DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) – As perhaps the hottest name in golf these days, Bubba Watson is trying to keep his public and private lives separate.
But the two may have intertwined – no one knows for sure – in a curious incident earlier this week while the Masters champion and his family were in the Columbus, Ohio, area for the Memorial Tournament.
He hosted a Christian music concert at a downtown venue Tuesday night. He was with his wife, Angie, as they headed to their rental home.
“A car chased me,'' he said after a 74 in Friday's second round at the Memorial. “Angie was driving. She had to pull over. I switched to driving so I could drive through someone's yard if I had to. But we had to drive away from our house, the house we rented. We drove for 37 minutes.''
Watson called his caddie, Ted Scott, hoping that Scott could intercept the pursuing car.
“Teddy was trying to find me in his car so he could block him,'' said Watson, who along with his wife recently adopted a child. “When you start dealing with that, when you have the kid with you, it's not a good situation.''
The Watsons kept driving and driving, watching the headlights in their rearview mirror, until finally the danger passed.
“We kept driving around and they finally gave up,'' Watson said. “I was going to keep driving until we felt safe again. That's the first time that's ever happened.''
Watson said earlier in the week he and his wife have been trying to buy a house in the exclusive Isleworth community in Orlando, Fla. Among many other advantages, it's a gated community with good security. Among other celebrities who have lived in Isleworth are golfers Tiger Woods, Mark O'Meara and 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke, along with baseball star Ken Griffey Jr., and actor Wesley Snipes.
“Isleworth is a beautiful place. I don't have to leave the gates. Security is a big key there,'' said Watson, who previously lived in Arizona. “We want to be in a secure area. We wanted to be where we can be a family, I can play golf, ride the cart around.''
Such is the life of a Masters champion named Bubba.
“It's been interesting,'' he said after missing the cut, giving him more time to look for a house. “That's why Isleworth is going to be good for us.''
DISCONNECTED CALLS: There was still a lot of buzz about Phil Mickelson's withdrawal after shooting a 79 in Thursday's first round. His playing partners, Watson and Rickie Fowler, both contended that part of the reason Mickelson pulled out was because of the continual distraction of fans clicking their cellphone cameras during Mickelson's swings.
The PGA Tour permits fans to bring cellphones onto the course, but they must be silent or on vibrate and can only be used to make or take calls in specified areas.
“We created an atmosphere for fans to use their phones and when we get these marquee groups together, that many people want to take photos,'' Tom Strong, in charge of tournament standards for the tour, said Friday. “We did have a setback with how it worked. We got together (Memorial Tournament executive director) Dan Sullivan, the marshal team and we beefed it up today.''
Police said about 50 phones were confiscated from the Watson-Fowler group.
Marshals frequently cautioned the galleries following Tiger Woods to silence their phones and not take pictures. Security guards who walk the ropes with Woods also warned spectators who were poised to snap photos as Woods passed.
“We'll be more aggressive with taking phones away,'' Strong said.
After Thursday's opening round, Watson was clearly angry about the cellphone use.
“Ever since they made that rule that cellphones are allowed, it's just not fun playing,'' he said. “They made that rule, more and more people have been using their cellphones to take pictures. … It's sad. It's sad that cellphones can make or break a championship.''
Fowler said things were vastly improved Friday.
“It was awesome today,'' he said. “I'd guess a little smaller crowd, obviously, with Phil not being here, weather and a morning time. But the tournament did a great job. We had a few (officials) kind of managing the situation.''
WEATHERING THE STORM: Just over an inch of rain came down at Muirfield Village Golf Club from Thursday night through the second round. Play was delayed for 1 hour, 48 minutes shortly after play began Friday.
Those returning to the course were hit with swirling, chilly winds that made club selection a bear.
The rain changed the conditions so much that some players could hardly recognize the place.
“The golf course that I knew, it's like I've never played here before,'' said Scott Stallings, tied for second. “I might as well have not even played a practice round if it's going to be like this.''
Another of those near the lead, Spencer Levin, added, “(The course) was pretty much the total opposite.''
Of course, the Memorial has long been plagued by inclement weather as the first tournament of the year played on a Northern course.
In the tournament's 37 years, 39 of the 146 rounds have been delayed, interrupted or canceled because of weather.
QUOTABLE: Daniel Summerhays, who has won the Nationwide event at Ohio State Scarlet and is in contention at the Memorial, on his mastery of courses Jack Nicklaus has designed or updated: “I've played bad on some Nicklaus courses, too.''
LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD: Kyle Reifers grew up in Dublin, just a few miles from Muirfield Village, where he has played more than 100 times. He always attended the Memorial every year.
In his second appearance at his hometown event, he has steadily climbed the leaderboard and completed a 70 just before darkness fell to stand in the top 10 heading into the weekend.
“I played well; I played really well. I probably played better than my score,'' he said. “Still, I'm pleased where I'm sitting under extremely tough conditions.''
THREE NOT A CHARM: Rory McIlroy ran his missed-cut streak to three tournaments, wilting to a 79 that left him at 6-over 150.
McIlroy, struggling to regain the form that made him a runaway winner at the U.S. Open last summer at Congressional, was stricken by some horrible holes. He had a quadruple-bogey 7 at the signature 12th in the first round and then had two doubles on the homeward nine Friday.
“It just seems that every time I go out there I make one or two big numbers, and that's what kills me,'' he said. “I just need to get those off the card and I'll be OK.''
He's running out of time to figure things out; he defends his Open title in just two weeks at Olympic in San Francisco.
HANGING AROUND: Defending champion Steve Stricker rebounded from a 73 to shoot a 70 and put himself in contention heading into the weekend.
It wasn't easy. It never is for Stricker at the Memorial – except for last year.
“It was a struggle the first two days,'' he said. “I played the first two days like I normally play here, to tell you the truth. Last year was a little out of the norm. I don't know what happened last year.''
Going into last year at the tournament, Stricker had missed more cuts (1) than he had top 10s in 11 Memorials.
DIVOTS: Joining Watson and McIlroy in missing the cut at 3-over 147 were major winners Louis Oosthuizen and Mike Weir. … Leader Rory Sabbatini had not had back-to-back rounds in the 60s in a PGA Tour event since the Humana in late January. He has birdied the par-3 fourth and par-4 ninth holes – two of the hardest on the course – in both rounds of 69. … Jim Furyk, Lucas Glover and Henrik Stenson shot 68s for the low rounds of the day. … First-round leader Scott Stallings followed his 66 with a 73.