NAPLES, Fla. — Lexi Thompson and Bubba Watson were just kind of going along in the modified alternate shot format in the QBE Shootout on Saturday.
But suddenly the two went birdie-eagle-birdie on Nos. 12-14, Thompson made a nice birdie putt on No. 17, and a nicer one to save par on No. 18 to get the pair to 19-under, and in sixth place. They’re two strokes behind three teams that are tied for second.
“There’s a lot of putts, the one on 17 and the one on the other hole, the other hole. Pretty much every hole,” Watson said of Thompson’s putting. “It was huge. … For her to step up and make those putts all day, just the last one, they’re huge momentum. Obviously the last hole, dinner’s going to taste a little better when you make those putts.”
“The first nine I felt like I just hit a bunch of tap-ins and then I had a few about 25-, 30-footers on the back nine and just got a good feel for the greens,” Thompson said.
This is Thompson’s fifth appearance in six years in the Shootout, and first time playing with Watson. Her best finish is a tie for fourth with Tony Finau in 2017 at 21 under, so they’re only two off Lexi’s best scoring total.
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The two will play their own ball in the better ball for Sunday’s final round, so the team aspect changes a bit.
“I just hit driver on every hole, try to make my pars on the more difficult holes and take advantage of the few shorter holes for me I guess, and get birdies when I can,” Thompson said. “Hopefully just make the pars, that way he can play aggressively and go after some more birdies.”
“I liked it better when we could pick our best ball,” Watson quipped. “I hope we go scramble and everybody else plays their own ball out. Can we switch that for Christmas?”
Bubba Watson of the United States and Lexi Thompson of the United States celebrate their birdie on the 14th green during the second round of the QBE Shootout at Tiburon Golf Club on December 11, 2021 in Naples, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
Horschel, Burns coming back from scramble bogey
Billy Horschel and Sam Burns came in as one of the favorites, and started that way, with an eagle on their first hole in the scramble format Friday.
Then they, um, bogeyed the next hole for the only one in the scramble by the 12 teams.
“You start off with eagle and then you bogey the next hole and it’s like ‘What just happened?’” Burns said after the pair fired a 10-under 62 Saturday to move into a tie for second. “I think honestly the format today is probably better for us than the scramble.”
Anything is better than a bogey in a team event where both players have a chance. But Burns and Horschel are looking at the bright side.
“Nobody else did it yesterday,” Burns said.
“I mean, that’s special,” Horschel said.
They may even look to make another bogey on Sunday, as long as a win comes with it.
“Yeah, I’ll take it,” Horschel said. “I’ll take two bogeys.”
“I’ll take another bogey to win,” Burns said.
Na walks it in — sort of
Kevin Na is known for “walking in” his putts, especially when he’s on a roll. So when teammate Jason Kokrak drained a birdie putt on No. 18 to get the team to 21 under, in a tie for second, Na glanced at Kokrak, then raced up and grabbed the ball out of the hole.
“I tend to do that sometimes when I’m having some fun with the boys at home,” Na said. “It wasn’t a full walk-in, but I didn’t even have my putter with me. I figured he was going to make it on 18.”
The pair overcame back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11, but went right back up the leaderboard with birdies on six of the last seven.
“I told him we’re going to make some birdies coming in, let’s just get after it and make a couple putts coming down the stretch,” Kokrak said.