CROMWELL, CT - Some golf tournaments are won, some are lost, and others are decided by a combination of the two.
Although Bubba Watson shot a final round 66 and defeated Corey Pavin and Scot Verplank in a sudden death playoff for his first career PGA Tour win, the 2010 Travelers Championship was lost by Justin Rose.
Rose began the day with a three-stroke lead over the field, a six-stroke lead over Watson and Pavin and an eight-stroke lead over Verplank.
Rose could have posted a two-over-par round of 72 and still tied for the lead.
A one-over-par round of 71 by Rose on a day when 45 players scored in the 60s would have won him the tournament outright.
“If somebody would have told me that at the beginning of the day if I shot four-under, I would've thought I would come in Top 5 or something,” Watson told the media after his round.
“It’s hard to play golf when you feel like you’re going to miss every putt from two feet,” was how Rose somberly described his final round 75.
Now, that’s not to take anything away from Watson, Verplank, or Pavin.
A golf tournament is decided over 72 holes, and Watson, Verplank, and Pavin needed 266 strokes to complete 72 holes while Rose needed 269.
Things really began to go south for the leaders (Rose and Ben Curtis) when they reached the par-four 12th. Both players were tied for the lead at 14-under-par before Curtis hit his tee shot out of bounds left while Rose’s tee shot sailed 20 yards right of the fairway and found the tall fescue.
By the time Curtis walked off the 12th green with a double bogey and Rose with a bogey, Verplank had become the first man in more than 54 holes not named Rose to lead the golf tournament outright.
Rose would go on to double bogey the short par-four 15th before sealing his fate with another bogey at the 16th.
Curtis bogeyed two out of his last three holes and fell back into a tie for 13th.
While Rose and Curtis were imploding, Verplank finished off a round of 64.
Watson birdied four out of five holes between the 12th and 16th and appeared to be on his way to locking up the golf tournament before he found the water with his second shot on the par-four 17th.
“I tried to hit a pitching wedge 157 out of a fairway bunker over water to win a golf tournament, and I didn't do it,” Watson said. “I hit it about 73 yards or something, came up short.”
Watson would recover with a 396-yard drive on the 18th (aided by the cart path) that allowed him to flip a wedge in to five feet and tie Verplank for the clubhouse lead.
Pavin birdied two of his final four holes to join Watson and Verplank in the clubhouse at 266.
Verplank tied for the low round of the day with a 64, while Watson and Pavin played their way into the playoff with rounds of 66.
Unfortunately for the short-hitting Pavin, the sudden death playoff began on the 444 yard par-four 18th hole, which just happens to be one of the longest par-fours on the golf course.
While Watson and Verplank needed nothing more than lob wedges after mammoth drives, Pavin attempted to hit a three wood into the 18th green…and he probably needed a driver off the deck because his second shot found the bunker just short of the putting surface.
Verplank stuck his approach shot to around six feet before Watson pulled a Happy Gilmore “somebody’s closer” with a wedge that landed and slowly rolled to within two inches of the cup.
While the large crowd surrounding the 18th green gave Watson a winner’s ovation, Watson marked his ball with the idea that he’d close out the tournament with a tap in birdie after Pavin and Verplank cleared the way.
Watson did tap in for birdie a few moments later, only it wasn’t for the win because Verplank had shocked everyone by sinking his six-foot birdie putt.
Watson and Verplank then returned to the par-three 16th where Verplank pulled his tee shot left and Watson finally closed the door with a three-foot par putt.
“When I bent down to get behind it to act like I was lining it up, I was trying to breathe,” Watson said.
Watson, a self-proclaimed emotional man, could barely keep it together during his post-round interview when discussing his father who is battling cancer at this very moment.
“You know, I've never had a lesson,” Watson said with tears in his eyes. “My dad, he took me to the golf course when I was six 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 nine-iron and beat it down the fairway. And now look at me after beating a nine-iron on the fairway coming from Bagdad, Fla., I never dreamed this.”
The great thing about TPC River Highlands and the Travelers Championship is that drama is almost always in the cards. No lead is safe, and every Sunday numerous players have the opportunity to take on the role of Arnold Palmer and mount a memorable Sunday afternoon charge…and that, folks, makes for some exciting golf.