CROMWELL, Conn. — Bubba Watson has won the Travelers Championship three times and cashed nearly $5 million in prize money at the tournament. He’s had so many memorable things happen to him at TPC River Highlands he might as well own the place.
Sunday’s final round, however, is a memory he’d like to erase.
Watson, who had a share of the 54-hole lead, was in position to win for a fourth time, tying Billy Casper for the most wins at the event. He shot 32 on the front nine and made the turn at 13-under par and had a one-shot lead early on the back nine.
Then all hell broke loose as Watson played his final four holes in 6-over par to finish 7-under par and in a stunning tie for 19th.
“Gosh, I’ve thrown up on myself before here,’’ Watson said. “With this wind, we saw it. The scores didn’t go too low. You see how difficult it is.’’
Watson came unglued after a bogey on 14 dropped him to 12-under and in a tie for the lead. He then pushed a 3-iron into the water on the short par-4 15th hole, took a drop, chunked a chip and took bogey to fall to 11-under.
“After the bogey on 14, I tried to cut a 3-iron to get it to shape in there so it will bounce towards the hole or come up just short of the green or maybe get lucky with the downslope and get it on the green,’’ Watson said. “I just came out of it, pushed it, and I pushed it on a hole where you can’t push it.’’
Then came a three-putt bogey on the par-3 16th and a double bogey on 17 and it was over.
“I’m glad that I was there, had the opportunity,’’ Watson said. “I would love to do it again next week, throw up on myself again. It would it be great. I want to the opportunity and the chance to win.’’
When Kevin Kisner sank his birdie putt on the 72nd hole to get to 10-under par and tie for the clubhouse lead some 45 minutes before the lead pairing was to tee off, he was asked if he might stick around in case 10-under holds up as the winning score or a playoff, Kisner said he was headed to Detroit for the next PGA Tour event.
When asked what he would do if faced with a situation like Bryson DeChambeau, who recently flew home to Texas thinking he’d missed the cut at the Wells Fargo only to find out he’d made it and fly back, Kisner smiled and said he’d work it out.
“I’ve got a pretty good partner on the back of my shirt,’’ he said, referring to “Wheels Up,’’ the private jet service.
“The leaderboard is so crowded and there are plenty of birdie opportunities on the back,’’ he said.
Kisner was right, finishing in a tie for fifth, his first top-10 finish since last November when he lost in a playoff at the RSM Classic.
It was a strange week for Kisner, who parred all 18 holes on Thursday and walked off the course with an unsatisfactory even-par 70 thanks to a mere 42 feet in putts made. On Friday, he shot a 7-under-par 63 and made more than 100 feet more in putts than he made the day before.
Then came Saturday, when he shot a 4-over-par 74 that included a 40 on the back nine. On Sunday, Kisner bettered that Saturday back nine by 11 shots in the final round with a 6-under-par 29 to give him a second 63 this week.
“After shooting 40 on the back nine [Saturday], I felt like I was shooting nothing,’’ Kisner said. “I told my caddie on Sunday at the U.S. Open I couldn’t wait to make a birdie, and I came here and made 18 straight pars the first day and wanted to beat my head against the wall.’’
Brooks Koepka, after shooting 65 on Sunday to finish at 10-under, was back to his familiar refrain (which irritates PGA Tour people) about how he can’t focus in “regular’’ PGA Tour events as much as he can at majors.
“I’m going to be flat-out honest,’’ he said. “I can’t focus. A major, I get excited and I feel stuff on the first tee. I just struggle to do that in regular events. The focus and discipline is there in a major where it’s not here. … I think the majors are easier to win if you’re disciplined. Out here, I think there are a lot more guys that have the opportunity to win just the way it sets up.’’
Defending champion Dustin Johnson, whose winning score was 19-under par last year, finished in a tie for 25th at 6-under this week.