We spend a lot of time these days talking about who the best golfer in the world is. One week it's Lee Westwood. The next, Martin Kaymer. Then, we're chatting about Luke Donald or Phil Mickelson or Graeme McDowell.
But one conversation can quickly start and end after Sunday in New Orleans; Bubba Watson, a guy considered at one time one of the most overrated golfers in the game by his peers, is the best American golfer out there right now, and it appears nobody else is even close.
Don't believe me? Name someone playing as well as him over the last 10 months. Since his first PGA Tour win at the Travelers Championship, Watson has been a bright star at the Ryder Cup, a victor over Mickelson at Torrey Pines with a clutch birdie on the 72nd hole, and after a shaky birdie putt on the final hole of regulation at the Zurich, Watson birdied the 18th hole, a tee shot he has admitted to hating, twice to beat young Webb Simpson.
Simpson's week will probably be best remembered by a rules violation on the 15th hole that cost him a shot, and eventually, a chance at ending the tournament in regulation, but it really shouldn't. Every golfer worth his weight in integrity will tell you that making a call on yourself, as your ball rolls after you grounded your putter and addressed it, is easy and part of the game. Sure, it sucks, and a lot of the rules aren't the best, but it's the game Simpson and the gang plays and it's the one that gave him a shot at being a first time PGA Tour winner.
Still, he hung tough, making pars on his final three holes before pulling off his shot of the tournament into the green on the first playoff hole, rolling his eagle putt to 18 inches, and forcing Bubba to knock in a lengthy and testy birdie putt to extend the playoff.
Simpson will win, but the story here is Watson. We joked at the start of the year that 2011 was the year of the Bubba, but that joke is quickly drying up and the truth is all the remains. Watson joins Mark Wilson as the only player on the PGA Tour with two wins in 2011, and has been in the equation at three big events this year, closing the door on two of them.
Bubba will forever be known as the lefty that can bomb the ball off the tee, but his ability to make shots up out of scratch (his third shot during the first playoff hole and second shot on the second playoff hole come to mind) is what has pushed him past the rest of the American competition.
A year ago, you might have sounded crazy if you thought Bubba would have a chance at the U.S. Open, but now, he has to seriously be considered for it. Honestly, what's holding him back?