Golf

Pros and Chambers Bay show off at charity skins game

Local taxpayers should be gratified that their investment is holding its value.

The four PGA Tour golf pros who took on the Chambers Bay Golf Course on Saturday didn’t exactly burn the place down despite calm winds and favorable conditions for scoring.

We may only imagine how challenging this patch of University Place landscape will be come June 2015, when it’s set up for the U.S. Open. If the weather assumes its typical early June nastiness, with rain and wind funneling up the Narrows, scores could balloon.

Saturday, the course showed no favoritism, as Puyallup’s Ryan Moore, the host of this BMW Northwest Charity Skins game, was shut out.

Although he played consistently well, and might have been the winner had this been a stroke-play competition, his best putts were to halve holes and he was unable to capture any “skins.”

(A player has to win the hole outright to collect a skin. If at least two players share the low score, the money value of the hole is carried over and accumulates until someone captures it).

Aaron Baddeley, for instance, was the big winner, collecting 14 skins. A good measure of the scoring on the day is evidenced by the fact that Baddeley won all his skins by being the only player in the foursome to score a par on two par-3 holes.

And remember, since 2004, these players have combined to win almost $27 million on the tour.

An estimated 1,500 followed around Moore, Baddeley, Bubba Watson and Ben Crane on the beautiful day, taking the rare opportunity in this area to watch how the pros go about their business.

Watson, for instance, is the biggest hitter on the tour, with an average driving distance of 335 yards. He hits a Ping driver with a brilliant pink shaft and seems to have more fun on a golf course than should be allowed.

Australian Baddeley is a bit of a rock star on tour, but the quality of his game certainly validates his popularity. Fans were most in awe of his ability to take a lofted wedge and pinch the ball off tight lies so delicately around the green that he repeatedly threatened to hole his chips.

Crane’s compact back swing left him the shortest hitter of the bunch on most holes, but he’s deft with his irons and putter. Interestingly, sometimes he’ll first line up his putts by going to the pin and aiming back toward his ball.

And although Moore is almost a head shorter than Watson, he generates great power with his driver, as it looks as if he tees the ball up about 4 inches.

So, the fans came to see shots like Baddeley’s second on No 14, which snuggled in to within 4 feet from 214 yards away. And they were treated to creativity like Moore’s chip from the fringe on 12, where he intentionally wedged the ball onto a steep hillside perhaps 40 feet left of the flag so it would trickle down to within 6 feet.

But there was also a sadistic thrill for the hackers in the crowd to see Baddeley tomahawk-skull a shot out of the No. 12 bunker that disappeared at least 75 yards over the green.

Watson, meanwhile, had issues finding the greens much of the day. But it’s still obvious why he’s one of the tour’s more popular and promising young players.

As comfortable as he is with the crowd and his golfer friends, Watson talked this weekend about how he’d grown weary of the game and the attention it generated. It wasn’t until his wife gave him a stern lecture that he came to once again remember his good fortune.

“I fell out of love with the game,” Watson said after his round Saturday. “It was because of the media and the attention; I don’t like the limelight. It got to the point where I was sick of it.”

He offered a simple synopsis of his wife’s advice: “She just told me to shut up and start playing better.”

The broader message was that you can’t golf when you’re mad. And he certainly had no reason.

“My life is great, and I needed to remember that,” he said.

Watson said he plays in only three such events during the year, and comes to Chambers specifically because he and Moore “are such great friends.”

It might have been Watson who collected the 11 skins on No. 17, the big carryover payday that Baddeley nabbed with a par. Watson’s tee ball was heading for the mound on the left side of the green, where it would have dribbled downhill toward the cup.

But it took one hop and banged into a stroller that a fan had parked too near the ropes. The ball stopped dead.

So, if you want to try to say it three times, it was a case where Bubba’s ball bounced off a rubber baby buggy bumper.

Bubba had no complaints, though. The event was for charity. He was there to have fun.

And Chambers Bay showed it’s tough enough on the pros that the U. S. Open organizers aren’t going to have to place baby buggies around the greens to serve as portable hazards.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440

dave.boling@thenewstribune.com

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