Willow Creek Country Club pro Eric Nielsen once joked about installing a plaque on the course where one of Bubba Watson’s drives landed.
Now that Watson is the latest major champion to have played in Utah’s Nationwide Tour event, Nielsen should take his idea seriously.
Watson already was being used in promotional material for the annual Utah Championship, and his victory Sunday in the Masters will give the event further credibility, as organizers sell the opportunity to watch golfers on their way to becoming PGA Tour stars. The 2012 tournament is scheduled for July 12-15.
Watson played all four rounds in Sandy in each of the 2003, ’04 and ’05 events, with his best finish a tie for fourth place in ’04.
He’s well remembered at Willow Creek for his prodigious drives. The most noteworthy shot came on the par-5 No. 3 (No. 12 for club members), a slight dogleg-right hole. With a bit of a northwest breeze behind him, Watson launched his drive over the tall pine trees on the right, leaving himself only 127 yards to the green. From the back tee, the hole measures 547 yards.
Watson’s win means that the last two major champions formerly performed in Sandy. Keegan Bradley, who won the PGA Championship in August, had played at Willow Creek in September 2010. Other major winners who appeared in Utah’s Nationwide Tour stop (in Provo or Sandy) since 1990 include John Daly, Stewart Cink, David Duval, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Lucas Glover, Zach Johnson and Shaun Micheel.
Daly won the PGA Championship in 1991, 11 months after winning at Riverside Country Club. Johnson won the Masters in 2007, four years after winning at Willow Creek.
Sandy resident Mike Weir also became a footnote to Watson’s victory. Beginning with Weir in 2003, left-handers have won five of the past 10 tournaments at Augusta National Golf Club.
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