Bubba Watson ends drought with Genesis Open title, Anirban in T26

Bubba Watson produced a calm final round performance under pressure to end a two year drought with victory in the Genesis Open. Anirban Lahiri finished the week in T26.

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Bubba Watson wins Genesis Open 2018

Feb 19, 2018: Bubba Watson had just joined Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer as a three-time winner of the Genesis Open, but he wasn’t entertaining talk of comparisons.

“I’m the first and I’m the only Bubba Watson,” he said.

He sure is. Watson is perhaps arguably the most unlikely player in the history of the game of golf to reach 10 PGA TOUR wins – which he did with his two-shot triumph at Riviera Country Club on Sunday.

The self-taught, freewheeling, idiosyncratic left-handed Floridian rips at the ball like it assaulted his mother and needs to be punished.

He can curve it every which way in the air and spin it six ways from sideways on the greens. Nothing about what he does is conventional. And that includes off the course.

Watson rarely looks you in the eye and suffers from anxiety at times in crowded places. He’s a self-confessed “head case”.

His attention span is about as long as his driver shaft, yet he manages to concentrate long enough to produce stellar shots.

And while his fellow competitors hit the range or a post-round ice bath this week, Watson visited Hollywood talk shows and played in the celebrity game at the NBA All-Star Weekend.

He’s different. Clearly. But it wasn’t any of the above that had Watson stranded on nine TOUR wins for two years – instead it was an illness that he still refuses to disclose.

“My sickness is minor compared to others. My dad passed away from cancer. I have nowhere near cancer. It’s nothing,” he says.

But whatever it was – it stripped weight from Watson and dropped him to around 160 pounds from his highs of around 210 and ideal weight of around 185.

It made him weak and tired. And he was unable to produce the swashbuckling golf he is used to.

Consequently, season 2016-17 was his worst on record, finishing 75th in the FedExCup and having his world ranking slide outside the top 100.

“My ball speed, my swing, everything changed,” he said. “It was the lowest point I’ve ever been at in the game of golf. The last year-and-a-half, almost two years, give or take, it’s been a struggle because I want to be at the top.

“I was top?10 in the world for a few years there… so not being there… you feel like, is this it, is this my old man moment where I can’t play golf again?”

He was feeling so sorry for himself that he even contemplated retirement. “I was close,” he said to that prospect.

“My wife was not close. My wife told me ?? my wife basically told me to quit whining and play golf. She’s a lot tougher than I am.”

It’s why tears came out on the 72nd hole when he clinched the win. Watson has always been emotional in these moments – but this time it was about the climb back.

It was about hitting double digit wins – a number he never thought possible.

“Nobody thought that Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Florida, would ever get to 10 wins, let’s be honest. Without lessons, head case, hooking the ball, slicing the ball, can’t putt,” he said.

“This day and age, to get 10 wins on the PGA TOUR, the greatest tour in the world… I am thrilled.

“I never thought I could get there. So you try to set something that you never think you can get to and if I got to it, that’s my Hall of Fame. If you all vote me in or don’t vote me in, I could care less. That doesn’t matter to me, I got my 10 wins.”

Now that his weight has returned, and so has his ability to play “Bubba Golf”, he can set his sights on even more.

Perhaps he can join Lloyd Mangrum and MacDonald Smith as four-time winners at the Genesis Open in 2019… or perhaps 2020 if he keeps his two-year-cycle going.

“We don’t know if I’m ever going to win again, if I’m going to win 100 times, we just don’t know. I cherish this one because it’s my latest,” he said.

But remember – don’t compare him to the greats.

“I’m never going to compete with any of those guys with any titles, any records, anything,” he says.

“I just enjoy playing the game of golf and I love putting trophies in my trophy case.”

Odds are he will need more space in that case.

India’s Anirban Lahiri played brilliant golf during the middle rounds and looked all set to capitalise with a high finish on Sunday.

The 30 year old knocked in two birdies in the first three holes to climb inside the top ten, but seven bogeys through the rest of the fourth round forced him down the order.

In the end he settled for a three over 74 and T26, leaving Riviera with an understandable sense of disappointment. Anirban ended the week at 2-under 282, with scores of 72-69-67-74.

 

Edited PGA Tour Release

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