Two-times Green Jacket winner Bubba Watson won the WGC Matchplay to time a return to form perfectly for the Masters. Ralph Ellis looks at the reasons behind his resurgence...
"Somebody got £250 matched at [50.0] earlier this year on him to complete a Green Jacket hat-trick and will be hovering over the Cashout button now. He’s [18.5] this morning, but I'd say to let the bet ride."
The Pro at my local golf club was always pretty clear when it came to a choice of what ball to buy. "It's not what you're playing with that matters," he would say. "It's how you hit it."
It was a good way of selling lessons for 30 quid instead of a box of balls for five, but he wasn't wrong. When it comes to the amateurs whether you're using a Calloway, a Titleist, a Nike, or just a half decent one from the bargain bucket at Sports Direct it doesn't make a huge deal of difference.
For the tour professionals, however, it's a whole big deal. The right amount of distance, spin, control, just the general feel of the thing, gives them percentages that make the difference between winning and losing.
In the case of Bubba Watson, newly crowned WGC Match Play champion after wiping away Kevin Kisner 7&6 in a hopelessly one sided final, it appears to have been pivotal in reviving his career.
He began 2017 with what was hailed as a multi-year contract to use a Volvik ball, brightly coloured in pink or green. By the end of a season in which he'd won not a single trophy, and been cut from three of the four Majors, he announced the deal was over and he was going back to using a Titleist because it was what he liked best.
Always a potential winner
A win at the Genesis Open in February marked the start of his resurgence, and now there's a cheque worth roughly £1.5m from the Matchplay title to keep him in as many Titelists as he wants to buy for life!
So just as we thought the Masters was all about the Tiger Woods renaissance along comes another contender to think about.
Now with titles from 2012 and 2016 Watson has always been on the list of potential winners. Yet somebody got £250 matched at [50.0] earlier this year on him to complete a Green Jacket hat-trick and will be hovering over the Cashout button now. He's [18.5] this morning, but I'd say to let the bet ride because with that priceless ability to shape and invent shots around Augusta's unique fairways when on form he becomes a serious contender.
Rory McIlroy remains the [11.0] favourite, but I still have my doubts about how he'll handle the personal pressure of the career Grand Slam he so desperately craves.
Doubts over Thomas
Justin Thomas, now the [13.0] second favourite, has also got questions to answer after losing to Watson in the semi-final of the Matchplay.
Thomas admitted that he had a sleepless night thinking about how victory would make him world number one - if that's the case how would he handle Saturday evening at Augusta if he was going out in the leading group on Sunday?
There are that many complications to choosing a Masters winner. Having flagged up Woods [15.0] as a contender as long ago as last December I'm still fascinated to see how he performs.
And if Jordan Spieth recovers any sort of putting touch at this week's Houston Open where he is [11.0] joint favourite with Rickie Fowler it will give us another conundrum.
But it's Watson who has to have his name added to the list of genuine contenders this morning. "I don't think I hit more than a couple of bad shots all week" he said of his Matchplay triumph.
He'll have a rest this weekend (he's not at Houston) and if he takes that form to Augusta who knows? New balls please?