What’s that, you say? A 42-year-old visiting Connecticut for a weekend in June snapped his driver? Sounds relatable.
Ah, wait. He made birdie on the hole?
And shot 66?
And he’s leading a PGA Tour event?
That’s the thing — even when Tour pros are doing something relatable, they make it not relatable by doing it much better than you or me.
Enter Bubba Watson, three-time champion at the Travelers Championship, who was in solid position midway through his second round at TPC River Highlands when he teed off on the par-4 second, his 11th hole of the day.
He found the fairway. With his driver head.
Watson seemed to feel something go awry at impact, so he made contact with an abbreviated finish. The ball found the fairway, too, rolling out to 295 yards. It was all very Bubba.
Nobody would have blamed Watson if the moment rattled him — it’s unsettling to see your clubhead flying towards the crowd — but instead it seemed to have the opposite effect. He hit his approach shot to 10 feet and made the putt for birdie.
“Yeah, it was a perfect tee shot right down the middle,” Watson dead-panned after his round. “Chipped it in there and made the putt for birdie.”
Then he birdied 5. And 6. And 7.
After the round, Watson gave his best guess as to what caused the break.
“It’s one of the things where the driver through travel, heat, cold, whatever it is, over time, overuse, my driver head popped off. It’s the shaft right above the hosel. It’s cracked, broke, whatever you want to call it.”
Sounds like a man with some experience in the matter.
“The last time it happened might have been the Presidents Cup in Korea. I remember right before the first tee on the driving range. Again, nobody has ever been hit by it, and luckily DJ was just out of the way and it didn’t reach the crowd, so nobody got hurt. Nobody in my group knew where the ball was.”
Even when he three-putted No. 9, his final hole of the day, Watson signed for a second consecutive 66 and a two-round total of eight under 132, good for a one-shot lead on the field.
So what happened to the club? Based on a close-up, the shaft appeared to have snapped just above the clubhead.
“If I was going to hit anybody I was hoping it would be Brooks,” Watson cracked. “But I missed him though. Not that good of an aimer.”
A short time later, Watson’s caddie Ted Scott was shown trying to clear out the remaining bits of shaft from the head so that he could re-attach the head to a different shaft.
What were Watson’s options post-snap? In short, because he broke the club through “natural forces,” he was allowed to replace it. Here’s what Rule 4.1 says:
“A player is not allowed to replace a damaged club, except when it is damaged during the round by an outside influence or natural forces or by someone other than the player or his or her caddie.”
Watson hit 3-wood off the next tee (“I just hate hitting 3-wood,” he said) and his replacement driver arrived by No. 4. The rest of the round went according to plan.
Now it’s time to see if Watson can take down his fourth title on the weekend.
“When you come off the U.S. Open everything seems easier. Even though there is thick rough you feel like you can play out of it. You can still move the ball forward,” he said. “That’s really what I’ve felt over the years, is that I can play no matter where the ball ends up.”