CROMWELL, Conn. – Parents know that sometimes, kids break their toys even when they don’t mean to do it. Whether they are at home or on the playground, accidents happen. Friday morning at TPC River Highlands, which may as well be Bubba Watson’s personal playground, the three-time Travelers Championship winner broke his driver.
But the incident did not derail Watson’s march up the leaderboard as he shot a second-straight 66 to take the lead at 8-under par as the morning wave finished.
The incident occurred after Watson hit a 295-yard tee shot up the hill on the par-4 second hole (his 11th). The pink head of his driver flew off.
“It’s one of the things where the driver is (traveling), heat, cold, whatever it is, over time, overuse, my driver head popped off,” he said after the round. “It’s the shaft right above the hosel. It’s cracked, broke, whatever you want to call it.”
He was thankful that the head did not reach the crowd and that no one was hurt.
“Nobody in my group knew where the ball was,” he explained. “Once you hit, you’re focused on where the driver head goes.”
Ted Scott, Watson’s caddie, retrieved the head and could be seen digging into it and banging the hosel area repeatedly on the ground and with the end of the shaft.
Bubba Watson hit a great drive on 2, but his driver head came off the shaft. His caddie, Ted Scott, is digging in the hosel to get something out. Banging it with the grip-end and literally throwing it on the ground. @golfweek pic.twitter.com/49FqUF0Kd4
— David Dusek (@Golfweek_Dusek) June 25, 2021
It turns out the shaft tip that allows the loft to be increased or decreased broke, and a piece stuck inside the hosel portion of the head.
Watson made birdie on the hole and walked to the third tee.
“I like 3-wood here Bubba,” Scott said with a smile. Moments later, with Paul Casey having already teed off, Phil Mickelson asked Watson if he wanted him to play out of turn intentionally. The move would give the person running to Watson’s car to get his backup driver a few more moments to reach the group on the third tee.
“If you don’t mind, go ahead,” Watson said, but the backup driver did not arrive on time. Watson hit a high cut around a large oak tree that guards the left side of the fairway. His ball came to rest about 5 yards behind Mickelson’s in the fairway.
Broken driver. Great drive. @BubbaWatson with something you rarely see. pic.twitter.com/fdjDvUbBTa
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 25, 2021
Watson made par on the hole and got this backup drive beside the third green.
On the third hole, Watson used the backup driver and hit a 279-yard drive into the fairway. He hit it again on the sixth, 307 yards, to set up a fourth birdie for the day.
Watson took the outright lead after draining a 50-foot birdie putt on the seventh. He made par on the eighth but missed a 5-foot put on the ninth hole for his only bogey of the day.
“When you come off the U.S. Open everything seems easier,” Watson said. “As long as you stay out of the bunkers you can still move the ball forward and you feel like you have a chance to hit the green. That’s really what I’ve felt over the years, is that I can play no matter where the ball ends up.”
Even with a broken driver, Watson has had plenty of fun on his playground again at the Travelers Championship.