Watson stumbles to third-round 79 at East Lake

Bubba Watson hits a shot during the opening round of the U.S. Open.

ATLANTA – We are going to take a wild guess here, but the suspicion is, you don’t have Bubba Watson’s problem.

The one about hitting the ball too far.

“With my swing speed, hitting out of the rough here, the ball just jumps,” Watson said after a round of 79 ruined any chance of winning the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.

Having started the day at 5 under, tied for fifth and just four off the lead, Watson went crashing down the leaderboard. More like he’s in the cellar, now 4 over, T-26, and only ahead of three members of the 30-player field.

The problem, Watson said, is his inability “to judge” how his golf ball comes out of the rough. Take that shot at the first hole, for instance. Watson was a few yards wide left of the first fairway and figured with a little bit of a jump, covering 160 yards uphill with his wedge was the prudent play.

“The ball jumped and went 180-185 yards,” Watson said. “I guess I didn’t throttle (back) enough.”

Watson bogeyed four of his first six holes and was already out of it when he sealed his fate at the par-4 17th. His second shot plugged into the face of a bunker and with the uphill lie, Watson hit his next shot over the green and into water. He continued his mis-hits and drops until he had a quintuple-bogey.

Stripped of a chance to win, but not of his humor, Watson saw a few reporters waiting and wondered if “you want to know how I broke 80.” With a smile, Watson said “it was the hardest two-putt” (from 50 feet at the par-3 18th) that accomplished the feat.

Watson wasn’t alone in Round 3 struggles, however, because the 36-hole leader, Adam Scott (74), and Bill Haas (69) both stumbled, too. Unlike Watson, neither player was in a mood to talk it up afterward.

Scott, who began the day at 8 under and leading by one, went out in level-par 35, but an inward 39 that included a double-bogey at the par-4 14th pushed him into a tie for ninth, 4 under and five behind the leaders, Aaron Baddeley and Hunter Mahan.

Haas’ tumble wasn’t as crushing. After all, he ended the day as he began it (tied for fifth and three back). But having birdied Nos. 10, 11, and 15, Haas was 9 under and tied for the lead when he bogeyed the par-4 17th and doubled the 18th.

The bogey at 17 was sloppy, though not particularly upsetting. But the bogey at the 209-yard 18th? It was disappointing, as he was wide right with his tee shot, then managed just to wedge his second to just 46 feet. A careless three-putt ensued as Haas – who closed with a 42 to leave last week’s BMW Championship with a sour taste – continued to struggle with his finishing touch.

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