Steven Bowditch stays cool at Texas Open as PGA Tour's big names again fade

Brian Murphy
Yahoo Sports
Steven Bowditch, of Australia, hits out of the rough behind cactus in the second hole during the final round of the Texas Open golf tournament on Sunday, March 30, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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Steven Bowditch, of Australia, hits out of the rough behind cactus in the second hole during the final round of the Texas Open golf tournament on Sunday, March 30, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

We're getting to the point now, with every Steven Bowditch win, that follows a Matt Every win, that follows a John Senden win, where as a golf fan you either spin super-positive and say, "Hey, what a nice story this guy is! Congrats!" or you grab the remote control, flip over to March Madness and say, "Wake me when the Masters comes. Seriously."

For those of us in the "Up With People!" brigade, let's take a moment to examine the emotional win for Bowditch at the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio, because it comes with a backstory and it was unlikely and, hell, he shot 76 on Sunday and still won. For those of you waiting for a big name and Augusta National, I understand. We'll see you in a little more than a week.

But Bowditch, that's a surprise. He was ranked 339th in the world and he'd never won on the PGA Tour. Hell, in 109 previous PGA Tour starts, he'd logged only two top-10 finishes, none in his 12 starts this year. For good measure of unlikelihood, he'd missed three of his past four cuts. As long shots go, this guy would be ranked in the world's top 10.

Never mind that the 30-year-old Australian was once considered the next great player from Down Under, way back when he was a teenager. That was a lifetime ago for Bowditch. Back then, he was the 17-year-old phenom who played with Greg Norman at the Australian Open and finished seventh. The guy who scraped it around just enough on Sunday in San Antonio was a different guy than the young star from a decade ago.

Bowditch, in well-chronicled events, bottomed out in 2002 battling deep depression and even a suicide attempt. He doesn't like to talk about that now, and, of course, nobody blames him. He is married now, calls his wife "the love of my life, my biggest supporter," and says he's happy and centered, and believes in the future, not the past. Not a bad life mantra for any of us. He's now a spokesman for depression awareness, looking to make the world a better place.

Still, even though he owned a three-shot 54-hole lead, nobody rated the Aussie with much of a chance, given his PGA Tour track record and the fact that Matt Kuchar, fresh off a Saturday 65, was in his final group. And Bowditch seemed to be playing the part when he bogeyed No. 2 and double bogeyed No. 4, and suddenly he and Kuchar were locked at 9-under. It seemed a formality "Kooch" would keep grinning and zoom past Bowditch, who had never closed one out on this level.

But Texas golf is a windy thing, and TPC San Antonio was no picnic on Sunday. Only two players of the 71 who made the cut even broke 70. So Kuchar, who is usually the Steady Eddie of any day on the links, just went sideways. He bogeyed No. 10 to fall out of the lead. He missed the green with a wedge in his hand and bogeyed No. 11. He had trouble in a fairway bunker and bogeyed the par-5 14th. The "Kooch" grin looked more baffled than happy. It was shades of Adam Scott's odd collapse at Bay Hill, opening the door for Every.

Sometimes, it's like that. You're Steven Bowditch, you're not playing great, but the guy next to you is playing worse. As Bowditch would say on the green after his win, "I guess it just happened to be my week." On the cusp of a life-changing win, Bowditch refused to fall apart. He made reference to some advice he got before the round from various people as help, and when his fellow competitor Andrew Loupe took extraordinarily long to strike putts or hit shots, Bowditch even resorted to lounging supine on some hillside grass on the 15th hole, letting the sun nourish him, calming his mind. He remembered the winning feeling of his Web.com days (two victories) and a win in Australia, too, to give him ballast.

In his press tent interview, he was asked about his past and beating depression to get where he was, in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour. His answer told his tale.

"I didn't overcome it," he said. "You deal with it on a day-to-day basis."

On a day like Sunday in San Antonio, for example.

SCORECARD OF THE WEEK

77-70-WD – Phil Mickelson, withdrew, Valero Texas Open, TPC San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas.

Uh-oh. This would be, as they say in the country just south of San Antonio, no bueno.

Phil Mickelson withdrew from the Texas Open on Saturday, he said in a statement, because of a "pulled muscle," injured on his 10th hole of the third round. Mickelson flew back to San Diego to have it checked by a doctor.

Ever since his otherworldly final-round 66 at Muirfield to win the British Open last summer, Phil has taken on even more of a world-class sheen than usual. Sure, he's long been maybe the most popular player in the game, but now that he has three legs of the Grand Slam, most every golf fan in the world is slobbering to see him tee it up at Pinehurst this June to go for the big salami.

On top of that, few things are more entertaining than Lefty at Augusta National. His 2004, 2006 and 2010 wins have all been five-star memory bank jobs, whether for his "Air Lefty" leap for his first major, or his 6-iron off the pine needles on No. 13.

Now, it's all up in the air. Typically positive, Mickelson said he hopes to play even this week at the Shell Houston Open, but that remains a question. And the injury comes just one week before the Masters, which means that between Tiger's reported bulging disc and now Lefty's pulled muscle, the game's top two draws are hobbling down Magnolia Lane – if they can play at all. Gulp. Heal up, fellows. We couch potatoes need you on our high-def screens.

BROADCAST MOMENT OF THE WEEK

"It's no coincidence that he wore a Masters green shirt." – Johnny Miller, NBC, on Steven Bowditch's Augusta-like attire on Sunday.

Noting the life-changing importance of Bowditch earning his first Masters invite with his Texas Open win, it was a nice sentiment from Miller.

Except Bowditch, a rather plain-spoken gent, spoiled the party.

Asked in his post-round news conference the significance of wearing green and its tie to the Masters invite, Bowditch popped the balloon: "No," he said. "It was the only one left that wasn't dirty."

Hey, now! What a romantic.

Part of Bowditch's game plan was to minimize any and all "big picture" reads into his victory. Scribes wanted to ask about what appeared to be emotional tears coming up on 18, but Bowditch said, no, he wasn't emotional at all, he was wondering if Will Mackenzie had made birdie and how big his lead was. NBC wanted to know, immediately after the win, what went through his mind, given all he'd been through, when the last putt sank.

Bowditch smashed the play for emotion by thanking his sponsors, name-checking them like a NASCAR veteran. And when it came to how playing in the Masters would "change his life," he answered like a man with a larger perspective.

"My life's not going to change," he said. "I have my health, my family life, my friends. I just may be playing a few different golf courses."

Nice touch, that.

MULLIGAN OF THE WEEK

Sure, Matt Kuchar's back nine 39 cries out for a few Mully o' the Week nominees, but I'm thinking about the Masters, and Kuchar will be there no matter what. What may be more critical is the question surrounding Mickelson and his pulled muscle when it comes to the cathedral of pines. I don't want to live in a world where Lefty misses the Masters.

So let's go back out to Saturday's third round in San Antonio, to the first tee box, Mickelson's 10th hole for the day, and to his tee shot. Let's remind Phil that he's our never-ending source of Augusta National entertainment, and to take it nice and easy on those golf swings of his. Let's remind him there's no need to muscle up, it's only the Texas Open, and the fish to fry come much larger than that. So, let's re-tee, give Lefty a "no injury" blessing, and … give that man a mulligan!

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

It's our last pit stop before the Masters, and I know some of you are already breathing into a brown paper bag and saying, "Hello, friends," to everyone you know. But you can't go to Amen Corner just yet. It's the Shell Houston Open, and good ol' Lefty had planned to play – before his pulled muscle. We shall see this week if Mickelson makes it to H-Town.

Even though Tiger Woods followed the lead of his idol, Jack Nicklaus, and always took the week before a major off, others are not following suit. Looking to get some reps in at Houston are big names like Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson.

Sergio is actually playing quite well these days, including a win in Qatar and several runs in contention Stateside. Dare we even suggest the thought next week that Sergio Garcia …??? Wait. Somebody steal this laptop from me, pronto. Clearly, the impending trip to Georgia has me a little too excited and talking crazy.

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