Watson Wins Travelers Championship Playoff For First PGA Tour Title

Bubba Watson tried to line up the putt that looked a lot longer than 40 inches on the second playoff hole Sunday.

"When I bent down to get behind it to act like I was lining it up, I was trying to breathe," he said. "I couldn't feel my arms I was so nervous."

When the ball rolled in on the 16th hole at the TPC River Highlands, Watson had won the Travelers Championship for his first PGA Tour victory in his 122nd start.

He won the 20th playoff in tournament history over Scott Verplank and Corey Pavin, who exited after the first playoff hole (No. 18) when Watson and Verplank made birdie.

Watson, who shot a 4-under-par 66, qualified for the playoff at 14-under 266 along with Pavin (66) and Verplank (64).

But neither Verplank nor Pavin, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, could take down Watson in the playoff.

Seconds after Watson's final putt, which earned him $1.08 million, he embraced his wife Angie and broke into tears.

"I cry all the time," Watson said after receiving the trophy. "Everybody has issues, but you know our family had some issues and my dad [Gerry] is battling cancer; and my wife, we had a scare, we thought she had a tumor in her brain. We got lucky with that one and now we're battling with my dad."

Watson, 31, wiped away tears.

"I've never had a [golf] lesson," he said. "My dad took me to the golf course when I was 6 years old and just told me he was going to be in the woods looking for his ball, so he just told me to take this 9-iron and beat it down the fairway.

"And now look at me. After beating a 9-iron on the fairway, coming from Bagdad, Florida. I never dreamed this."

His par putt ended one of the most memorable days since the tournament began in 1952 at Wethersfield Country Club.

Watson and Pavin trailed third-round leader Justin Rose by six shots going into Sunday. Verplank started eight shots back. Watson's come-from-behind victory was the largest on the PGA Tour this season. It also tied for the second best in tournament history with Billy Maxwell in 1961. Brad Faxon's seven-shot comeback in 2005 is No. 1.

That there was a playoff Sunday was fueled by the meltdown of Rose, who started the day three shots ahead of Ben Curtis. Rose shot a 75 (269) to tie Skip Kendall and Kevin Johnson for the second-highest score of the round. Tim Herron had an 83.

Curtis (73—270) fell back to a tie for 13th.

"It's hard to play golf when you feel like you're going to miss every putt from two feet," said Rose, who shot a 39 on the back nine to tie for ninth.

Verplank was the first to finish at 266. He made a 50-foot eagle putt at the par-5 13th and then holed a 45-foot sand shot for eagle 2 at 15.

Pavin made the playoff by curling in a 32-foot birdie putt at 17. He then made a 5-foot par putt at 18 to join Verplank.

It looked like Watson, who earlier had taken the lead in regulation at 15 under with a birdie at 16, might have lost his chance at a playoff on 17. He topped his second shot from a fairway bunker into the pond. He ended with a double bogey 6.

But he rebounded. And appropriately, it was with a drive. Watson, No. 1 on tour in driving distance (305.9 yards), unleashed the longest drive in tournament history at 18. The ball hit the cart path 340 yards away and stopped in the fairway at 396. After a 51-yard chip, he made a 6-foot birdie putt to make it a three-way playoff.

Pavin was eliminated on the first extra hole, as Verplank and Watson recorded birdie 3s at 18.

"The playoff was a little disappointing to me," said Pavin, the shortest driver on tour. "I kind of popped up a 3-wood there and left myself in a pretty precarious spot."

His approach landed in the right bunker, and his sand shot left him with a 3-foot putt for par. But he never got a chance to putt because Verplank made a left-to-right 81/2-footer.

He had to because Watson's 56-degree wedge, which just missed going in for a eagle 2, had stopped 2 inches away for a tap-in.

"I kind of thought when I hit it up there, I knew I was in there in pretty good shape," Verplank said. "And kind of thinking that was going to be a win."

But then along came Watson's wonderful wedge.

At the par-3 16th, Verplank pulled his tee shot to the left of the green. Watson's shot was 46 feet, 8 inches away on the front of the green. He putted to within 40 inches of the cup. Verplank putted up the embankment but left it on the green 8 feet from the cup.

"It just kind of started bouncing and that took all the speed off it," Verplank said. "It was a pretty tough shot."

Verplank's par putt grazed the left edge.

Watson then ended it.

"I don't remember taking that putter back," he said. "I just remember one arm went one way, and the other arm went the other way and somehow it went straight in the hole."