Bubba Watson's Keys to Victory at the Hero World Challenge
A late addition to the field, 37-year old Bubba Watson cruised to a 3-shot win with a clutch 66 on Sunday.
Watson has had his share of struggles closing out tournaments, collecting just two wins in the nine events that he’s been leading when teeing off on Sunday. That wasn’t the case this week, as Watson birdied 7 of his first 14 holes on route to a commanding final round 66. That score put him at 15-under par over the final 36 holes, a mark matched only by Rickie Fowlers, who was five strokes back of Watson to start the weekend.
The front nine seemed to suit Watson’s game well as he played it in 16-under par for the week with just one bogey -- on No. 2 on Thursday. Those strong starts helped him weather some miscues on the back side, where he dropped shots on four different holes, including a double-bogey on No. 12 in round one.
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The big lefty is building his reputation as a player who can win multiple times on the same courses. Of his eight PGA Tour wins to date, two have come on courses where he’d won previously, including the Travelers Championship (2010 and 2015, TPC River Highlands) and the Masters (2012 and 2014, Augusta National.) Based on his performance this week, which included a then-course record tying 63 on Saturday -- a tally Justin Rose bested on Sunday with a 62 -- Watson is sure to be a favorite when the Hero returns to the Albany Golf Club next year.
Watson debuted a new putter this week -- a custom Ping Ansher that is 16 grams lighter than his previous flat stick. He worked with engineers at Ping on the new design, including replacing the sight line on the flange with a small dot, a change Watson requested as he felt he was relying too much on the line for aiming and becoming too mechanical. The new stick also features a silver finish and Watson’s name emblazoned on the bumpers.
The elite 18-player field combined to break par on 404 holes for the week, for an average of 3 birdies for every 10 holes played. On route to his 3-stroke win, Watson carded two eagles and 27 birdies, putting him in red numbers on four of every ten holes he played.
The one player Watson really has to thank for this win is Jason Day, who pulled out after the birth of his daughter late last month. Watson had wanted to play the Hero, but due to concerns over travel paper work for his newly adopted daughter, Dakota, he turned down the initial invite. But when Day withdrew, Watson’s wife, Angie, was able to expedite the documents so that the whole family could make the trip. “I guess I’ve got to thank Jason day for backing out,” Watson said after collecting his $1 million winner’s check.