By JOEL BEALL
Bubba Watson returns to Austin looking to repeat his WGC-Match Play title. But while Watson is the Match Play’s defending champ, he is not its proponent.
Watson made a spirited run on Sunday at the Valspar Championship, turning in the low round of the day at the Copperhead Course to finish in a tie for fourth, his fourth top 20 in his last six starts. However, it doesn’t sound like the two-time Masters champ is convinced the strong play will carry to Texas.
Primarily, because he’s not a fan of the event.
“I vote every year not to have Match Play because I feel like I have a better chance in 72 holes than I do in individual (matches),” Watson said at Innisbrook. “Because we have seen every year a guy shoot in the 60s and lose, and then we see a guy shoot in the 70s and win. And it’s like, wait a second, how fair is this?”
It’s a sentiment shared by tour officials, implementing a round-robin format in 2015, in part, to reduce some of the idiosyncrasies of match play.
Despite that conviction, Watson’s enjoyed a successful Match Play career. He’s reached the Sweet 16 stage five times and the final four twice, and last year defeated Justin Thomas in the semi-finals last year and clobbered Kevin Kisner 7&6 in the championship.
Nevertheless, the 40-year-old isn’t keen on his prospects this week, instead focusing on the rest of the season.
“Don’t get me wrong, if I win Match Play again, it would be a miracle. But it would be awesome, I would accept it,” Watson said. “But we’re just looking forward, six months from now and see if we have improved. And if that means throwing in a win here or there, great. But we’re just trying to improve and get more consistent so we have chances on Sundays instead of last place.”
Watson enters the WGC-Match Play as the No.15 seed, meaning he will be the “A” player in his pod. The pairings will be announced on Monday night (Austin time), with the first matches held on Wednesday.