CROMWELL - When Bubba Watson was handed his blue jacket and then his trophy, he couldnâ€™t help but let out a small smile.
The PGA Tour season is just about halfway over, but for Watson, itâ€™s already been a better year than all of 2017.
The left-hander failed to win a single tournament last season, missing seven cuts, and didnâ€™t place higher than a tie for sixth, which came at the Memorial Tournament.
Watson already has three wins on Tour this year, including his third Travelers Championship title, in which he needed another large comeback to win. After being six strokes back of then-leader Paul Casey entering the final round, Watson turned in his second 7-under 63 of the tournament as Casey faded down the stretch.
â€śLast year wasn't very good and this year has been great. Easy comparison,â€ť Watson said. â€śIt would be like me missing the cut this week, but I didn't. It's just one of those things. I won this year and I missed the cut last year. That's pretty much how the whole year was. It was a rough year last year, mentally, physically.â€ť
Watsonâ€™s other wins came at the Genesis Open in February and the WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play in March. He has two other top 10 finishes. His victory at TPC River Highlands Sunday also jumped him up seven spots in the World Golf Rankings to 13 and moved him into third place in the FedExCup Points Rankings.
Still, Watson doesnâ€™t believe this is his best year on Tour, even though he still has a number of tournaments left to play, including the Greenbrier Classic, the British Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship to possibly add to his win list.
â€śI think ,â€ť Watson said. â€śI won [the Northern Trust Open] and then I won The Masters. I holed a bunker shot. Wasn't the same [Tour] year, but same calendar year where I won my third. I won in China [WGC-HSBC Champions]. Double bogeyed 17 and holed a bunker shot to force a playoff and then won the next hole. Then we adopted - the birth of our child was two days later.â€ť
There was also some curiosity about whether or not Watson and some of the worldâ€™s other top golfers would participate in the Travelers next year. Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka - all major winners - have said theyâ€™ll have to look at the schedule with the U.S. Open being played in Pebble Beach in California. Making the cross-country trip, they said, would be tough. Until then, it will be a wait-and-see approach.
But for Watson there isnâ€™t any thought of missing the Travelers.
â€śYou always show up as the defending champ,â€ť Watson said. â€śI told the guys this is one of the best tournaments, and the reason why is because you play miserable golf in the U.S. Open and then you get to play a beautiful place like this where the fans come out and they love that you're here. They respect you. And then you can move the ball out of the rough. If those guys are playing good, maybe I do want them to miss so I have another chance at winning next year. But I'm definitely going to be here. I sign up first for this tournament every year.â€ť
Until then, itâ€™s on to the next event.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org