus fully on helping Europe retain the Ryder Cup in Chicago this week after a happy conclusion to the health scare surrounding his one-year-old son.

On the second day of the KLM Open in Holland earlier this month, Hanson called home to his wife Sanna in Florida to hear the news that their son Tim had been taken to hospital with a respiratory virus.

The 34-year-old was on the verge of withdrawing from the tournament until his wife convinced him there was nothing he could do, and two days later he rolled in an eagle putt on the 72nd hole to claim his first victory for two years.

Looking good: Peter Hanson gets some attention from Lee Westwood as Europe's Ryder Cup team line up in Chicago

Looking good: Peter Hanson gets some attention from Lee Westwood as Europe's Ryder Cup team line up

Up for the Cup: Hanson poses with Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal ahead of the big event

Up for the Cup: Hanson poses with Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal ahead of the big event

'It was a very strange week,' Hanson said in a press conference at Medinah before taking to the course in practice. 'Sometimes this game is just a strange game.

'When you think about other stuff in between shots….I was thinking about him all the way around, especially Saturday. And all of a sudden, golf doesn't become that important anymore. So that might be one of the reasons why I won that tournament.'

As for his son, Hanson added: 'He's doing a lot better. They got out of hospital the Monday I got back home, which was nice. He's of course lost quite a bit of weight. He's turning two now in a couple of months, so getting stronger and getting back where he was before.'

Hanson was a member of the victorious team at Celtic Manor two years ago, when he collected one point from three matches after teaming up with Miguel Angel Jimenez for a fourball win over Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton.

And after experiencing home advantage
in Wales, he is bracing himself for being on the receiving end in
Chicago – partly thanks to watching footage of previous contests.

'Playing at home last time was just
amazing with the crowd behind you, so I think that's going to be one of
the critical tests for our side,' Hanson added.

Sign of the times: Hanson gives out autographs at Medinah Country Club ahead of a practice round on Tuesday

Sign of the times: Hanson gives out autographs at Medinah Country Club ahead of a practice round on Tuesday

'We discussed this quite a bit within the team room and we have got some boys in the team that played quite a few Ryder Cups over here, and we are trying to get as much information as possible of what to expect and how to handle the different situation playing over here.

'I've watched quite a few of the videos. Golf Channel have been very nice to show me all these over the last couple of weeks! It gets you revved up and gets you in a state of mind where you want to be coming into these matches.'

The Open 2012: Paul Azinger backing US stars to sparkle

Fit and feisty: Azinger is backing US stars to sparkle this week

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 15 July 2012

Captain America: Paul Azinger hoists the Ryder Cup at Valhalla in 2008

Captain America: Paul Azinger hoists the Ryder Cup at Valhalla in 2008

Paul Azinger has aspirations that might see him in Washington one day, representing the state of Florida and giving speeches filled with the sort of passion that made him such an inspiring Ryder Cup captain.

For now, however, politics can wait.

It's not the state of the nation that's exercising him but the state of US golf, where the green shoots of recovery have blossomed.

'What we are seeing are a group of young Americans who grew up watching Tiger Woods and have taken on board that different mindset that separated him from everyone else,' said Azinger.

'They're physically fit, feisty, and they're going to keep on winning majors. In the last two Ryder Cups the US have been clear underdogs but this time I'd give them the edge and make them favourites in Chicago. They will have home-field advantage and they will be hard to beat.'

Who better than Captain America to ask about this stunning US revival, one that has seen them dominate the leading prizes over the past 11 months

This time last year, Darren Clarke's Open victory extended the major-less US sequence to six, the longest in history.

Since then, a trio of bright young things have won the last three and Tiger is appearing more like his old self by the minute.

'What I like about players such as Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson is they don't play golf by numbers and that's why the public has taken to them as well,' said Azinger, who will be at The Open for ESPN.

'As for Tiger, ever since I first saw him I've expected only greatness and that greatness will continue.

'The longer he's healthy the more convinced I become that he will beat Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 majors.'

Azinger doesn't view the game purely through Stars and Stripes-tinted spectacles.

He's full of praise for the likes of Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald, for instance. Ask him if he thinks that, after this week, Americans will hold all four majors for the first time since the 2004 Masters and, for once, he hedges his bets.

'After seeing 15 different players from all over the world win the last 15 different majors, you will excuse me if my crystal ball is a little cloudy,' he said.

'I don't know how you pick a winner any more. '

Patriot games: Azinger waves the stars and stripes after their Ryder Cup victory

Patriot games: Azinger waves the stars and stripes after their Ryder Cup victory

It seems almost insulting to say I like this guy or that one.

It was certainly a lot easier when Tiger was winning all the time! 'What we can say is that no-one will fluke their way round Lytham and win. It's a hard golf course with lots of cross-winds and lots of bunkers.

'Look back through history and Lytham winners generally had great short games, so don't be surprised if a grinder wins.'

This Open marks the 25th anniversary of Azinger's first visit to these shores and what turned out to be a golden opportunity to win. Leading Nick Faldo at Muirfield by one stroke with two to play, he finished bogey, bogey to lose by one.

'It was a great experience but also my greatest heartache in golf,' said Azinger.

'After that I thought I would have contended more often but it wasn't to be, that was my best chance.'

He did eventually get his name on a major title, beating Greg Norman in a play-off to win the 1993 US PGA .

He was at the height of his career, only to be diagnosed with lymphoma in his right shoulder just weeks later.

In his pomp: Azinger lines up a putt

In his pomp: Azinger lines up a putt

Azinger fought his cancer and won, but was never the same player again, and had to wait until becoming 2008 Ryder Cup captain to return to the spotlight.

The methods he used to mastermind America's only win of the 21st century – splitting his team into three 'pods' of four, as they do in Navy SEAL training and encouraging them to bond – made his book not only a sporting bestseller but also in the mainstream as well.

'I didn't do it from a military viewpoint but with the idea the players would grow as people,' said Azinger, the son of a US Air Force navigator.

'My thinking was to say things that would make Nick Faldo (his opposite number as captain) underestimate me while all along we had this unbelievable plan, and I guess it worked out.

'The whole experience was amazing. I remember our kids were coming to the end of home schooling and we had a room set aside for that. Well, I went away on a three-week trip and when I came home my wife had redecorated it completely in Ryder Cup stuff. “What if we lose” I asked her. “Don't you think you're putting pressure on me”. Now it's a lovely Ryder Cup room, filled with happy memories.'

Follow Azinger on Twitter and you will see he's as interested in politics these days as he is in golf.

Now 52, he will give consideration to political office before the end of his sixth decade.

'I wouldn't mind representing Florida in some capacity,' he said.

If he does, expect him to do it the way he captained America's Ryder Cup team, surrounding himself with people he likes and trusts.

And with passion. With Azinger, there's always passion.

ESPN will be showing daily highlights of The Open, plus extensive coverage via ESPN.co.uk, with reports, live scores, comment and galleries.

US OPEN 2012: Live coverage of day one

US OPEN LIVE: All the action as it happens on day one at San Francisco's Olympic Club

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UPDATED:

15:09 GMT, 14 June 2012

US OPEN – ESSENTIALS

Click here for a hole-by-hole guide

Click here for a full list of tee times

Click here for the live leaderboard

Welcome to Sportsmail's live coverage of the US Open at The Olympic Club.

The biggest names in the game are facing
their toughest test yet with narrow fairways, ankle-deep rough and a
high demand for shot-shaping on this beast of a track just south of the
Golden Gate Bridge.

Stick with us and we'll bring you the latest news, live scores and all the best pictures. And if you want to get in touch, leave a comment on the section at the bottom of the page or email me at [email protected]

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

4.05: Steady start for Bubba and Tiger with pars but it's a bogey for Mickelson.

4.00: South African Branden Grace has made a good start from the ninth and is one under after a birdie at his second hole. Grace has won three times this year and is making the most of his chance after a late call-up (due to his ranking) at the start of the week.

3.50: In about half an hour, Andy Zhang will become the youngest player to take part in a major since 1865. Zhang was born in China and has been living in America since he was a kid. Well, since he was 10. That's twice I've tried that gag this week. Room for improvement.

When I was 14 I was doing well if I was allowed to stay up to watch the finish of the US Open. Good luck Andy.

3.40: For those of you who can't be bothered going ALL the way up to the top of the page and clicking on the handy link to the tee times, here's a few to keep you going:

Graeme McDowell, the 2010 champion, is out at 9.40pm in the group after his great mate Rory. And G-Mac is joined by Sergio (we'd love to see him win a major) Garcia and 2003 champ Jim Furyk.

Keep your eye on it: Phil Mickelson watches his drive after starting with Tiger at the ninth

Keep your eye on it: Phil Mickelson watches his drive after starting with Tiger at the ninth

Padraig Harrington is set to tee off in about 15 minutes so the Dubliner should see most of Ireland's Euro 2012 clash with Spain. Don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing after watching them against Croatia though.

3.30: Matt Bettencourt is the first man to dip below par with a birdie three at the ninth. Much better than last week. He walked out of Memphis after a first-round 80 in the St Jude Classic.

Take a bow Matt. The five other players to have played the ninth all carded bogeys.

And he's off: Tiger hits the first shot of his opening round in his quest for a fourth US Open title

And he's off: Tiger hits the first shot of his opening round in his quest for a fourth US Open title

Here he comes: All eyes were on Tiger Woods as he made his way to start his US Open bid at the ninth

Here he comes: All eyes were on Tiger Woods as he made his way to start his US Open bid at the ninth

3.15: Tiger says there won't be much chat between him and Mickelson on the way round. Never mind Phil, Bubba's probably good for a blether.

3.00: Amateur Beau Hossler, Scott Langley and Steve LeBrun will be the first three through that terrifying opening stretch. They've just teed off.

2.55: You've probably not heard too much about Shane Bertsch, Tommy Biershenk and Martin Flores (join the club) but the three Americans will be first out on the course – starting at the ninth at 3pm.

The marquee group of Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson are also starting at the ninth at 3.33pm. Get there early if you want to follow the big guns.

A true test: The Olympic Club at San Francisco will separate the men from the boys in the year's second major

A true test: The Olympic Club at San Francisco will separate the men from the boys in the year's second major

Golf blog

Tiger is the bookies' favourite
with the world's top three players, Luke Donald, defending champion Rory McIlroy and Lee
Westwood, also backed to challenge come Sunday night.

The Europeans are keeping each other company for the first two rounds and they get going at 9.29pm.

They're off
at the first and Woods said this week any player negotiating the
opening six holes in level par will pick up a bucket of shots on the
field.

Scary start then.

US Open: Youngster Andy Zhang can"t wait to get going

Zhang the new boy wonder: 14-year-old ready to go at US Open

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UPDATED:

21:49 GMT, 12 June 2012

As the youngest player to compete in a major championship since 1865, you will not be too surprised to learn that Andy Zhang could not wait to get started at the US Open.

No problem getting this particular 14-year-old out of bed. Scanning the practice sheet for someone to play alongside, he stopped at the first name he came across.

Well, why would you look any further than the current Masters champion

No kidding: 14-year-old Zhang in practice on Tuesday

No kidding: 14-year-old Zhang in practice on Tuesday

So it was, at first light, the devout Bubba Watson and the equally spiritual Aaron Baddeley found themselves accompanied by the boy who has achieved a small miracle.

STAY AWAKE!

Viewers of the US Open are in for some late nights this weekend as the tournament is on the west coast of America. Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood tee off at 9.29pm BST tomorrow — and are not expected to finish until well after 2am

Back in 1865, Young Tom Morris — a month younger than Zhang — was one of 13 competitors who played in the Open Championship at Prestwick.

Here, at the Olympic Club, Zhang made it through to the starting line-up from a list of hopefuls numbering almost 8,000.

First alternate following sectional qualifying in Florida, Paul Casey’s misfortune in having to withdraw through injury on Monday paved the way for another glorious landmark in the game’s red revolution.

Born in China, Zhang might be, but he has been made in America. Andrew Park is the coach who spotted him. He was on a scouting mission in China, principally to watch a prodigy called Mu Hu, labelled the ‘Boy in a Billion’ by Golf Digest. Park was more impressed by Zhang.

So it was, at the age of 10, Zhang and his family moved lock, stock and barrel to Florida and David Leadbetter’s academy. ‘He couldn’t speak a word of English back then,’ said Park. ‘You can’t keep him quiet now.’

You could at 7.15am on Tuesday. Introduced to Watson, he looked like any other star-struck teenager on meeting the current holder of the Green Jacket. ‘Do you mind if I hit another ball’ he asked Watson politely, after carving his opening drive into the cabbage. Well, if you cannot have a mulligan at 14, when can you

Driving for perfection: Zhang hits a tee shot during a practice round

Driving for perfection: Zhang hits a tee shot during a practice round

After a couple of holes, Watson stopped to sign a few autographs. ‘Why don’t you sign a couple’ someone suggested to Zhang. ‘Who, me’ he replied, clearly taken aback.

If truth be told, he seemed a boy thrust into a man’s world over those opening holes. At the 12th he missed the fairway by 20 yards on the left and then hit another, missing by 20 yards on the other side. He split the difference between the two and played his approach from the middle of the fairway. If only he could do that tomorrow.

The two big names left him to his own devices over those opening holes, before Baddeley struck up a conversation. ‘Got any exams coming up’ he wanted to know. For heaven’s sake Badds — isn’t the poor lad here to forget such stuff

Young star: Zhang will be the youngest player to compete at the US Open since 1865

Young star: Zhang will be the youngest player to compete at the US Open since 1865

/06/12/article-2158385-13938386000005DC-577_468x310.jpg” width=”468″ height=”310″ alt=”Star hunters: Zhang signs autographs after playing the 18th hole during a practice ” class=”blkBorder” />

Star hunters: Zhang signs autographs after playing the 18th hole during a practice

No, it is not you, then — golfers really are getting younger. The defending US Open champion is the youngest to hold the title for 90 years and Rory McIlroy, at 23, seems positively old compared to Zhang. And what of the once-young man they all looked up to Tiger Woods laughed when asked about Zhang. Woods was the youngest winner of the Masters, aged 21 in 1997 — the year Zhang was born. Now, all of a sudden, he is old enough to be a fellow competitor’s dad.

‘Ben Hogan once said that if he’d had a video camera he would have been able to correct his swing much more quickly,’ said Woods. ‘Now these kids have iPads where they can slow their swings down as much as they like. I was in Korea recently and they all had perfect golf swings within 12 months of taking up the game.

‘That’s the future and it’s going to make life that much more difficult for the rest of us.’
The future can wait. Here in the present, let us hope for the best for Zhang over what promises to be a momentous first 36 holes

Derek Lawrenson: Americans in form, so it won"t be an easy Ryder

Americans in form, so it won’t be an easy Ryder

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 30 April 2012

When the UK’s finest were cutting a swathe through Florida in March, the golf correspondent of America’s best-selling newspaper turned in my direction and said: ‘This year’s Ryder Cup could get ugly for the US.'

What seemed a pessimistic viewpoint at the time bears no relation to reality come the first day of May. Make no mistake, the revival of American golf is in full swing.

Two years ago, the sport’s most powerful nation was in such a bad way that 11 out of 15 tournaments staged during the middle of the season were won by players from overseas. Only last year, a plaintive American voice asked Lee Westwood: ‘Do you think in our lifetime an American will win another major’ Now look at the transformation.

States of play: Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner are two of those leading America's resurgence on the Tour

States of play: Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner are two of those leading America's resurgence on the Tour

States of play: Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner are two of those leading America's resurgence on the Tour

More from Derek Lawrenson…

Derek Lawrenson: Former Open champion Curtis finds his salvation with a victory to savour
23/04/12

Derek Lawrenson: Euro stars strike it rich as 130m Tour goes global
16/04/12

Derek Lawrenson: The pride and passion of 'Blubber' Watson
09/04/12

Derek Lawrenson's Masters countdown: Jack's doing his bit for Luke and Rory
02/04/12

Derek Lawrenson: Woods is back, but the UK's finest can defy his bid to be Master
26/03/12

World of Golf: Donald is back on top and enjoying the view
19/03/12

Derek Lawrenson: Rose can bloom into a Major winner like Nick
12/03/12

Derek Lawrenson: Seve was special… but magnificent McIlroy is my No 1
05/03/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

In 19 events staged on the US Tour this year, the only non-Americans to get inside the winner’s circle were the trio of UK players — Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Luke Donald — who won in successive weeks in the Sunshine State, and the Swede Carl Pettersson, who just happens to be an American citizen.

On Sunday in New Orleans it was the turn of Jason Dufner to keep the internationals at bay, winning a play-off against South African Ernie Els for his first victory on tour.

Dufner is getting married on Saturday, so it is safe to say this week will go down as a life-changer. He and his wife are planning to take their honeymoon in the autumn but they might want to think about a further delay considering he seems a certainty to make America’s Ryder Cup team.

Masters champion Bubba Watson, US PGA champ Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Dufner, Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods.

That’s not a bad core for captain Davis Love to work with, as he waits to see what the summer holds for Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler, plus the immensely promising Kyle Stanley and John Huh.

This American renaissance, together with home advantage, points towards a tense beauty in Chicago in September rather than an ugly one-sider.

Luke who is top of the tree again

Thanks to the grit and class of Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy’s second stay at the top of the world rankings lasted no longer than his first.

The Englishman’s third-place finish in New Orleans on Sunday was sufficient to limit the Ulsterman’s latest residency at the summit to just a fortnight. Don’t expect this to-ing and fro-ing between the pair to end any time soon, either.

Luke who's back: There is a familiar face at the top of the world rankings once again

Luke who's back: There is a familiar face at the top of the world rankings once again

McIlroy returns to action this week at the Quail Hollow Championship, the scene of his first American victory in 2010 and a course right up his alley.

Then both players will compete the following week at the Players Championship in Florida on a course that favours Donald’s strategic gifts over McIlroy’s naked aggression.

Then again, what price neither of them leading following the Players, with third-placed Lee Westwood bagging the biggest title of his career to leapfrog them both

Fascinating, isn’t it

Good enough

How good is the standard at amateur level these days For this weekend’s Lytham Trophy, those entrants playing off a handicap of plus 2.0 were balloted out of the original 144-man field.

'Makings of a great player': Javier Ballesteros

'Makings of a great player': Javier Ballesteros

Callum Shinkwin, 18, winner of the Hampshire Hog last week and a likely England international who plays off that mark, only got in as third reserve. Mind you, how many will play to their handicap around Lytham

I’ll certainly be impressed if the German Marcel Schneider — who plays off plus 5.2, would you believe — manages to do so.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

‘Javier has started very strongly. He is close to joining us very soon. He has the makings of a great player.’

Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, after watching Seve Ballesteros’s son Javier notch a notable top-12 finish while competing as an amateur in a minor pro tournament in Barcelona last week. Javier, 21, is completing a law degree at Madrid University and has yet to decide whether to become a lawyer or a pro golfer.

Pain in Spain

‘There will be a reckoning,’ warned a Spanish journalist friend of mine after Spain was overlooked for the role of host for the 2018 Ryder Cup in favour of France.

As the European Tour sets down in Spain this week at the beginning of an extended stay on its home continent, it would appear to be already in place. Five events will take place in Spain this year, down from seven last year — and two of those scheduled to take place in the autumn currently have no venue listed or sponsor.

Indeed, the number of events to be staged in Europe as a whole is down from 27 last year to 23 at best. Meanwhile, another big event attracting all the stars was announced last week for Shanghai in October. Right now, watching Europe trying to compete against the Far East is a bit like watching the BBC taking on Sky.

Zurich Classic: Live leaderboard

Zurich Classic leaderboard: Keep up with the latest scores

The PGA Tour is in New Orleans this week for the Zurich Classic.

Bubba Watson took the title last year and you can keep track of all the latest scores right here.

CLICK HERE FOR THE LIVE LEADERBOARD

Nice one Bubba: Watson with the Zurich Classic trophy in 2011

Nice one Bubba: Watson with the Zurich Classic trophy in 2011

Bubba Watson will keep going for "miracle shots"

Masters champion Bubba promises to keep going for 'miracle shots'

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UPDATED:

17:36 GMT, 25 April 2012

Bubba Watson has promised to keep on going for the 'miracle shot' like the one that won him the Masters.

'When it comes to creativity on the golf course, that's just who I am,' said Watson, who is back in action this week defending the Zurich Classic title in New Orleans.

The 33-year-old American was in the trees on the second extra hole against Louis Oosthuizen in the play-off at Augusta, but hooked the ball some 40 yards off pine straw and onto the green for a winning par.

Back in action: Bubba Watson will defend his Zurich Classic title this week

Back in action: Bubba Watson will defend his Zurich Classic title this week

'That's just what I've done, so that doesn't scare me,' he said. 'It thrills me because then I can pull off some shots. That's more exciting.

'I don't care if the fans were there or what. If I was just playing with my buddies I'd want to pull that shot off.

Celebrity: Bubba with Tim Tebow

Celebrity: Bubba with Tim Tebow

'I'm just Bubba from Bagdad, Florida. I play golf because I love the game of golf, because it's fun.

'Every day is different. Some days it's windy, some days it's not. Some days the ground is firm, some days it's wet.

'You always challenge yourself and set goals for yourself. I think it resonates with everybody because I'm from a small town, I played public golf courses growing up and I think that everybody can see that my swing is homegrown.

'That means everybody has a chance to do it. Hard work, dedication, practice and the drive to do it – and not worry about what other people say.

'Where I grew up with plastic golf balls I just learned to hit in the trees, through the trees, over the trees, under the trees.'

On the shot for which he is now most famous, Watson added: 'As a child I was used to seeing shots like that. To get that close was very special – when I saw it I go “Phew, I'm pretty good”.

How did he do it Watson hits his 'miracle' shot that led to a Masters win

How did he do it Watson hits his 'miracle' shot that led to a Masters win

'But I try to pull off the amazing shot, just like we've seen [Phil] Mickelson and Tiger [Woods] pull off shots – everybody that's won you've seen pull off shots like that.'

Watson suddenly finds himself the top attraction in a field that also includes England's Luke Donald and Justin Rose and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell.

With Rory McIlroy not having played since the Masters concluded on April 8 – he is back at next week's Wells Fargo Championship – Donald will go back to world No 1 with a top-seven finish.