January 30, 2011
On Sunday at Torrey Pines, atop a stacked leaderboard that included everyone from Phil Mickelson to Anthony Kim to new wunderkind Jhonattan Vegas, one man rose above the tumult and clamor. One man stood strong, his bright pink driver in hand.
That man's name ... is Bubba.
Bubba Watson blasted, chipped and putted his way to a win the Farmers Insurance Open, his second victory in less than a year and the surest sign yet that the goofball attitude masks a relentless drive that's vaulted him into the top echelon of American golf.
With every chance to crumble -- a tough course, a star-spangled leaderboard, the best short-game player in golf right on his heels -- Watson nonetheless held on to bring home a new trophy, and a surfboard besides.
So how did he do it? By remaining steady and in the moment. "It's just me and you," Watson recalled his caddy saying, over and over. "It's just me and you. That's what he kept saying. Don't worry about the people yelling, the people moving, all that. Don't worry about what could happen if I hit it close, don't worry about winning, don't worry about losing, you just hit the shot. That's what he kept saying all day. Let's just worry about me. I three-putted a hole for bogey. He said you're going to do that. The greens are going to bounce, something's not going to go your way, so don't worry about it. Let's just keep fighting."
And he did. Watson's incredible range off the tee gives him several clubs' advantage on the field when he's on his second shot, and he maximized that advantage on Sunday, closing out one competitor after another until, finally, only Mickelson was left.
In a controversial decision, Mickelson laid up on 18 before Watson had putted for birdie, which in turn forced Mickelson to seek a hole-out to win. "If he makes it, I'm getting ready for a playoff," Watson said. "So I'm trying not to get too emotional. I realize it's Phil Mickelson. He can make any shot he wants to. He's a great wedge player. I knew he had a shot at making it, so I didn't want to get too excited. Over the radio they said he missed it, so I teared up a little bit."
And there it was, a victory that's the latest in a remarkable run of success for Watson, including two wins, a near-miss in the PGA Championship, a worldwide Twitter following, and a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. With this win, he has most definitely arrived.
"Hey, I’m now only 50 behind Phil and 70 behind Tiger [Woods]," he said. "So those guys better watch out."
He may never reach their heights. But he's already made sure nobody laughs when they say his name.