CROMWELL, CT – JUNE 24: Bubba Watson of the United States acknowledges the gallery after making a par on the fourth green during the final round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands on June 24, 2018, in Cromwell, Connecticut. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
By Christopher Powers
Entering the final round of the Travelers Championship, Bubba Watson was a bit of an afterthought, six strokes back of Paul Casey, who appeared like he may cruise to victory. But Watson has been in this position before—literally—when he came from six back for his first PGA Tour victory in this same tournament in 2010.
That’s why Sunday at TPC River Highlands felt like deja vu, as Watson once again erased a six-shot deficit with a final-round seven-under 63 to beat Casey, J.B. Holmes, Stewart Cink and Beau Hossler by three shots. It’s Watson’s third victory this season, and his third at the Travelers, letting him join four-time winner Billy Casper as the only players to win the event three or more times.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” said Watson, who is now a 12-time tour winner. “I can’t really put it into words. [The Travelers] is almost like a second home. The fans here, the sponsor here, everybody treats me so good. To do this in front of this huge crowd, pretty special. Hitting some of those shots, especially the shot on 18 downwind, it was very difficult. Somehow pulling it off, and that’s what we all try to do on Sundays, pull off the amazing shot.”
The shot to which Watson was referring came at the 72nd hole, where he piped a 365-yard tee shot, leaving him a tricky 77-yard approach into a tough right hole location. Watson wound up pulling off the shot of the tournament, sticking a wedge to tap-in range and making birdie to finish off a back-nine 30.
“It was funny. We were debating a 2-iron off the tee so that I could have a fuller shot [into the green], because we saw it was straight downwind,” he said. “And Teddy [Scott, Watson’s caddie], that’s what he’s telling me. He goes, ‘That’s the best shot you’ve ever hit.’ And I had a couple texts, Aaron Baddeley texted me and said that’s one of the best shots. People don’t know how difficult that really is, downwind and trying to get it to stop and check. I sliced it, I did everything I could to get it to stop, and somehow it worked out.”
The win makes Watson the first three-time winner on the PGA Tour this season, having won the Genesis Open at Riviera and at the WGC-Dell Match Play.
For Casey, who bogeyed two of his last three holes to shoot a two-over 72, it’s the latest near miss for a top-ranked player who has had several chances to win on tour but has just two victories, one of them coming earlier this season at the Valspar Championship. But he continues to put together one of the best seasons of his career, one that has included four top-10s, 10 top 25s and more than $2.7 million in total earnings.
Cink, 45, matched Casey’s low round of the week, firing an eight-under 62 to tie for second, giving him his best finish on tour since his victory at the 2009 Open Championship.