DUBLIN, Ohio — A confident Bubba Watson said a couple things early in the week at the Memorial that, now that the tournament is over, made him sound like a prophet.
One was that he felt like he’d have a good showing at what he called a very tough Muirfield Village Golf Club and that he hoped to be around Sunday afternoon "to see what happens."
Another was that he knew he couldn’t play well forever.
Watson’s Sunday afternoon blended both of those statements. He went from leading the Memorial to finishing third at 12-under after he stopped hitting fairways and hit his tee shot on the par-5 15th hole into a backyard. He’d end up with a double-bogey 7 on the hole and would miss the playoff by one stroke.
Third place works, especially considering the U.S. Open is in two weeks and Watson already has two wins and two second-place finishes in 2014.
Third place stinks, though, because he could have had another victory.
"If I hit the 4-wood off the tee instead of the driver on that par-5 (No. 15), we make five and we win by one," Watson said. "But I made a double and lost by one.
Speaking of third place, Watson’s showing at the Memorial was good enough to move him past Matt Kuchar and Tiger Woods and into No. 3 when the newest World Golf Rankings are released.
For much of the tournament, Watson hit his signature, high-arching shots into tough spots, made birdies and rarely hit two bad ones in a row. But on Sunday’s back nine he started pulling his drives, and though his punch shot out of trouble at No. 13 was one for the ages, he missed the ensuing putt and didn’t have a birdie in his final seven holes.
Watson led by a shot entering the final round over fellow lefty Scott Langley and two over Hideki Matsuyama, who won the tournament. Watson had two early birdies and then birdied Nos. 10 and 11, but ultimately paid the price for missing the fairway on five of the first six holes on the back.
"I’m playing better in places I haven’t played well in before," Watson said. "I’m still taking home a nice check ($442,000), so it’s good."
Watson will take the week off, then show up at Pinehurst next Sunday for the U.S. Open. He’ll be one of the favorites when he arrives despite faltering late at the Memorial.
"This showing still makes me feel good," he said Sunday evening. "I made the cut, made a few putts, finished third in a great field in a great tournament. Obviously, I’m looking forward to (Pinehurst). I’m looking forward to taking a couple days off and stat practicing again.
"I haven’t played good here in the past, but I competed this week and gave myself a chance to win. My all-around game is getting better, and that’s exciting going forward."