Watson rallies for third win of season at Travelers Championship

CROMWELL, CT - JUNE 24: Caleb Watson, son of Bubba Watson of the United States, holds his father's nameplate after the final round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands on June 24, 2018 in Cromwell, Connecticut. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images) Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

Watson rallies for third win of season at Travelers Championship

PGA Tour

Watson rallies for third win of season at Travelers Championship

CROMWELL, Conn. – Caddie Ted Scott sat slouched on a big leather sofa inside the grill room at TPC River Highlands, watching a television. There was nothing left for him to do but wait. Twenty minutes earlier, his man, Bubba Watson, had followed a 366-yard drive on the 18th hole with a 77-yard lob wedge shot to set up a tap-in birdie. The shot was downwind and hit off a tight lie. The two-time Masters champion later called it one of the best shots of his life. It capped a Sunday 63 that had rocketed Watson up the leaderboard at the Travelers Championship.

Scott watched TV and played with Watson’s son, Caleb, to pass the time. Watson was in the locker room as the final groups finished.

Someone asked Scott if he was nervous. He said no, because there was nothing he could do and he expected either J.B. Holmes or Paul Casey, who had started the day with a four-shot lead, to make birdies and force a playoff.

But down by two shots, Holmes failed to make birdie on 17, then Casey, who was coming off a bogey on 16, found the water with his tee shot on 17. In a flash the tournament came down to whether Holmes could hole out from the fairway on 18, and when his approach shot came up short and right, Scott smiled at Caleb and said, “Go tell Daddy that he won!”

The victory was the third for Watson at the Travelers Championship, as well as his third of the 2017-18 PGA Tour season. He posted a 17-under 263 total.

Back in February he won for the third time at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. He followed that with a win in March at the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship.

This victory came over a star-studded field that included defending champion Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day. It virtually guarantees Watson will be on the U.S. Ryder Cup team this fall in Paris, moved him to No. 3 on the FedEx Cup points list and put Watson in the conversation for Player of the Year.

A year ago Watson was 25 pounds lighter due to illness, lacked energy and was stuck in the middle of a lousy season. After missing the cut at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, he missed the cut here in Connecticut.

Now healthy and playing the powerful, curvy style of golf that has won him 12 PGA Tour events, Watson is showing signs of maturity.

“This was a weird week,” he said. “I sent Teddy a voice text and apologized after we got done yesterday for my attitude the last couple of days. Even on Friday, after I shot 7 under, I was upset. Then I was upset with a 3 under (Saturday) because I made bogey coming down the stretch.”

The Watson who won here in 2010, and maybe even the man who won here in 2015, might not have sent his caddie that message. Now he has some perspective. He can still be snippy and cocoons himself from the outside world by wearing headphones during pre-round warm-up sessions. But he’s not the same man he once was.

“I’ve got two kids now. They’re watching me. They’re going to see. They’re going to find out about YouTube at some point. They’re going to see old videos and hear things,” Watson said. “It’s a learning curve for me, but it’s also helping me. It’s helping me grow. I’ve been able to grow as a person and as a man.”

Watson is complicated, and he will never fit neatly into labels or preconceptions that fans and media have about golfers. But with his growing resume and a game capable of producing birdies in bunches, he may be growing into a player who could wind up in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

 

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