Bubba Watson ditches multi-coloured golf balls for reliable ProV1
The two-time Masters champion has ended his deal with Volvik and will now use Titleist
Double Masters champion Bubba Watson will rely on some old equipment as he looks to halt his slide down the world rankings with a return to form in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Watson reached a career-high of second in the world in February 2015 but has since slumped to his current ranking of 63rd, recording just two top-10 finishes this season.
The left-hander starts his 2017-18 campaign in Las Vegas this week and will do so using a Titleist ball after confirming that his deal with Volvik had come to an early end.
“I do not have a ball deal as we sit here today,” Watson told a pre-tournament press conference. “So I can play with whatever ball I want to. I’m just going to go back to what I grew up with.”
Volvik announced in January that Watson had signed “a multi-year deal” to play and endorse the company’s line of “extreme performance golf balls,” but the deal has lasted less than 12 months.
Watson was 75th in the FedEx Cup points race when his 2016-17 season came to an early end after the second of the play-off events, the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston.
“My goals are to be better than that,” he added. “It was a frustrating year when it came to the golf. It was a great year off the course, but a frustrating year (on it). Hopefully I’ll improve that.
“I was supposed to take four months off, my wife had knee surgery. The whole goal was to be a stay-at-home dad and help her out.
“I was so bored, I wanted to play golf, and there was no better place than to come here and play golf. And she gave me a free pass to come out here.”
Watson also revealed that he was motivated to play in Las Vegas following the recent shooting at a concert in the city which left 58 people dead and more than 500 people wounded.
Fellow player and Las Vegas resident Charley Hoffman has announced he will donate 100 per cent of his prize money from this week to victims of the shooting. Hoffman will also donate a minimum of US$20,000, regardless of whether or not he makes the cut.
Shriners Hospitals Open – The lowdown
Course: TPC Summerlin, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Prize money: €5.8m (€1m to the winner).
Length: 7,255 yards. Par: 71.
Defending champion: Rod Pampling.
Course overview: TPC Summerlin is an absolute birdie-fest where the story is usually whoever putts the best over the four rounds wins. Three straightforward par fives, a driveable par four and some very wide fairways make this one of the easiest course the pros will play all year with four of the last five years serving up winning scores of 20 under or lower.
A look at the field: The 140-man field very much has the feel of a fall series event where the big names have put their feet up for the foreseeable future, unless they are playing in the Race to Dubai run-in on the European Tour. Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker are perhaps the biggest names with Graeme McDowell and Seamus Power making up the Irish contingent.
Tips: Smylie Kaufman (60/1) won this event two years ago to secure a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and went on to partner Jordan Spieth in the final round of the US Masters a few months later. Since then his form has dipped but a tied-fourth finish in Mississippi last week and a return to a course where he has good feelings make him worth a flutter in the gambling capital of the world. Home town boy Scott Piercy (66/1) has three top 25 finishes in the last three years here and there can be little substitute for sleeping in your own bed each night and playing the course where you’re a member.
Weather forecast: Sun and light breezes throughout.
Irish in action: Graeme McDowell (first round tee time: 7.35pm), Seamus Power (first round tee time: 8.35pm).
On TV: Sky Sports Golf from 8.30pm. – Ruaidhrí Croke