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Monday, January 31, 2011

Bubba Watson Edges Phil Mickelson to Win at Torrey Pines

SAN DIEGO -- With a 5-under final-round 67 Sunday at Torrey Pines, Bubba Watson won the Farmers Insurance Open -- his second PGA Tour title -- by one shot over Phil Mickelson and put the PGA Tour on notice.

He's serious.

"It just shows that I can do it," Watson said. "I did it twice now. I'm only like 50 behind Phil and 80 behind Tiger, so they better watch out."

Watson, no malice intended, is seen by many as something of a golf goof ball. The 32-year-old self-taught player from the little Florida Panhandle town of Bagdad, likes to post Internet videos featuring trick shots and comedy. One of his favorites is a wedge shot from out of a tiny loving cup, over a swimming pool and into a sand pail.

He also has posted a "Happy Birthday" tribute to Ellen DeGeneres, and, last December at the Shark Shootout, dressed as Santa Claus to sign autographs after finishing play.            

"Well, I think I'm funny. But I still have fun with the game, I still have fun with my life," he says. "But for me to just go through the motions or for me to be good at what I do, I needed to take stuff serious.

"So on the golf course, my 30 seconds before I hit and 30 seconds while I'm hitting, I've got to be serious. The rest, who cares. So, you know, it's growing on me. This is my sixth year on Tour, so I'm getting used to all the attention, all the ropes, all the media, all the people. Just getting used to it, so it's becoming more natural now for me."

The odd thing about that is despite Watson's lighter side, most of his public exposure has come with tears.

Last year, after making the Travelers his first PGA Tour victory, Watson broke down, acknowledging his father, Gerry, who was home in Pensacola, Fla., losing a battle to cancer. In September, while Bubba was in Wales playing his first Ryder Cup, he was calling home ever day during Gerry's final weeks.

"More than likely, I am never going to be in the military," Watson said of playing for the U.S.. "So this is a chance to be like my dad."

"I did it twice now. I'm only like 50 behind Phil and 80 behind Tiger, so they better watch out."
-- Bubba Watson
Finally, the former Green Beret, who served in Vietnam, and later taught his son to play the game, died in October.

Sunday's 16-under finish and victory, Watson's first since his dad's death, again brought emotion.

"It means a lot," Watson said of the victory. "You know, everyone is special. We do not know if we are going to have them or not. So I'm probably going to cry all day, just like I did last time."

The long-hitting left-hander was 13 under on the par-5s for the week, birdieing all four on Sunday. He led the field in greens in regulation -- 59 of 72. He also led the field in driving distance, averaging 308 yards.

And he made clutch putts on the last two holes, a 10-footer to save par at No. 17 and a 12-footer for birdie at 18 that secured the victory over a charging Mickelson.

"Well, what I believe in life as a Christian, I believe that, yes, he's up there he's watching and he's cheering me on," Watson said of his father. "It's my sister's birthday today, so it was nice for our family that I won on my sister's birthday. So, yeah, I thought about him a little bit.

"I thought about him after I made the putt on 18. I looked up to the sky, but at the same time I knew that Phil Mickelson's a great wedge player, so I can't get too emotional yet."

Mickelson, a hometown favorite who has won the event three times, was one shot behind as he went to the par-5 finishing hole, just before Watson sank what would be the winning putt.

Watson's birdie left Mickelson needing to hole a 72-yard wedge shot for eagle to tie.

Mickelson had his caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay, tend the flag. His shot landed about four feet behind the hole, but stopped well short of spinning back and into the hole. Mickelson closed with a 69.

"Bubba played some terrific golf," Mickelson said. "I really felt like starting out with the wind and the difficult conditions that if I shot something in the 60s, I thought that would be enough. I did what I thought would be enough, and it just wasn't.

"Bubba played too good. Made some great shots after great shots. I saw and made putt after putt. It was a wonderful round for him."

Seriously, folks.

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