AKRON, Ohio – He still hits it a mile with that pink driver, still draws cheers from adoring fans and still finds himself competing with the world’s best golfers.
Bubba Watson hasn’t found himself where he wants to be on many final leaderboards lately, though, and he admits that’s been frustrating.
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It’s a great time of year to change that, and Watson came to the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational this week feeling good about his game.
“If you look at my year from a money-earning standpoint and a world-rankings standpoint, it hasn’t been very good,” Watson said. “If you look at it from a statistic standpoint and the standpoint of how I feel, it’s been good. Sometimes you play good golf and not win or not finish in the top 10. That’s the reality with so many great golfers out here.
“I’ve played good golf, and I’ve played a little great golf, I just haven’t produced the numbers everybody wants.”
Watson entered the Bridgestone Invitational at No. 18 in the World Golf Rankings. He ended 2012 at No. 8 and has slid with just two top 10 finishes in stroke play events in 2013. He’s yet to win since that life-changing Masters victory in 2012, though he had a top-five finish at the Tour Championship last year and has twice placed in the top five at the Travelers since that win at Augusta.
This year’s majors have not gone well; Watson tied for 50th at the Masters and tied for 32nd at both the U.S. and British Opens. Next week’s PGA Championship will give Watson a chance to make his mark — and climb those rankings — on a grand stage, but Watson said he’s taking things one swing at a time as he aims for a strong finish and looks to clinch a spot on the U.S. team for the Presidents Cup in October.
“A major is a major; they are different, and you’re always gearing up for them, getting excited about them,” Watson said. “There are only four a year. Next week is big, but I honestly just want to try to have a good week in Akron first. A lot of guys went up (to Oak Hill) to practice at the course, but I’m focused on playing well here at Firestone. The field is too good and the course is too hard here for me to start worrying about that.”
The top 10 Americans in the World Golf Rankings automatically make the team for the Presidents Cup in Dublin, Ohio; there are also two captain’s picks. Watson currently is the seventh-highest rated American, meaning he can play his way on to the roster with steady performances over the next few weeks.
“I hope I make it, I really do,” Watson said. “I love the idea of playing team events. We just don’t do it very often, and it’s a thrill to get to play for our country. It could change in the near future, but right now there’s no golf in the Olympics. The Presidents Cup and the other team events, that is our Olympics.
“It’s an honor and a fun thing to do to get to represent your country.”
He had a strong finish to his first round at the Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday, making a birdie and an eagle on his final nine holes to post a 3-under 67 and put himself in the thick of things on a star-studded leaderboard.
“I kept hitting the center of the green, giving myself a chance to make pars and try to sneak a few birdies in,” Watson said. “I only made one bogey, I think, and making an eagle was nice, too. I made two long putts and that always helps the score, but I played solid. I’m happy with it.”