Bubba is back
Watson collects his third Genesis Open title and 10th TOUR win
Bubba Watson wins his third Genesis Open
Bubba Watson continued his love affair with Riviera Country Club to claim his third Genesis Open and 10th PGA TOUR victory.
Welcome to the Monday Finish where Watson went from NBA Celebrity All-Star to the shining star at Hogan’s Alley.
1. Bubba Watson continues to bemuse and befuddle some folks with his personality, but one thing is clear… he can flat out play. Watson is an enigma wrapped in a riddle with plenty of idiosyncrasies in his life and his game, but as wacky as his self-taught Bubba golf is, it has now produced 10 PGA TOUR wins including three Genesis Open’s at Riviera and two Masters at Augusta National. It is quite a resume. Seeing first hand his uncanny ability to curve the ball both ways never gets old, especially when he does it with every club in his bag. On Sunday, he stepped up when the tournament was there for the taking, making a clutch par putt on the 13th hole and then holing out a stunning birdie from the bunker on the 14th. All of a sudden the confidence and brashness that had gone missing last season returned and he cruised to the win.
2. Tiger Woods made another return this week, but ultimately missed just the 25th cut of his PGA TOUR career after a scratchy second round. 72-76 won’t get it done around Riviera Country Club. Unlike at the Framers Insurance Open, where Woods produced a stellar short game to rescue some troubles off the tee, this time around his putter went cold. He couldn’t buy a putt on Friday especially. So when he hit just 13 of 28 fairways over two rounds, it became a hard slog. On Thursday, his miss off the tee was to the right. On Friday, it was to the left. So the lead up to this week’s Honda Classic will no doubt focus on finding some consistency. As Rory McIlroy said, we need to give Woods time to blow off the competitive rust and just be thankful he’s out competing at all. The crowds at Riviera on Thursday and Friday were massive to see him play the tournament for the first time since 2006 – and that’s good for everyone.
3. Over the front nine in the final group Sunday, Patrick Cantlay shaped as a very likely winner at Riviera. His play was deliberate, controlled and solid and although he had a couple of lucky breaks – like a ball stopping in a sprinkler head instead of into a tough spot – it just appeared as if the others would have to chase him down. But then he hit the tough 12th and 13th holes and made back-to-back bogeys to relinquish control that he couldn’t wrestle back. He’s an intense competitor and shapes as someone who is going to be amongst it on many occasions. I already expect he could be a “giant-killer” at the World Golf Championships – Dell Match Play next month. His T4 finish means four top-15s in six starts this season – including his win at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
4. The last man in the final group Sunday – Australian Cameron Smith – was unable to take advantage of his opportunities and ultimately had to settle for a T6 result. Certainly nothing to sneeze at but for the Zurich Classic winner it was agonizingly short of an important goal. Smith had targeted a high finish to push his way into the top-50 in the world rankings and as such book a place in the World Golf Championships – Mexico Championship. From there he was hoping to push further ahead to ensure a start at the World Golf Championships – Dell Match Play and ultimately the Masters. But at the end of the round, he fell just one shot short of a finish that would have enabled that goal. He moved up to 52nd in the world (and to 19th in the FedExCup) and so Smith is choosing to remain positive. His win in New Orleans – with teammate Jonas Blixt – earned no ranking points but Smith knows it’s further proof he can compete at the highest level and belongs among the elite. He will take a few weeks off before trying to make another push at the Valspar Championship.
5. That’s three weeks in row now Phil Mickelson has threatened to break his near five-year win drought. His charge mid round on Sunday had Mickelson looking to be the lefthander to win a third time at Riviera but it wasn’t to be as two late bogeys sent him to a T6 finish. The last time Mickelson was in the top-10 three starts in a row was 2009 so he has to take tremendous confidence going forward. One of the coolest parts of the week was when Mickelson and Tiger Woods were side by side on the range warming up. The pair might be past their prime, but they still move the needle a very long way.
1. Watson won his 10th career PGA TOUR event in his 279th career start. He moved from 166th to 18th in the FedExCup standings and jumped from 117th to 40th in the world rankings. Watson’s 18th position in the FedExCup standings marks the first time he has ranked inside the top-30 since finishing 21st in the 2015-16 PGA TOUR season.
2. Watson was second in the field in strokes gained: tee to green outperforming the field by +2.814 strokes. He ranked inside the top-11 in several approach the green categories, ranking third in approach shots from 175-200 yards and ninth in proximity to the hole on all approach shots. Watson averaged 13 feet, nine inches closer than the field on approach shots from 175-200 yards and five feet, four inches closer than the field on all approach shots. Entering the Genesis Open, Watson was 57th in approach shots from 175- 200 yards averaging 32 feet, one inch to the hole and making birdie or better in just over one out of four attempts (23.3 percent – 45th) from this distance this season. For the week, Watson averaged 23 feet, 10 inches (3rd) to the hole and made birdie or better on eight of 13 attempts (61.5percent – 1st).
3. Watson remains second on the list of left-handed winners on the PGA TOUR, some 32 wins behind Phil Mickelson. The south paws to win are: Phil Mickelson (42), Bubba Watson (10), Mike Weir (8), Bob Charles (6), Steve Flesch (4), Brian Harman (2), Ted Potter, Jr. (2), Sam Adams (1), Ernie Gonzales (1), Russ Cochran (1), Eric Axley (1), Greg Chalmers (1) and Cody Gribble (1).
4. Since 2004, no other hole on the PGA TOUR has yielded more eagles than No. 1 at The Riviera Country Club. Before this week’s event, 384 total eagles had been made on the opening hole at Riviera and now that number has hit 414. Here’s the round-by-round list of players who eagled the hole this week:
R1: Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Sean O’Hair, Brandon Harkins, Aaron Baddeley, John Merrick.
R2: Ryan Moore, Brandon Harkins, John Huh, Pat Perez, Kelly Kraft, Luke Donald, Adam Scott, Charles Howell III, Parker McLachlin.
R3: Bubba Watson, Kevin Na, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Talor Gooch, Kevin Chappell, Peter Uihlein, Sangmoon Bae.
R4: Ryan Moore, Rory McIlroy, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Ryan Blaum.
5. The leaders in Strokes Gained categories for the week were as follows: Off-the-tee – Harold Varner III (T60 finish); Tee-to-Green – Tony Finau (T2 finish); Approach-the-Green – Talor Gooch (T20 finish); Around-the-Green – Kevin Na (T2 finish); Putting – Derek Fathauer (T16 finish).