Watson wins third Travelers as Casey lets big lead slip away
It’s not likely Paul Casey is a pigeon to any golfer, but his second runner-up finish in four years Sunday to Bubba Watson at The Travelers Championship brings to mind some of golf’s pairings where one player seemed to have the upper hand over another.
Julius Boros tweaked Arnold Palmer’s nose by calling him his pigeon. Boros finished ahead of Arnie in the 1963 U.S. Open playoff, edged him at the 1968 PGA and beat him in a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match. But Palmer had his moments with "Julie," including a month after the ’63 loss he beat Boros and Jack Nicklaus in a Western Open playoff. Nicklaus himself seemed to get bested by Lee Trevino and Tom Watson in many key battles. Casey will certainly recognize that Watson went out and won in Sunday’s final round, shooting a 63 to win by three over Casey, Beau Hossler, Stewart Cink (who had the round of the day with a 62) and J.B. Holmes. But this will hurt. Casey led by four going into the fourth round, but he was the only player of the top-37 finishers who shot over par Sunday. On a course such as TPC River Highlands, where every day seems to produce one or two 62s or 63s, it’s easy for someone to come flying from in back of the lead pack to surge ahead as Watson did. While Casey got off to a beautiful start with a birdie on No. 1, he gave it back with a bogey on five and then ran off consecutive pars to remain stuck at 16 under par until sloppy bogey-bogey scoring on 16 and 17. That came after Watson had birdied 18 to go one ahead; he hit a spectacular second shot with a wedge to a couple feet.
After hitting every green in regulation Saturday, Casey only hit 10 on Sunday and his swing felt off from the first hole on, even with making birdie. “There was a lot of fight in there,” he said. “I fought my golf swing all day. So you can see coming down the last couple of holes, hitting the pull 8-iron on 16, and the flair right on 17 just about summed it up. Yeah, incredibly frustrating. It was always going to be a difficult day because of the different wind direction, I thought for, someone to go particularly low. And you’ve got to give credit to Bubba, 63; is that right? That was a great score. But, obviously, I’ll go away, analyze this, look at it and see what we can do better in the future.”
Casey said he would definitely feel he let the tournament slip away. “It’s more me,” he said. “I didn’t get it taken care of today. Credit to his great play. I would have loved to won outright or at least have another go at him in a playoff would have been nice. But not to be.”
Watson trailed by six going into Sunday, and publicly was saying he still had a shot. After he became a three-time winner—only trailing four-time champ Billy Casper—he admitted to a bit of hyperbole. “So you have to trick yourself into believing it, right?” he said. “You always have to tell yourself and believe it…I made a putt on 12. I made a nice one on 13. Then the weather signs went up. When the weather signs go up, that means the storm is coming, the wind’s going to pick up, the weather’s going to change, and it’s going to make it tougher. So when I fist pumped on 15, that’s when I thought I had a shot at it, because I knew the weather. The wind started picking up, so I had three tough holes, but they had more holes. So that’s where I really started believing. That’s why I fist pumped there, because I knew with the weather signs up, it was fixing to get difficult or it could get difficult.”
Watson birdied 5, 6 and 9 with a bogey on 8 on the front, then had a spectacular 30 on the way in with birdies on 10, 12, 13, 15 and 18. By winning Watson became the lone three-time winner on tour this year.