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Memorial Tournament 2013: Are Bubba Watson's 2013 Struggles a Surprise?

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Memorial Tournament 2013: Are Bubba Watson's 2013 Struggles a Surprise?
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Bubba Watson is surprisingly in a tie for second place thus far at the Memorial Tournament.

One of the surprising names on the rain-tortured Memorial Tournament leaderboard on Friday was Bubba Watson.

When play was suspended for the day after a second cell of inclement weather hit the greater Columbus, Ohio area, there was Watson in a tie for second place with Matt Kuchar, Charl Schwartzel and Kyle Stanley at six-under.

Watson, Schwartzal and Stanley were still on the course.

The question about that is, where did that come from?

The 2012 Masters champion, a surprise of the highest degree, has never really been much of a force since putting on that green jacket in April 2012.

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And that’s something of a validation of my opinion that he was a one-and-done champion, a guy who had it all come together for that one week, and it just so happened to be a major.

Since that playoff victory at Augusta National, Watson has been a fringe player, never really in serious contention not only in majors, but in most regular PGA Tour events.

To finish out his 2012 major season, Watson missed the cut in the U.S. Open, tied for 23rd in the Open Championship and tied for 11th in the PGA Championship. And then his title defense at Augusta was a weak tie for 50th.

This weekend is his 11th event of 2013, and he’s made a little over $980,000.

There is a natural letdown after winning your first major title, but Watson’s was worse than a Masters hangover.

He and his wife adopted a son, they moved, and his concentration on the game, which even in the best of times is not great, has not been sharp,

In his defense, however, between Rory McIlroy’s win in the U.S. Open in 2011 and his victory in the PGA Championship in 2012, his results line in major championships is not good.

It reads: tie for 25th, tie for 64th, tie for 40th, missed cut, tie for 60th.

Since winning the U.S. Open last year, Webb Simpson has missed the cut in his last two major starts.

So others in his general age group have suffered letdowns, too.

McIlroy, of course, has had added difficulties with things like a well-publicized equipment change and a very bad experience being No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Simpson won over $1.8 million in 2012 after his Masters victory and has done well this season with three top-10s in 13 starts in 2013.

For a man known for pure strength and distance off the tee, Watson is 13th in that category and 166th in driving accuracy.

He’s ranked 163rd in eagles made and has not putted well, either, ranking 68th. Surprisingly, he’s sixth in greens in regulation, another indication of how badly he’s been putting.

Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Bubba Watson has spent a lot of time looking confused on the PGA Tour this year.

Watson really has done nothing on the golf course to build on his legacy as a Masters champion. Once a player becomes a major champion, he’s looked at in a different way.

He’s held to a higher standard, and Watson's play has not reflected that sort of status.

He started the 2013 season with a tie for fourth in windy Hawaii. And while he put together three top-20 finishes early in the season, he also missed a cut.

But after his tie for 50th at the Masters, a tie for 15th is the best result that he’s had.

As a matter of fact, his two previous starts before the Memorial were a missed cut and a tie for 37th.

There have been players like Lee Trevino through the history of the game who could really work the ball whenever required to do so.

The fact that Watson has chosen to base his game on such massive changes of direction from right to left and left to right doesn’t necessarily stamp him as a great player.

It has left him susceptible to losing control of those big hooks and slices on occasion and being put in difficult positions to make birdies. He needs to be fairly precise when he’s slicing and dicing on the course.

I don’t think that his struggles are a surprise.

The only surprise to me is that he hasn’t had even more trouble than he has.

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