Berlet on Golf: Connecticut Edition

Bubba Watson, owner of 12 PGA Tour career victories including two Masters and three Travelers Championships, is on track for a Hall of Fame coronation someday but is currently sidelined by knee surgery and out of action for at least eight weeks.


HARTFORD, Conn. – Bubba Watson is going to have to wait another year to try to tie Hall of Famer Billy Casper’s victory record in the PGA Tour’s annual stop in Connecticut.

Watson said via Instagram and Facebook post that an ailing knee will prevent him from competing in the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell on June 23-26.

“I’m having meniscus preservation surgery Thursday,” Watson said. “We saved as much of the meniscus as possible so I can continue to play the game of golf that I love for the rest of my life. I’ll give you updates throughout the time. Wish me luck.”

Watson, 43, will be on crutches for 8-to-12 weeks and rehab in order to return to the PGA Tour, where he has 12 victories, including three in the Travelers Championship. He had his initial win in 2010 when he beat Scott Verplank and Corey Pavin in a playoff. Watson tearfully dedicated the win to his parents, especially his father who was dying of cancer.

Watson also won in Cromwell in 2015 in a playoff with Paul Casey and in 2018 and tied for second in 2012. He has won the Masters twice, in 2012 thanks to a miraculous curling hook out of the trees on the second playoff hole, No. 10, that set up a winning par against Louis Oosthuizen and in 2014.

Bubba Watson posted this photo on his Facebook page stating he is out of action for at least eight weeks after knee surgery.

Besides having the second-most wins in the tournament that began as the Insurance City Open at Wethersfield Country Club in 1952, Watson has been a major supporter of the event, donating $325,000 for local charities. That included $200,000 when he won in 2018 that gave the tournament a then-record $2 million. A new record of $2.2 million last year, when 10,000 fans were allowed daily after none in 2020 because of COVID-19.

Despite Watson’s withdrawal, the tournament still has a stellar field that includes No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, whose four victories this year include the Masters; No. 5 Justin Thomas, who won the PGA Championship in a three-hole aggregate playoff with Will Zalatoris; No. 6 Patrick Cantlay, the PGA Tour Player of the Year and FedExCup winner in 2021; No. 8 Rory McIlroy, who finished second in the Masters; No. 11 Xander Schauffele, the Olympic gold medalist; No. 13 Dustin Johnson, the 2020 Travelers champion; No. 14 Will Zalatoris; No.18 Joaquin Niemann; No. 19 Brooks Koepka; No. 21 Abraham Ancer; No. 26 Harris English, the defending champion; No. 36 Harold Varner III ; No. 48 Marc Leishman, the 2012 champion; and No.64 Matthew Wolff, who made his pro debut in the Travelers in 2019 via a sponsors’ exemption and then won the 3M Open two starts later.

English, 32, who beat Kramer Hickok in a tournament-record eight-hole playoff last year, is making his return to the PGA Tour this week in the Memorial Tournament after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip on Feb. 14. His only previous start this year was a tie for 55th in the Sony Open in January, and he has been rehabbing at his home in Sea Island, Ga., acclimating to a slightly different swing.

“I’m pretty tired of watching everyone on TV,” said English, who has been dealing with hip problems for nearly 10 years. “I just can’t wait anymore to go play. I love competitive golf. When you’re at a three or four pain level every day, that becomes your normal and you just go with it. You know what to not do in the gym. You know what shots you should not hit. You play around it. You do your physical therapy and work around it. Until one day you just can’t do it anymore.

“I don’t want to miss any more majors. I want to play in the U.S. Open (at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.) and the British (at St. Andrews in Scotland), so I want to do whatever I can to be ready for those.”
The first LIV Golf Invitational Series tournament June 9-11 at Centurion Club (London) will headline Dustin Johnson with a field of 48 prominent golfers from 11 different countries, with a combined eight major titles, include three former world No. 1 ranked players and comprise 26 of the top 150 golfers in the world.


Meanwhile. Royal Bank of Canada has cut ties with Dustin Johnson after the former No. 1 announced he would be playing in the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational outside of London on June 9-12 after signing a reported $125 million deal. RBC has been one of Johnson’s sponsors since 2018, but the RBC Canadian Open is played opposite the LIV Golf event. RBC also ended ties with Graeme McDowell, who also jumped to LIV Golf.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has promised that any PGA Tour member who competes in an event on the Saudi-backed rival league would face suspension from the PGA Tour and possibly a lifetime ban. The PGA Tour denied conflicting-event releases to all tour members who requested to compete in the London event.

The PGA Tour reiterated that sentiment in a Wednesday release that read: “As communicated to our entire membership on May 10, PGA Tour members have not been authorized to participate in the Saudi Golf League’s London event, under PGA Tour Tournament Regulations. Members who violate the Tournament Regulations are subject to disciplinary action.”

In a statement to multiple outlets, Johnson’s agent David Winkle seemed to indicate Johnson was looking at the PGA Tour in the rearview mirror.

“Dustin’s been contemplating this for the past two years and decided it was in his and his family’s best interest to pursue it,” Winkle said. “He’s never had any issue with the PGA Tour and is grateful for all it’s given him, but in the end felt this was too compelling to pass up.”

Others among the original 42 players who will compete for $25 million, $20 in the individual portion of the LIV opener, are Louis Oosthuizen, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer, Kevin Na, Braden Grace, Richard Bland, Talor Gooch, Hudson Swafford, Justin Harding, Pablo Larrazabal and Bernd Wiesberger. The remaining six spots in the field will be announced on Monday, and the winner will earn $4 million from the $25 million purse.

Each event in the eight-tournament series will be a 54-hole competition with no cuts. There will also be shotgun starts in order to fit the events in a shorter time window, along with a team component, with 48 players divided between 12 squads. Five of the events will be held in the United States: Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Portland, Ore. (July 1-3), Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. (July 29-31), The International in Bolton, Mass. (Sept. 2-4), Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. (Sept. 16-18) and Trump Doral in Miami (Oct. 29-31). Other hosts are Stonehill Golf Club in Bangkok and Royal Greens Golf Club in Jeddah.

Worked as sports writer for The Hartford Courant for 38 years before retiring in 2008. His major beats at the paper were golf, the Hartford Whalers, University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball, Yale football, United States and World Figure Skating Championships and ski columnist. He has covered every PGA Tour stop in Connecticut since 1971, along with 30 Masters, 25 U.S. Opens, four PGA Championships, 12 Deutsche Bank Championships, 15 Westchester (N.Y.) Classics and four Ryder Cups. He has won several Golf Writers Association of America writing awards, including a first place for a feature on John Daly, and was elected to the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame in 2009. He also worked for the Connecticut Whale hockey team for two years when they were renamed by former Hartford Whalers managing general partner Howard Baldwin, who had become the marketing director of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the top affiliate of the New York Rangers.

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