SAN DIEGO – Five things to take away from Bubba Watson’s victory at the Farmers Insurance Open:
1.) Bubba Watson is known for his impressive length, but two putts were key to his victory. He holed an 8-foot par putt on No. 17 and a 12-foot birdie on the final hole for a one-shot victory over hometown hero Phil Mickelson. Watson had a difficult chip shot from thick rough behind the green on the second-to-last hole, and got up and down from a downhill lie in the greenside bunker on the par-5 finishing hole.
“I worked this winter on my mind to be more focused,” Watson said. “To be worried about what I’m doing and not what everybody else is doing.”
Watson has finished in the top 3 in five of his past 25 PGA Tour starts, including victories this week and at last year’s Travelers Championship, and a playoff loss at last year’s PGA Championship.
“I want to be No. 1 in the world,” Watson said. “If I can just stay up and not be down on myself all the time, I believe I can get there.”
From YouTube videos to a constant stream of Twitter posts, Watson is a star for a new generation. That fact was confirmed when he became a “trending topic” on Twitter shortly after his victory.
2.) Phil Mickelson has provided us with many memorable images. Having his caddie, Jim Mackay, tend the flag for his 72-yard approach to the par-5 18th was just another. The strategy made sense, though.
“About 10, 12, 14 times a year I end up hitting the pin with a wedge and it ricochets all over the place, and I didn’t want that to happen,” Mickelson said. “I wanted to fly it in, possibly, or I wanted to skip it past and maybe bring it back in.”
Mickelson’s tee shot into the rough on 18 prevented him from going for the green in two. He played well this week despite a wayward driver, but it finally cost him on the final hole. Mickelson ranked 64th (out of the 79 players who made the cut) in driving accuracy, but tied for second in greens in regulation.
Still, Mickelson took positives from his second-place finish. The prognosis is good for his arthritis, and his wife and mother are recovering from breast cancer. He said this year would be about refining his game, instead of making large changes with Butch Harmon.
“I think that 2011 has the potential to be what I expected 2010 to be,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson started the final round tied for the lead with Bill Haas, who shot 75 Sunday. Haas’ T-9 finish was his third consecutive top 10 to start the season.
3.) Nick Watney continued his success at Torrey Pines. The 2009 Farmers Insurance Open champion matched the course record with a final-round 63 that vaulted him 50 spots on the leaderboard into a tie for sixth. After teeing off on No. 10, Watney birdied eight of his first nine holes to shoot 28 on the South Course’s back nine.
“I didn’t have an epiphany or breakthrough,” Watney said. “I made a few putts and just tried to swing with good rhythm.”
In addition to his ’09 victory, Watney finished ninth here last year and in ’07.
4.) Your new FedEx Cup points leader? Jhonattan Vegas, who tied for third at Torrey Pines. He’s the first rookie ever to lead the FedEx Cup points list at any point in the season. He also tied Retief Goosen as the second-fastest player to reach $1 million in career earnings (five events). J.B. Holmes surpassed $1 million in four events. Vegas’ hopes for back-to-back victories were dashed when he hit his 5-iron second shot on the par-5 18th into the lake fronting the green.
Vegas and Mickelson became the first two players to record four rounds in the 60s at this event.
5.) Amateur Anthony Paolucci shot 72 Sunday to finish T-29, two shots ahead of Tiger Woods. Paolucci shot par or better in all four rounds.
Woods shot 75 Sunday. He opened the week with consecutive 69s, but shot 74-75 on the weekend. He hit 9 of 14 fairways Sunday and 12 of 18 greens, but had 32 putts. He finished 63rd of 79 players in putts per green in regulation (1.81).
“Today was nice starting out,” Woods said. “I hit it just as pure as can be, and then it progressively got worse as the day went on.”
At what PGA Tour stop will we next see Woods? One would assume the WGC-Accenture Match Play, but he avoided questions about his upcoming schedule. “Yeah, I’m definitely playing in the future, no doubt,” he said. At least we know he’s not retiring. That would be newsworthy this week, unlike his play.