DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) Bubba Watson, toddler son Caleb in his arms, chose to look at his improvement instead of dwell on one fateful swing.
Watson rocketed his drive on the reachable par-5 15th far to the right into a backyard, resulting in a double bogey that cost him dearly in the final round of the Memorial Tournament on Sunday.
He didn’t hesitate when asked when his day went south.
”The bad decision, trying to be a hero,” he said.
Watson led for most of the final two rounds but hit awful drives on consecutive holes.
At the par-4 14th, he jerked a rescue club far to the right and into trouble, leaving him no alternative but to punch out into the fairway. From there he hit a wedge to 12 feet from the pin but missed the slick downhill putt and settled for a bogey.
Up ahead, Hideki Matsuyama had birdied the 15th to take the lead by himself – although he was forced to share it with Kevin Na after hitting a long iron into the lake in front of the 16th hole and making double-bogey.
Watson had owned the 15th all week, eagling it the first two days and pocketing a birdie in the third round.
But not this time.
He had hoped to hit a cut shot into the uphill fairway. Instead, he smoked a long, high hook. It climbed over the large trees that line the right side of the hillside along the fairway and came to rest in a neighborhood of million-dollar homes that back up against Muirfield Village.
Watson had no choice but to re-tee and hit again, this time finding the fairway. From there he was forced to lay up – facing a 260-yard shot without being able to see the green. He hit to the green with his fifth shot and two-putted from 30 feet above the pin for a double that dropped him behind the leaders. Matsuyama ended up tied with Na, who shot a stunning 8-under 64 earlier in the afternoon.
Watson refused to beat himself up over the tee shot at 15.
”It’s not a comfortable tee shot for me because I like to cut it, but I was trying to go over the tree with a cut and I just pulled it,” he said. ”But, again, it’s hindsight. I could have still sliced my 4-wood off the tee, too, into the other woods, so it’s one of those things.”
Matsuyama beat Na on the first hole of a playoff. But Watson refused to beat himself up over the gaffe that all but knocked him out of contention. He parred the 16th and 17th holes and, needing a birdie, failed to chip in from the back fringe at the closing hole. He settled for a par and an even-par 72 that left him at 12-under 276 and alone in third place.
He preferred to look at the bright side. After all, his best previous finish in eight Memorials were two ties for 23rd.
”I made a pretty good check this week, so I’m not really upset about it,” said Watson, who collected $421,600. ”It’s a step forward.”
Then, looking down at Caleb, who was tinkering with a large, silver microphone, he added, ”Obviously, having him in my arms, win or lose, it’s good.”
2015 HONOREE: The Memorial Tournament selects an individual who has made major contributions to the game as its honoree each year. The 2015 honoree is six-time major champion Nick Faldo.
Faldo won three British Opens and three Masters Tournaments between 1987 and 1995 – four of them by a single stroke or in a playoff.
The 56-year-old, elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998, is now lead analyst on golf for CBS Sports.
Tournament founder Jack Nicklaus called him earlier this week to notify him that he had been selected.
In addition, the Memorial Tournament also recognized three honorees posthumously: Dorothy Campbell, Jerome Dustan Travers and Walter Travis. Campbell won 10 national amateur championships in America, England, Scotland and Canada between 1905 and 1912. Travers won the first U.S. Amateur in 1907 and then, after defending his title the next year, he became the second amateur to win the U.S. Open in 1915. Travis, a rival of Travers, won the U.S. Amateur three times and was also the first American citizen to win the British Amateur.
This year’s honoree was another Hall of Famer, former LPGA star Annika Sorenstam.
TOPS OF 2014: Each year the Golf Coaches Association of America presents its player of the year awards to the top college stars at each level in the name of Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus then presents the trophies to the winners on the final day of the Memorial Tournament.
This year’s winners were Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers in Division I, Adam Svensson of Barry University in Division II, Bobby Holden of the University of the Redlands (D3), James Marchesani of Oklahoma City University (NAIA) and Tim Walker of Central Alabama Community College (NJCAA).
Rodgers, who tied Tiger Woods’ record for career wins at Stanford, plans on turning pro at the Travelers and relying on sponsors’ exemptions to get into tour events this summer and next to earn his card.
”I’m ready to take the challenge,” said Rodgers, a native of Avon, Indiana.
Asked for his most memorable shot of his junior season, he said, ”There were a lot of them.”
Past winners of Nicklaus Awards include three-time winner Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Woods, Justin Leonard, Stewart Cink, Hunter Mahan, Bill Haas and Ryan Moore.
EARNING HIS KEEP: Jason Allred wouldn’t have gotten into the Memorial field if not for the largesse of tournament officials who offered him a sponsor’s exemption – and some begging.
He made the most of his opportunity.
”I wasn’t even an alternate; I was off the charts,” he said. ”I can’t even tell you what a surprise it was Saturday night before the tournament to get a call from the tournament director. I also can’t tell you how thrilled I was to have a chance.”
The 34-year-old Oregonian had only played in three PGA Tour events, placing third in the Northern Trust Open, in addition to a couple of top-25 finishes in his only two Web.com Tour tournaments.
He sent out letters to events on the big tour, hoping that someone would let him play. He even inserted family photos, including some of the baby he and wife had earlier this year.
”I wanted to let them know how much I love this game,” he said. ”I feel so fortunate I get to do it. And how grateful I would be to have a spot.”
Given a shot, he posted rounds of 74, 68, 74 and then a closing 66 – the second-best round of the day – to finish at 6-under 282. That was good for a tie for 15th place and a check for $102,300.
”The thing is I’m learning to believe in it more, which is fun,” he said of his game. ”It’s really rewarding to feel that.”
SCHOOL DAYS: Jack Nicklaus was an NCAA medalist, but his Ohio State team didn’t come close to winning the national title in 1961.
He reflected on his college days after presenting his namesake awards to the top golfers by division on Sunday.
”We didn’t have a great college team. But we got to the NCAAs. I was medalist and our second man was second medalist, and qualifying for match play, low 64 players. And the rest of our team really wasn’t too sharp,” he said with a grin. ”We ended up tying for eighth in the team competition.”
Nicklaus had finished in a tie for fourth behind Gene Littler at the U.S. Open a week before at Oakland Hills. The NCAA tournament was played at Purdue’s course in West Lafayette, Indiana.
In those days, the individual NCAA champion was decided by match play. Nicklaus, a junior for the Buckeyes, was still tired from the Open. But he survived to the 36-hole final where he met a familiar face.
”Oddly enough, Mike (Podolski), the No. 2 guy I played with on the (Ohio State) team, we ended up playing in the finals,” he said. ”So I got to play my teammate, which was good. It was good fun. I was lucky to win.”
PINEHURST PREP: Phil Mickelson said he hoped to get comfortable with his game at Muirfield Village, using it and next week’s tour stop and Memphis as tune-ups for the U.S. Open in two weeks at Pinehurst.
”I had a successful week as far as a good stepping stone,” he said.
In other ways, it wasn’t necessarily a banner few days. FBI agents questioned the five-time major champion after Thursday’s opening round regarding an alleged insider-trading probe.
”From a golf standpoint, it wasn’t a bad week,” Mickelson said.
A closing 73 left him at 1-under 287 for the four rounds, …
He said he is most excited because he has such a strong emotional attachment to the U.S. Open, the only major he has yet to win, and also to the Memorial host this week, Jack Nicklaus.
”When I was 10, we had a little party and my local club pro, who I took lessons with for a few years, Rick Thompson, had videotaped the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol. And we watched it for, like, 2 hours,” Mickelson said. ”I watched Nicklaus beat (Isao) Aoki in that final round.
”I still remember it vividly today. I’ve always had this tie-in to the national championship.”
TOUGH CALL: Each of the college golfers who received the Jack Nicklaus Award, representative of being the best in their division, was asked his most memorable shot of the year. Then Nicklaus himself was asked the most memorable shot of his glittering career.
”That’s a hard thing to select,” said the 18-time major championship winner. ”I don’t know … the putt I tapped in at 18 in `86 to win the Masters. It was four inches.”
DIVOTS: Scott Langley, playing in the final pairing with Bubba Watson, waited approximately 10 seconds with his birdie putt at No. 16 oscillating on the rim of the cup before it tumbled in. … No player had ever birdied the 18th hole all four rounds of the Memorial before Hideki Matsuyama did it to earn a spot in the playoff. … The Memorial Tournament hadn’t had a playoff in 22 years. David Edwards defeated Rick Fehr on the second extra hole in 1992. … Former British Open champion Ben Curtis, who grew up just a few miles away from the course in Ostrander, Ohio, had his best finish ever at the Memorial. He was tied for eighth. … Defending champion Matt Kuchar shot at 70 to end up in a tie for 15th with Jason Allred, Rory McIlroy and Billy Horschel. … Many of the players in the field who have not already punched tickets for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in two weeks will play in a 36-hole sectional qualifier at two Columbus-area courses on Monday.
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