Brilliant Bubba in form at the right time
Bubba Watson knows how to peak for the Masters and his hunt for a third green jacket gathered momentum with victory at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas.
The 39-year-old, who won the Masters in 2012 and 2014, became just the fifth player in history to win multiple majors and World Golf Championship events – joining Champion Golfers Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els.
Watson did it in style, seeing off fellow American Kevin Kisner 7&6 in a one-sided final on Sunday afternoon to complete a fine week, which included six wins from seven matches.
Kisner had been involved in a gruelling semi-final against Alex Noren, which he claimed at the first extra hole, and left-hander Watson took advantage in the decider – moving six up through the first seven holes. From there he was uncatchable, controlling the match to win his second title of 2018 following success at the Genesis Open a month ago.
"It's nice, it's very nice," he said. "Obviously Kevin Kisner is a great player, he's played great all week, but you could just tell the energy was gone with the tough match in the morning. Getting off to a quick start just drained his energy even more. And then I made some putts coming down the stretch and that kept me going, and kept me up front.”
Watson’s return to form has been overshadowed by Tiger Woods’ renaissance, Phil Mickelson’s re-emergence and Justin Thomas’ sparkling year. But after a two-year drought, he has two trophies in the cabinet and feels ready for a serious charge at Augusta.
“It comes from knowing I've got strength to hit the shots again," he added. "Making the putts, having the physical strength, being healthy in your mind, you're going to have confidence."
Justin Thomas looked destined to top the world rankings this morning but the 24-year-old admitted the prospect of ascending to number one fried his mind in the semi-finals. With five wins from five matches leading into his last-four match with Watson, the reigning PGA Champion required just one more victory in order to topple Dustin Johnson at the top. But Thomas was noticeably below par, missing putts he’d normally make and losing accuracy from the fairway before going down 3&2.
“I need to be mentally stronger than that, and understand that it’s just a match,” he said. “I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much. I couldn’t stop thinking about it [the number one ranking], to be perfectly honest.”
It was always a tough ask for Rory McIlroy to arrive in Austin full of vim and vigour just three days after a draining victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year admits tiredness played its part in a group-stage exit following a 5&3 defeat to an in-form Brian Harman. McIlroy finished with two losses from three matches, with his only win coming against Jhonattan Vegas in Group 6, and he is now keen to rest up before heading to Augusta.
“That takes it out of you being in contention, and all that mental energy,” McIlroy said. “So I wish I was hanging around for the weekend but I’ll rest up and get a little bit of work in before going to Augusta.”
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