Watson notches third win at River Highlands
Cromwell, CT- Bubba Watson holds a special place in his heart for TPC River Highlands. On June 27th, 2010, the Bagdad, FL, native won his first tournament in a memorable playoff against Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank. It was the only tournament his father saw him win before succumbing to cancer. Five years and two Masters Tournament victories later, the self-trained golfer edged Paul Casey in another playoff for his second umbrella blazed jacket. This year, Watson recovered from losing 25 pounds while sick over three months the prior year. He won at the WGC Dell World Championships and the Genesis Open. A disappointing missed cut at the US Open gave way to returning to the launching point of his career in Cromwell.
Bubba did not start promisingly. He shot an even par on the opening round and was disappointed in himself. He returned and shot a -7 to guarantee the cut. A three under left Watson at -10 for the Tournament and six shots back of the leader, Paul Casey, ahead of the final day. With the threat of storms hanging in the air and a trophy on the line, Watson put on a show for the Connecticut crowd.
Again, it did not open as such. Watson shot four pars on the first four holes. Two birdies on holes five and six started reversing course, but a bogey on eight may have derailed the crowd favorite. From there though, Watson locked in. He did not bogey another hole and birdied six of his final ten. Notably, with Paul Casey stuck on -16, Watson took the tee on the 15th hole trying to tie. His drive ended up in the right side bunker. But a strong recovery shot allowed a tap in for birdie and a tied tournament. Watson pared the next two and walked to 18 with a chance at the lead. The famed big hitter decided to unload a shot, and cranked a 365 yard bomb. The wedge was on a hard lie, but the magic man spun the shot perfectly for a 2 and 1/2 foot putt for birdie, which he sank. The fans cheered their man as he walked off to the clubhouse to submit his card and see if the trophy was his or if more needed to be played.
While Watson waxed, Paul Casey waned. The 40 year old Arizona State alum sported a four stroke lead to open the day. He birdied the first hole and appeared to carry momentum into the final day. But a bogey on five knocked him back to even for the round and Casey did not keep up his early pace. At the turn, more trouble befell the Englishman. He struggled to knock down putts on 11 and 12. Then he put his drive on 13 into a pond. A scrambling effort saved par and held the lead, but disaster struck a few holes later. After Watson took the lead, Casey landed his drive on 16 over the green. His recovery shot got Casey close, but two putts gave him a bogey. The next hole, Casey again drove into the pond and could not save par this time. A bogey on 17 knocked him three stroked back of Watson, and a par on 18 held him there. For the second time in his career, Watson fell short in the Travelers against Watson.
As rain poured, the trophy presentation was moved inside and Watson was presented his third Travelers Championship trophy and blazer from sports broadcasting legend Chris Berman. He now holds the second most tournament wins, trailing only Billy Casper at four. The fan favorite spoke well his caddy after the event.
“I sent Teddy (Scott) a voice text yesterday and I apologized. I said my attitude was not where it needed to be. It needed to be better than that. I was pretty much miserable about shooting 70 out here where I feel like this is my home course. He texted me back and said “Keep your head down. You’re playing great. Let’s just have fun and see what happens. I was never thinking about victory, I was just thinking about playing golf.”
Watson added a note about his family following the tournament. “My motivation is to quit before I keep winning because I want to be there for my family. My son asked me last night in the bunk beds, ‘Dad, when are you going to retire?’ Because he wants to spend more time with me. They tug at you.” Watson’s two kids, both adopted, are six and three years old. Both were in attendance in Cromwell with his wife Angela.
Watson’s performance overshadowed plenty of other exceptional performances. Namely, Stewart Cink. The 45 year old birdied six holes on the front nine and seven of his first ten en-route to a 62, or -8 for the day. Unfortunately, bogeys on 11 and 16 marred an otherwise impeccable performance. Cink put himself close to the lead, but in his words; “We’ll hang on a little bit, but don’t think it’s enough to come close to winning.” The two time Travelers Champion was still happy with his performance on the final day. It tied Paul Casey’s -8 from the prior day as the PGA’s low score of the year.
With the win, Watson moves to third in the FedEx Cup standings. His winner’s purse was 1.3 million dollars. He will return in his RV to the family house at Greenbrier and play in the tournament there before flying to play The Open Championship at Carnoustie next month.