At East Lake on Saturday afternoon Bubba Watson, who followed his second-round 64 with a 79 on Saturday, reminded us that he’s one of the world’s best golfers, but he’s human. He also made it clear he’s not fond of the golf course and wouldn’t play this event if it were a “regular tournament.”
After his drive found the left rough on 17, he caught a flier and his approach shot flew into the back right greenside bunker. Even worse, he had a fried egg lie — which made it extremely tough to control the ball — and there was a good risk that his shot could roll off the green into the water hazard on the other side of the green.
And that’s exactly what happened.
“I was trying to hit it in the bank,” said Bubba, who was surprisingly talkative after his rough round (at least he broke 80?). “It flew about six inches too high. If it hits the bank, it’s fine. It came out there high instead of low like I was hoping.”
I rushed over to the other side to see if there was a chance his ball stopped short, but I could see it just in the water.
Bubba took a penalty shot and a drop. He fatted his first chip a few feet into the bank and the ball rolled back into the hazard. Another penalty shot and another drop. He was now lying 7. His second attempt was better, leaving him with a 10-footer to save 8. He missed and tapped in for 9.
“Today I had a decent lie out of the rough (on 17),” said Watson. “I had 181 (yards) up the hill with a little breeze and I flew my pitching wedge well over the green and well over the flagstick. With my swing speed, it just catches too many fliers in this grass.”
The long-hitting left hander said his swing speed is too fast that even when he throttles back, the ball flies farther than he expects. Or if he just misses the fairway by a few feet, he’ll catch a flier — which was the case on 16.
Once again, Bubba was several yards off the fairway in the left side in the rough. After he hit the shot, he made some weird laughing noises.
He launched the shot so far that it hit the grandstands behind the green and the ball bounced off a seat and flew about 40 yards behind the stands into the rough between some of the forward tee boxes on No. 17. In fact, it flirted with going into the hazard that guards the length of the hole. He was probably 10-15 yards from the water. When I saw where he ended up, I had to pick my jaw off the ground.
Luckily, he had an opening between the TV tower and grandstands to pitch the ball through — just a yard farther, it would have been perfect.
After signing his scorecard, Bubba joked, “That was the best two-putt ever (on 18 through those shadows).”
He expressed his dislike for East Lake, saying he catches too many fliers out of the Bermuda rough and the course didn’t fit his eye.
“I don’t like places like this because at my swing speed the ball just jumps,” said Watson. “I hit a PW 180 on 1. I hit a PW on 16 that flew 195, so it’s just ..they just jump out of the rough…
“I don’t see the fairways very well. There are a lot of fairways where you can’t see the fairway and it’s just hard for me to visualize the shot or what I want to do.”
Watson, who is four-over through three rounds and tied for 26th, wouldn’t include this event on his schedule if the Tour didn’t “make him play here…”
He added: “If this were a regular tournament, it’d be one I’d take off my list. There’s nothing wrong with (the course). There are people who play this course just great, but it’s just not good for me. And that’s what you do — you go and pick your best golf courses.
“And this is one that I’ve never played good here — I’ve played good rounds, but never a good tournament just because it’s hard for me.”
(AP Photo/Dave Martin)