Watson overcomes six-stroke deficit to win third Travelers Championship

Published on Sunday, 24 June 2018 21:44
Written by DAVID GLOVACH

@DavidGlovach

CROMWELL - TPC River Highlands continues to be Bubba Watson’s unofficial home course. He played it that way on Sunday.

Watson overcame a six-stroke deficit to claim his third Travelers Championship title after shooting a 7-under 63 for a three-stroke win. Only Bill Casper has more wins at the tournament with four.

The world’s 20th-ranked golfer finished at 17-under 263 to become the PGA Tour’s first three-time winner this season. Third-round leader Paul Paul Casey (72), Stewart Cink (62), Beau Hossler (66) and J.B. Holmes (67) all tied for second at 14 under.

“I think I'm the first one to sign up [for the Travelers] every year,” said Watson, who also won the event in 2010 and 2015. “As soon as they put the schedule up, I sign up for this one because I want to come back here. This means so much, not just from the golf side of it, but from the family side of it. My dad, the only time he got to see me win [in 2010], he got to see me qualify for the Ryder Cup through this event. So all these things mean so much to my family.”

This time last year, Watson was sitting at home as Jordan Spieth hoisted the Travelers Championship trophy, but the left-hander began going on a run that started Friday and didn’t end until the 18th hole on Sunday.

Watson played well on the front nine, shooting a 33, but began to find his groove on the back. He finished with five birdies in his final nine holes, including a chip-in from below the green on 10 that sent the large crowd following him and Bryson DeChambeau into a frenzy.

He tied Casey at 16-under with a birdie on the course’s par-4 15th.

Watson and Casey stayed that way until Watson went to the 18th and hit his tee shot 366 yards, leaving him just 71 from the pin. He finished with a birdie on the par-4 hole.

“I wanted to hit a 2-iron,” Watson said. “I was like, ‘you know what? If we're going to lose the golf tournament, let's lose it hitting the big dog.’ So I went ahead and hit it and when I got down there, my lie was tight. It was straight downwind and I was like ‘I don't know how I'm going to hit this shot.’ So I had a bunch of people texting me saying that's one of the best shots they've seen, these were pros.”

It was a different story for Casey.

The Englishman had been as consistent as one could be after shooting a 65, 67 and 62 to take a 4-stroke lead coming into Sunday. Then, as they had in so many other tournaments, things began to turn for the worse.

Casey birdied his first hole of the afternoon, but bogeyed the fifth and then had back-to-back bogeys on 16 and 17 that ended any chance he had of catching Watson.

Casey has finished in the top 20 in eight of his last nine tournaments, but still has yet to pull out a win at the Travelers. He placed second to Watson in 2015 after a playoff, 17th in 2016 and eighth last year.

“I didn't get it taken care of today,” Casey said. “Credit to [Watson’s] great play. I would have loved to won outright or at least have another go at him in a playoff would have been nice. But not to be.”

Cink tied Casey for the best round of the tournament after shooting a 62. He played himself into the conversation after birdying six of his first seven holes to shoot a 29 on the first nine. Overall, the two-time Travelers champion made 10 birdies to two bogeys and just missed out on a chance for an eagle on 13.

“I just felt like you need to play all the holes here,” Cink said. “You never know what's going to happen. I never really thought I had the chance to win the tournament, 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 happened.”

Spieth, who was tied for the lead with Zach Johnson after the opening round, capped off a frustrating weekend at 4 under. There hasn't been a repeat champion at the Travelers since Phil Mickelson in 2001 and 2002.

Rory McIlroy shot his second-lowest round of the tournament with a 67 to finish at 11 under and in a tie for 12th place.

The Northern Irishman bogeyed his first hole of the day, but recovered with three birdies in the front nine and two more on the back.

“I've still got some work to do,” said McIlroy, who will play in the Irish Open in two weeks. “I played well on Thursday, but then I sort of just reverted back to a couple of bad habits that I've been in and struggled the last three days. But it's getting there.”

U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka shot a 65 to tie for 19th at 9 under. After a whirlwind couple of weeks, he’s looking forward to having the next few weeks to just relax.

“I know next week I probably won't touch the clubs, but, you know, it's a good feeling to be back [healthy],” said Koepka after missing 3½ months with a wrist injury earlier in the season. “I like this place. I like this golf course. It really rewards good play. I feel like if you're on, you can really shoot a low number but if you just hit it a little bit off, this golf course can be very difficult, and that's the beauty of this place.”

Jason Day shot a 69 to finish at 11 under after holing out on 18 from 38 feet away. Russell Henley, who held second place coming into the final round, shot a 1-under and into a tie for sixth.

As for Watson, he left with another trophy in hand.

“I love coming here,” he said.

David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or dglovach@newbritainherald.com



Posted in New Britain Herald, General Sports on Sunday, 24 June 2018 21:44. Updated: Sunday, 24 June 2018 21:47.