Bubba Watson Set for Masters and Ryder Cup after Dominant WGC Match Play Victory
BUBBA WATSON’S extraordinary resurgence continued as he thrashed fellow American Kevin Kisner 7&6 to win the WGC Dell Technologies World Match Play Championship at Austin Country Club in Texas. It was a dreadful anticlimax, with Kisner’s game falling to pieces in the final.
Kisner had played superbly in the morning semi-final to defeat Sweden’s Alex Noren but his game deserted him in the final. Watson was never behind, starting with a birdie at the first hole. Kisner hit a dreadful drive at the third and a poor bunker shot at the fourth. Three down after four. And so it went on. By the time the players reached the turn, Watson was six up. And he went seven up with a birdie at the 10th. Kisner grabbed some consolation when he finally birdied the 11th hole but he was still six down, and when Watson won the 12th hole the match was done and dusted. Kisner had taken 40 shots to negotiate the front nine. He will take some consolation from the fact that he leaves Austin with a cheque for $1m. Watson won $1.7m and the Walter Hagen Trophy.
Leading up to the final, Kisner was approximately 21 under par. He had reeled off five birdies in his semi-final, went off for a spot of lunch and, when he needed it most of all, found that his incredible form had deserted him. Watson won’t care. After a couple of years in the wilderness, he has now won twice this season and is quite clearly back to his best. In his opening match in this tournament he played the front nine in 28 strokes and while he was unable to maintain that sort of incredible standard, he played as well as anybody and is a deserved winner.
Winning is fun. ???? pic.twitter.com/LywwJJqyg9— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 25, 2018
“It’s nice to be back to form. I felt for Kevin – he is a great player but the semi-final win obviously took it out of him,” Watson said. “I have worked really hard for this and have had great support from my caddy and my family. Last year was tough but a couple of wins turns it all around. For me, this is a dream come true. Justin Thomas didn’t play great against me in the semi, and neither did Kevin in the final, but it just meant that I had to focus even more and concentrate on my own game.
“When you are young everything seems so easy but it gets more difficult as you get older. My wife Angie gave me a good talking to and told me to man up. Golf is my true passion and I love playing it.
“I hope that Jim Furyk has been watching me this week because I really want to be playing in France [for the US Ryder Cup team].” Furyk is, of course, the American Ryder Cup captain and you can be certain that Watson will be in that team. “When I played with Phil Mickelson in Mexico I told him that more than anything else I wanted to be in France for the Ryder Cup – it would mean so much to me to play for my country again and try to keep hold of that trophy."
Kisner admitted it was an afternoon to forget. “I don’t know what happened in the final. Everything was fine until I got to the second tee. I played great right up until that point,” he said. “I tried to stick with my game plan but everything went left or right. But I am going to go away from here with plenty of positive thoughts."
Noren won the game that nobody wants to play, thrashing Justin Thomas 5&3 in the consolation match. He was bitterly disappointed not to have made the final and was determined to make Thomas feel the force of that disappointment.
“I was really angry with myself for the manner of my loss in the semi-final. I played really well but just couldn’t hole the putts. However, it is a big deal for me to beat a player of Justin Thomas’s quality in the consolation match. I am just trying to play as well as I can every day and see where it takes me. It has been a tough week – I have played seven matches in five days and I admit that I was yawning out there."
For several players in the field, it was a week of missed opportunities. Noren should have beaten Kisner, but somehow contrived to lose his semi-final at the 19th hole, having outplayed hi American opponent all morning. Justin Thomas would have reached his rightful place as world No 1 had he won the tournament, but he simply ran out steam against Watson in his semi-final, losing 3&2.
Ian Poulter chose to listen to the media, with journalists telling him that to secure his place in the field for The Masters, he only had to reach the quarter-finals. He duly achieved that, but just before heading out to face Kisner he was told that with the way other results had gone he now needed to reach the last four. Having played superbly in his three group games and in his round of 16 match, Poulter suddenly found that the magic had gone, and he was humiliated by Kisner. As a result, he will be watching on television when the world’s best players tee it up at Augusta. As he said: “That’s the last time I listen to that lot. Next time I am going to find out exactly what I have to do myself.” Hopefully, he will continue to climb the world rankings and there will not be a “next time”.
And then there was defending champion and world No 1 Dustin Johnson. Played three, lost three. He will not need anybody to tell him that he is a very fortunate man to still be regarded as the world’s best golfer because he is certainly not playing like. He was eight over par in losing his first match to Bernd Wiesberger, and it really didn’t get very much better. He will now lick his wounds and hope to rediscover his form for The Masters.
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