By Ron Patey
Bubba Watson’s decision to switch driving gears before his two-hole playoff with Paul Casey turned out to be the winning difference. The big-hitter chalked up his second Travelers Championship and eighth career victory on Sunday. Watson had been scuffling with driver in the soft conditions at TPC River Highlands until he tweaked his approach on the first hole of the playoff. His clubface adjustment helped him land his tee shot in the middle of the fairway that stopped in the short stuff on the 444-yard par-4. He ended up making par, which Casey matched.
On the second playoff hole, Watson again played it straight and then stuck his second shot within make-able birdie distance. Casey pushed his drive right into a fairway sand trap and followed up by finding a green-side bunker. The Englishman had displayed great touch out of the bunkers down the stretch to get into the playoff, but this shot came out hot, air-mailed the green, rattled around in the gallery and came to rest beside the cart path. After getting relief, Casey’s chip zipped past the hole, and he was done.
Watson coaxed home a 12-footer for birdie to join Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jimmy Walker in this season’s two-time winners’ circle. Meanwhile, Brian Harman (third), Graham DeLaet (fourth), Carl Pettersson (fifth) and Luke Donald (T7), are going to compete in the British Open. They were the top four golfers in the Travelers Championship who placed inside the top 12 and hadn’t previously qualified for St. Andrews.
Next On The Tee: The Greenbrier Classic
Tiger Woods goes under the microscope once again this week in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, where the 14-time major champion looks to plug the gaping holes that have painfully crept into his game. Woods, who posted his one and only top-25 in six starts at The Masters (T17), has shot three rounds on the sad side of 80 in 2015. It’s anyone’s guess what state his return-to-greatness project is in.
Bubba Watson enters the event for the third consecutive year hoping to continue an upward trend. Watson closed T30 in 2013 and T16 in 2014. The two-time Masters champ and now two-time Travelers champ owns a summer place at The Greenbrier Resort, so he’s heading to comfortable surroundings in a positive frame of mind.
Returning champion Angel Cabrera shot the lights out in the third and fourth rounds of the 2014 tournament. Cabrera went 64-64 during crunch time to beat back George McNeill, who scorched the course with a final round 61, by a pair of strokes. Cabrera’s victory was his first PGA Tour win that wasn’t a major. He won the U.S. Open in 2007 and The Masters in 2009.
The Old White TPC plays 7,287 yards long and is a par 70.
Favorites: Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, David Lingmerth, Carl Pettersson, Patrick Reed
Players To Watch: Paul Casey, Tiger Woods, Graham DeLaet, Brendon Todd, Stephen Bowditch
Ron Patey covered the golf industry for 21 years as a special sections editor with Sun Media. During the past five years, Patey has been a golf writer for Examiner.com.