CROMWELL, Conn. — Bubba Watson has constructed out a case, a agency one, as the very best golfer of 2018.
On Sunday, the booming lefty got here again from six strokes down within the Travelers Championship to win by three strokes (ending 17-under) and dominantly declare the 12th PGA Tour win of his profession. His victory got here due to an emphatically spectacular lob wedge shot from 71 yards that landed two ft to the opening. on No. 18 There’s one thing about River Highlands — the Connecticut course that is bought a particular, constructive voodoo to it — that has endeared nice endings lately. Just final 12 months, for instance, Jordan Spieth holed out from the bunker to win.
And now, Watson’s dart on 18. The quick birdie putt that got here after that roar of a second wound up giving Watson a one-stroke lead on Paul Casey, who held the lead for greater than 25 consecutive holes to that time.
“You had to fly it over the bunker and get it to check somehow,” Watson stated. “It’s one of those where it could have easily went short in the bunker or over the green, just because you guessed wrong on how it’s going to come out. The lie was kind of tight down there. So to open the 63-degree up to try to cut it a little bit to add spin to it. For it to come off perfect like that, I knew as soon as I hit it, you could tell the distance was right.”
This is the third Travelers title of Watson’s profession (2010, 2015 have been the others). Billy Casper, who gained the match 4 instances, is the one different particular person to win this occasion at the very least thrice. Watson shot a 7-under 63 on Sunday to get him 17 strokes beneath par for the four-day mixture.
The Travelers trophy additionally provides Watson his third win of the 12 months. This quantities to a full-fledged resurgence. After failing to win a PGA Tour occasion in 2017, he is blasted as much as third within the FedEx Cup due to this; Watson was sitting in 15th heading into the Travelers. Fitting for him to win, as Watson’s been a longtime proponent of the occasion and helped its rise in recognition over a lot of the previous decade.
When he gained the Travelers in 2010, it was the primary PGA Tour victory of his profession.
Watson’s six-stroke comeback additionally amounted to a nine-stroke turnaround on the ultimate day, the largest swing within the occasion’s historical past. (Brad Faxon got here from seven again in 2005, the biggest deficit on this match’s historical past, however gained through a playoff.)
And how about this for Watson: He’s gained 11 stroke-play PGA Tour occasions and has come from behind on the ultimate day to win seven of them. Watson made his push, and knew he had an opportunity as soon as he sunk an up-and-down save on 15.
“The fist pump on 15, that’s when I thought I had a shot at it,” Watson stated.
The crowd was behind him, too. He additionally had a big-time chip-in on 10 to nab birdie, one of 5 he’d tackle the again 9. With inclement climate approaching, Watson aggressively chased pins tight pins and knew that the winds have been going to be issue. Prior to his mesmerizing wedge plop on 18, Watson took out the motive force and performed aggressively off the tee — even in opposition to his internal intuition.
“If we’re going to lose the golf tournament, let’s lose it hitting the big dog,” Watson stated.
Afterward, an uncommon ceremonial scene. Torrential rains blasting eastward by way of Connecticut held off simply sufficient for the match to conclude, however they dumped exhausting simply because the trophy presentation was being held within the media interview room/media tent … which then start to pool water and flood. Watson — after almost 45 minutes of ready — lastly took questions from the press contained in the media workroom.
Watson was near the center afterward; he was self-aware. A polarizing participant whose status as a gruff competitor has undeniably value him in some methods, Watson stated a change in his strategy prior to now 12 months has helped his success this 12 months. He additionally stated some well being points, which included vital weight fluctuation, threw him off observe in 2017.
“After last year, who knows what to expect,” he stated. “It’s amazing what good energy and some healthy energy will do.”
Watson even stated he referred to as his caddie after Saturday and apologized for his poor angle within the first three days on the Travelers. Old habits might be exhausting to shake, however the reality he is brazenly speaking about his faults signifies that one thing is altering with him. He cited fatherhood and his younger youngsters rising up additionally taking part in a giant half.
Now he is wanting like the very best golfer on this planet on this intriguing golf season. Consider this: Watson gained amid a 156-player area that featured 15 different gamers who’d gained at the very least one main. That sort of competitors in a non-major occasion is a rarity on the PGA Tour. He excelled when the climate was at its stickiest and the competitors very a lot in flux.
Here are the remaining of our grades for the Travelers Championship, which is establishing a status as one of the true must-watch non-majors in golf.
Paul Casey (T2): Nightmare end for Casey, who’s taking part in effectively as of late, however discovered himself gagging away what ought to have been his third PGA Tour victory. In reality, Casey misplaced this occasion to Watson in a playoff in 2015. On Sunday, he entered 14 beneath and holding a four-stroke lead. By the time Watson made his birdie on 18 to take a one-stroke lead, Casey was wrapping up 15, which he parred.
He then pushed a 4 and a half footer on 16, lacking par and dropping two again on Watson. Casey adopted that up by placing his tee shot within the drink off to the suitable on 17. It was a brutal bend the mistaken approach for Casey, who waited till holes 70 and 71 of the match earlier than logging consecutive bogeys. Grade: B-
Stewart Cink (T2): No one made up extra floor on the ultimate day than the 45-year-old Cink, who went from a tie for 20th to a tie for second. He completed 14 beneath, in a tie with Beau Hossler, J.B. Holmes and Paul Casey. Cink, like Watson, is a multiple-time winner of the Travelers occasion, and thru the primary two hours, he was taking part in his approach towards a possible third title. Cink shot a 29 on the entrance 9, then took a pair of bogeys on the again earlier than settling with a powerful tournament-low 62. With golf, a lot of the way you’re judged is the way you shut. Cink was at his greatest — and calmest — Sunday. Grade: A-
Jason Day (T12): A very good-not-great match for Day (11 beneath), who was all the time lingering however by no means threatening. However, it will possibly’t get misplaced within the aftermath of the Travelers that Day really nearly went full Spieth on the 18th within the remaining spherical. No, this wasn’t within the sand, and no, this did not a trophy, nevertheless it echoed what Spieth did in 2017.
Day tied for third in birdies on the Travelers (22 of them) however was held again as a result of he bogeyed 11 holes. He graded sixth in driving distance however 38th in driving accuracy. Day’s nonetheless doing tremendous for himself in 2018; in January he gained the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, and in May he took the Wells Fargo Championship title. Grade: B
Rory McIlroy (T12): McIlroy ended up at 11 beneath, performed in by a number of of TPC River Highlands’ difficult and thin holes which have water hazards. His energy is made for this course, however he is but to threaten for a title regardless of taking part in the occasion usually. His highlights at this 12 months’s match got here when a squirrel scampered throughout the primary tee field on Saturday, and his 43-foot chip for eagle later within the spherical. I can say firsthand that the New England locals love them some McIlroy. He commanded galleries as massive as anybody else this weekend. Grade: B
Brooks Koepka (T19): Koepka was taking part in with the deepest pockets of home cash conceivable at this occasion. Coming off his second straight U.S. Open title, the 28-year-old discovered himself amid a highlight few have been anticipating to shine. Koepka’s comeback from a wrist harm earlier this 12 months has given proof to his expertise and potential. He’s now within the high 4 of the World Golf Rankings, and in Cromwell, he completed 9 beneath. Strong play after the U.S. Open championship; if Koepka had slouched out and didn’t make the reduce, nobody would have blamed him. Instead, a decent four-day exhibiting. Grade: B
Jordan Spieth (T42): The 2017 champ,