2011 PGA Tour Week 4: Validation for My Dear Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson, are you there?

Bubba Watson, 2011 Farmers Insurance Open Champion! Photo Credit Richard Mille

Bubba Watson, 2011 Farmers Insurance Open Champion! Photo Credit Richard Mille

Those words have been heard since the invention of the telephone in 1876.

Following his best year in a four-year PGA TOUR career, the question wasn’t whether or not Watson would be out there on tour this year. The question was whether or not he could come back from a playoff loss to Martin Kaymer at Whistling Straits in the PGA Championship.

Question answered as Bubba Watson is now a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR.

Only five months after receiving the non-consolation prize of being a member of the 2010 Ryder Cup team, Watson has weathered the storm of personal loss and continued his trek to future golfing dominance.

“My dad is not here, Mom I love you,” were the words from his heart after beating a stellar field down the stretch at Torrey Pines, the San Diego muni better known as the world class golf course that hosted the dramatic 2008 US Open.

Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate played in the same field at Torrey Pines for the first time since Tiger birdied the last in regulation to force that memorable Monday playoff.

Rocco missed the cut by four strokes but has his recent four-hole-out victory at the 2010 Frys.com Open to accentuate his resume above and beyond the courageous battle against Tiger at Torrey.

Woods meanwhile was not as sharp as the 2010 PLAYOFFS for the FedEx Cup, finished T44, 15 strokes behind Watson. One has to wonder about his 74-75 weekend on the golf course on which he won six previous Farmers Open including four in a row only three years ago.

Woods has won 13 times in California and that other guy, the hometown favorite, Phil Mickelson, came close to winning his 13th California-style finishing one stroke behind.

So dramatic was the finish that Mickelson walked up to the 18th green and then had caddie Bones tend the flagstick while he struck his 73-yard pitch for eagle to tie Watson.

The staging was nothing less than legend Walter Hagen’s rendition in the movie Bagger Vance.

But one has to wonder about Mickelson who abandoned his aggressive “Masters 13th between the trees” style with a clean lie from 226 yards on the last even before Watson stroked in his 12-footer for the winning birdie.

Sure he went with driver off the tee on the narrow 17th to set up a sand wedge approach and finish birdie-birdie. But he did not finish off the tournament with a “W.”

Others in the stellar field right up there with Watson and Michelson heading into the final 18 holes included Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan and Anthony Kim.

Haas, the second round leader by two strokes, did record his fifth consecutive Top-10 going back to his second PGA TOUR win at the Viking Classic last fall. Son Bill failed to win another tournament that his father Jay won back in 1978 to go along with his first win- the 2010 Bob Hope Classic that Jay won in 1988.

Mahan, wed to former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader Kandi Harris only two weeks ago, faltered on Sunday with a 73.

Anthony “AK” Kim, with a renewed 2008 Ryder Cup like recommitment to the game, like Woods, had trouble on the weekend posting 71-72 and finishing T6, six strokes back.

The four rookies, including the leader Sunghoon Kang, that were among the leaders after Round 1 were no were to be found at the end of the tournament:  Kang (T51), Chris Kirk (T44), Keegan Bradley (T25) and Fabian Gomez (T65).

Experience like that on the PGA TOUR is priceless.

John Daly opened with a 67, followed with a 69 to stand T3 at the halfway point, but would go 76-79 to the weekend with no reports from the parking lot this year that he was giving up the game and launching another drama series on the Golf Channel.

The man who rose to the occasion again after winning for the first time last week at the Hope in the desert was Jhonattan Vegas. Also known as “Johnny Vegas,” as coined by the Golf Channel’s Phil Parkin on the Nationwide Tour last year where he finished 7th to get his rookie tour card.

The 26-year-old who won in only his fifth PGA TOUR start was paired with Tiger in the third round and played five strokes better than the 14-time major champion.

Neither Vegas, nor Mickelson heeded the “Rocco lesson” from the 2008 U.S. Open, i.e. hit the 18th fairway to have a chance to reach the green in two strokes. Vegas dunked his second in the water from the right rough and bogeyed whereas an eagle would have forced a playoff with Watson.

The pink shaft swinging Watson lead the field in driving distance (308 yards), greens in regulation (GIR) and was 13-under par on the par-fives for the week.

In the end it was Watson’s putter that came through at the end of the day. After missing two nine-foot birdie putts on 14 and 15, he drained another for par on 17 and then canned the winning putt on the 18th green.

No doubt long accurate drives, precise approach irons and streaky putting is a difficult combination to beat.

The only four-time winner in his 20s, Dustin Johnson made a Sunday charge posting a solid six-birdie, no bogey 66. Among the emerging next generation, Mahan, Kim, Sean O’Hair and Camilo Villegas each have three victories.

Bubba Watson becomes only the fifth lefthander to record multiple wins on the PGA TOUR joining the company of Mickelson, Mike Weir, Bob Charles, and Steve Flesch.

Watson answered another fateful call today at Torrey Pines.

Alexander Graham Bell might not have heard his reply on the internet or twitter.

Bubba Watson is now a multiple winner on the PGA TOUR and who knows what his next transmission to the golfing world will be.


Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer covering all four major American golf tours- the PGA TOUR, Champions, Nationwide and LPGA Tours.