Bubba from Bagdad finally finds his way, wins Travelers

June 27, 2010
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer

CROMWELL, Conn. -- People can change. Bubba Watson is proof of that. When the game's resident Rain Man first arrived on the PGA TOUR, he knew he was good enough to win. In fact, he expected it.


It didn't matter that he honed his game as a kid by hitting wiffle balls off the dirt driveway at his house in the nowhere town of Bagdad (population 1,490) in the Florida panhandle. Or that he still has never received a formal lesson. Or that he wore pinks socks during his high school matches. Or that he plays with a pink shaft in his driver. Or that he suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder.

"My problem was 'Why can't I win? Why can't I do this?' I don't ever envy anybody else, but I did a couple of years ago and it was wrong for me to do that," said Watson, whom many considered aloof if not arrogant when he first turned pro.

"My caddie stayed with me for four years even though I kept getting mad and pissy on the golf course. You never deserve anything. If it's in the will, it's in the will."

Sunday, it was in the tears with Watson winning a sudden-death playoff against Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank at the Travelers Championship.

As much of a basher of the ball as Watson, who leads the TOUR in driving distance, is, it turns out he's also a big softy. He cried during his wedding ceremony, still gets weepy at church -- and at TPC River Highlands, he was flat-out bawling.

After his winning par putt on the second extra hole dropped, Watson's head collapsed into the arms of his wife, Angie. They told one another how much they loved each other and Angie whispered in his ear, "To God be all the glory."

The glory on this day, however, belonged solely to Watson. He began the day six strokes back and managed only a 4-under 66 in the final round. But he got plenty of help, mostly from Justin Rose, who had an epic collapse with a 75 that gave one of the game's shortest hitters (Pavin) and its longest (Watson) an opportunity along with Verplank.

"I'm a Christian first and golf just happens to be how I support my family," Watson said. "The game has given me a lot. It lets me support my mom and dad, lets me support the junior tournaments I put on. It's something I do for a living, but I don't ever question why I don't win."

Rd. 4 Highlights, Travelers Championship

Bubba Watson wins his first PGA TOUR event, besting Scott Verplank on the second hole of sudden death, at the 2010 Travelers Championship.

You don't have to be religious to appreciate Watson's internal and external struggles. His dad has had rheumatoid arthritis for almost 20 years and last October was diagnosed with lung cancer. His wife was also told she had a brain tumor over Christmas -- they found out in May it was only an enlarged pituitary gland.

"My dad taught me everything I know. It's not very much, but it's all I know. He would agree with that," said Watson, whose tear ducts were now in full-on Niagara Falls mode. "He took me to the golf course when I was 6 years old and told me he was going to be in the woods looking for his ball, so just take this 9-iron and beat it down the fairway.

"Now look at me after beating a 9-iron on the fairway coming from Bagdad, Florida. I never dreamed this."

Lots of people had, though. Angie's cell phone had 67 text messages before the tear-fest was even over, and Bubba's was buzzing in his pocket the entire time. Among the well wishes were likely ones from Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum. They came from the same Milton (Fla.) High School team that Watson did. Those two had already won on TOUR. Now Watson had a victory, too.

"Truthfully, I never doubt myself," Watson said. "I have the ability, but maybe am not a strong enough mind to keep going because I'm emotional."

When Watson settled in over his 3-footer to win, though, he had to keep those emotions in check. That was easier said than done.

"That putt I made for par to win, I don't remember taking the putter back," Watson said. "My head's going a thousand miles an hour. I couldn't take a breath.

"I just remember my arms went one way and my arms went the other way and somehow it went straight in the hole."

When it did, Watson got what he deserved.