Nothing is easy for Bubba Watson, except for just being Bubba. He’s dealt with his share of criticism. He’s also beloved for what he brings to an otherwise stolid game. But with his 10th PGA Tour title in the bag, Gerry Lester “Bubba” Watson is making quite the case for where he belongs in the golf pantheon. Winning the Genesis Open this past Sunday puts Watson in relatively rarified air, especially as it relates to golfers who played at the University of Georgia. And that is quite the accomplishment considering that UGA is one of only 15 schools to win multiple NCAA Championships in Men’s Golf. And whose alumni have won over $75 million on the PGA Tour in the last 4 years.
As mentioned above, Bubba now has 10 PGA Tour titles. That means he is in the top 102 to ever play on the PGA Tour (remember that golf is 500 years old, and up to about 80 years ago, the best players retained amateur status. Long story.) He has more Tour wins than Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bobby Jones, Roberto De Vicenzo, David Graham, Chi Chi Rodriguez, and Jose Maria Olazabal - all of whom are in the World Golf Hall of Fame (several of these played primarily overseas, but all played for a long time and played often on the PGA Tour).
Bubba’s wins are, in order:
2010 Travelers Championship
2011 Farmers Insurance Open
2011 Zurich Classic
2012 Masters Tournament (major)
2014 Northern Trust Open (now titled Genesis Open)
2014 Masters Tournament
2014 HSBC Champions (World Golf Championship)
2015 Travelers Championship
2016 Northern Trust Open (now titled Genesis Open)
2018 Genesis Open
Of those 102 other players with double-digit trophies, only 9 are currently active: Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, and Sergio Garcia. Tiger is the 9th of the group, though there remains some doubt about how much he will be competing going forward. There are some others who are young enough but have chosen to retire or semi-retire: Davis Love III is 54 and more interested in his son Dru’s pro game and captaining the US Ryder Cup team, Ernie Els is 48 and has a reduced schedule, Jim Furyk is 47 and has been bitten by the injury bug, David Duval hasn’t been competitive in 10 years or more and is comfortable as a Golf Channel analyst, and Justin Leonard is trying to follow in Duval’s footsteps.
Now we’ve determined that Bubba is in the top 10 of most Tour wins by active players. Bubba did not break through for his first win until 2010, so those 10 wins have occured in about an 8 year span. Let’s break down his competition a bit futher.
Sergio Garcia (Spain)- 10 total wins. Only 3 since 2008 (including last year’s Masters). Does have international wins in that span.
Phil Mickelson (US) - 42 total wins. But only 6 since 2010. He won the 2010 Masters just before Bubba’s first PGA Tour win, and the 2013 British Open (4 other majors, all before 2010).
Adam Scott (Australia)- 13 total wins. 7 titles since 2010. Includes his lone major at the 2013 Masters.
Zach Johnson (US) - 12 total wins. 6 titles since 2010. Includes the 2015 British Open (his first major was the 2007 Masters).
Tiger Woods (US) - 79 total wins. 8 titles since 2010, but all majors were won 2008 and before.
Dustin Johnson (US) - 17 total wins. 15 titles since 2010. Includes his lone major win at the 2016 US Open.
Rory McIlroy (N. Ireland) - 13 total wins. All 13 titles since 2010, plus victories overseas. Includes his 4 major victories (US Open, British Open, 2 PGA Championships)
Jason Day (Australia) - 11 total wins. All 11 titles since 2010. Includes his lone major victory at the 2015 PGA Championship.
Jordan Spieth (US) - 11 total wins. All 11 titles since 2010. Includes 3 major victories (Masters, US Open, British Open).
Based on the information above, it is clear why Dustin Johnson is currently #1 in the world, and why Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth have also claimed the top spot in the rankings over the last few seasons. I’m not stating that Bubba has the results of these 4. But you can make a case for Bubba being the 3rd best American golfer since 2010. His combination of victories, which includes 2 major victories, back up that claim nicely.
For your consideration, there are other professional golfers who have been very successful over this same time period. But they are either newer to the pro game, or play primarily overseas (against slightly lesser competition). Henrik Stenson has a bevy of worldwide wins (and a British Open), and plays very sparingly in the US. Hideki Matsuyama is now playing the PGA Tour full-time, but only since 2015 and he only has 5 wins. Jon Rahm is #2 in the world currently, but has only been professional for 2 years. Justin Thomas has 7 titles and a major, but has only been playing for the last 3 years. Rickie Fowler has been in the mix almost as long as Bubba, yet 4 wins and no majors doesn’t compute.
So the boy from Bagdad, FL, who is a self-described “head case”, who almost retired last year, who stated he had “medical issues” that contributed to a 45 lb weightloss, who is not welcome in France, who uses a hovercraft for a golf cart, and who just happens to have a degree from the University of Georgia, where he met his wife (UGA women’s basketball and WNBA player)... well, he’s a damn good golfer. And I say he’s a Damn Good ‘Dawg.
And as always...