CROMWELL, Conn. – Bubba Watson didn’t like the attitude he displayed during the first three days of this week’s Travelers Championship. He was miserable about his opening even-par 70, feeling he gave away too many shots due to mental mistakes on a TPC River Highlands course that has treated him so well.
Not even a second-round 63, a score that allowed him to make the cut, was enough to cheer his spirits. “Even that day, I was upset,” he said.
So on Saturday night after his third-round 67 that wasn’t nearly as productive as he hoped, he sent caddie Ted Scott a voice text – “I can’t spell, so I voice text,” Watson said – to apologize. Bubba said his attitude needed to be better.
Scott texted back and told Watson not to worry, to just keep his head down and move forward. “You’re playing great,” Scott told him. “Let’s just have fun out there tomorrow and see what happens.”
Indeed, Bubba and his caddie had plenty of fun Sunday. Starting the day six-shots behind leader Paul Casey, Watson posted his second 63 of the week to zoom past the Englishman to win his third Travelers title. It’s also his third win of the PGA TOUR season, the most of any player as he climbs to third in the FedExCup standings.
Of course, Watson needed help, specifically from Casey, who started his round with a four-shot lead but fought his swing all day and made just one birdie, on the opening hole. Casey’s 2-over 72 opened the door for someone to make a move. No surprise that it was Watson, whose second Travelers title in 2015 also came at Casey’s expense in a playoff.
“I didn't get it taken care of today,” Casey said. “Credit to his great play. I would have loved to have won outright or at least have another go at him in a playoff would have been nice. But not to be.”
Watson had made up just two shots on Casey at the turn, but a hole-out from the greenside rough at the 10th started turning things serious. When he reached the 16th tee box, Watson – playing four groups ahead -- had caught Casey.
Still, the outcome remained in doubt when Watson stood over his approach on the 18th fairway, a downwind, tight lie from 77 yards. It was difficult to get any spin on his shot, but Watson found a way, setting up a 3-foot birdie that sealed the deal.
Scott put his arm around Watson and simply said, “Amazing shot.”
Watson’s first Travelers win – and the first of his TOUR career – came in 2010. Since then, he and wife Angie have adopted two kids, Caleb and Dakota. He’s won two majors and now has 12 career wins. Things have changed. Big, positive changes.
But his growth as a person continues. Perhaps the apology to Scott on Saturday night is one small indication of that.
“Our joke as a team is I've changed more than anybody in the world from when I got on TOUR to now,” Watson said. “You know, it's just growing up. We're going to make mistakes. I'm going to three-putt, I'm going to duff chips. I'm going to do a lot of things on the golf course bad and off the golf course bad and I'm going to have to apologize. Like I said earlier, I'm the fastest to apologize.
“I've got two kids now. They're watching me. They're going to see. They're going to find out YouTube at some point. They're going to see old videos and hear things. … 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.”
He’s certainly grown as a player. Three wins and counting this season. And if he has to apologize for something along the way, no worries. Even that works out pretty well.
Stewart Cink’s wife Lisa, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, has been traveling with her husband quite a bit this season. But she wasn’t in town earlier this week, arriving only this weekend. Cink said the difference was palpable – he started Sunday feeling very peaceful. “I just felt like I had a good vibe out there from the get-go,” he said. Cink birdied six of his first seven holes en route to an 8-under 62 that ties his career low score on TOUR. His 10 birdies, meanwhile, was his most in any round, as he finished tied for second. “I never really thought I had the chance to win the tournament,” said Cink, a two-time Travelers winner, “but I knew my position gave me a chance to really shoot up and pass a lot of guys today, and that's exactly what's going to happen.”
Rory McIlroy ranked first this week in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Strokes Gained: Off the Tee. But after finishing his tournament at 11 under and a tie for 12th, McIlroy wasn’t entirely happy with his swing this week. “I wasn’t really in control of my golf ball much,” McIlroy said after finishing with a 3-under 67. “My iron play especially … it just didn’t feel that comfortable.” He did say he was happy with the new driver he put into his bag this week.
Defending champ Jordan Spieth opened with a 63 to share the first-round lead but was a non-factor the rest of the week. He was 3 over for the final three rounds to finish T-42. Originally planning to take the next three weeks off before defending his title at the Open Championship, Spieth said he now may add a start to his schedule (although he will take next week off). “I don’t feel like I have to, but it certainly could help,” he said.
Brooks Koepka admitted this week he was exhausted after winning his second straight U.S. Open, but he played well Sunday, shooting a 65 to finish T-19. He’ll put away the clubs for the next few days but it doesn’t sound like he’ll get much rest. He’s hanging out in Boston with a bunch of friends this week, then heads back to his Florida home for a night, then off to a bachelor party for a friend. “I was really hoping to get some rest, but I don’t know how much that will happen.” He said.
Chase Seiffert finished T-9 after a final-round 64 – a huge result for the Monday qualifier who has no status on any TOUR. It means he’s automatically in the field for A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. “I was telling my instructor and caddie David there, today is my Monday qualifier for The Greenbrier,” Seiffert said. “If I play well today, I can kind of get myself in, so I went out that and tried to attack.” He’s the fourth Monday qualifier to finish in the top 10 this season.
QUOTABLESI wasn’t thinking about victory today. I was just playing golf.
I fought my golf swing all day.I thought about 59.
Lowest round: Stewart Cink’s 8-under 62.
Longest drive: Rory McIlroy’s 381-yard tee shot at the par-4 seventh.
Longest putt: Brett Stegmaier’s putt from 44 feet, 1 inch for birdie at the par-4 ninth.
Hardest hole: The 171-yard par-3 16th played to a stroke average of 3.135, with 12 birdies against 17 bogeys, 1 double and 1 other.
Easiest hole: The 574-yard par-5 sixth played to a stroke average of 4.689, with 1 eagle and 28 birdies against just five bogeys and 1 double.
CALL OF THE DAY
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SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Bubba Watson's clutch approach for Shot of the Day