Favourites to win the Masters seemingly change on a week-to-week basis. Will Tiger Woods win a fifth green jacket? Can Rory McIlroy complete the career grand slam? What about Justin Thomas, who was on the verge of becoming the No.1 golfer in the world this week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play?
The list could go on and on, but it has to include Bubba Watson, who put on one of his most impressive performances to date at Austin Country Club. Watson closed it this morning, Australian time, by taking down Thomas, 3&2, in the semi-finals before dominating Kevin Kisner, 7&6, in the 18-hole final match.
Watson claimed his 11th career US PGA Tour title, all of them coming in the past eight years. It’s also his second win this season, and his second career World Golf Championships victory.
An emotional Watson credited another successful week to his ability to focus. “It’s one of those things, I got off to a hot start and I’m just focused on golf,” he said. “So focused on committing to the shots, there was about four or five shots throughout the week where I wasn’t committed, where I kind of blanked out, and so, that’s pretty good over a 100-and-something holes, however many holes we played.”
Aside from a halved match on Friday against Julian Suri, Watson was never really in danger of losing this week, going 2-0-1 in group play with a 5&3 win over Branden Grace and a 3&2 win over Marc Leishman. In the knockout rounds, Watson trailed in only his first match against Brian Harman, when he was 1 down through seven holes before squaring the match and eventually winning 2 up. He followed that with a 5&3 win over Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarter-finals and a semi-finaldispatch of Thomas.
“Physical strength, healthy, that’s going to create the mind to be healthy, you’re going to have confidence in yourself,” Watson said. “Knowing that I can hit certain shots and do certain shots again, getting the strength back to hit the hard bomb or the big slice off the tee, things like that.
“And then, making the putts. I got a new putter. First week I used it was LA (Genesis Open) and they took two putters and welded it together, I’m using this putter that’s two putters in one. It’s worked out perfectly and the stroke looks good,” he said.
While Watson rolled it nicely throughout the week, he didn’t need to make many to take down Kisner, who beat Alex Noren in 19 holes in their semi-final, but ran out of fuel in the afternoon. The two-time Masters champion needed only three birdies to take down Kisner for the runaway win.
“Obviously Kisner is a great player, he’s played great all week. And you can just tell the energy was gone with the tough match this morning,” Watson said. “This afternoon getting off to a quick start, just drained his energy even more. And then I made some putts coming down the stretch and that kept me going, and kept me up front.”
If Watson keeps it up, many will likes his chances at to win a third green jacket at Augusta, but his mind is even further down the road.
“I’m really excited. I really hope Jim Furyk – I know I’m not supposed to say this on the TV station – I hope Jim Furyk is watching, because I really want to play in France. I want to be a vice-captain, but I’d rather play.”
While he didn’t have his best stuff in the championship match, Kisner takes plenty of confidence from this week heading into the Masters.
“Lot to build on this week, looking forward to a couple weeks at Augusta,” Kisner said. “I guess I need to figure out what happened this afternoon and work on that, get back to what I was doing earlier in the week and continue working hard on it.”
As for Noren, it’s another close call, one that’s especially painful considering he had a prime chance to beat Kisner on the 18th green. While he’s still searching for his first victory in America, he did go on to beat Thomas 5&3 in the consolation match, giving him his third top-three finish of the season.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 25, 2018