Raucous applause filled the gallery as Bubba Watson walked off the 18th green at Austin Country Club after halving his match with Thomas Pieters, securing him a spot in the knockout rounds of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
“Way to go Bubba!”
Always a fan favorite, the Austin crowd has embraced the two-time Masters champion all week. And it is no surprise. After all, Watson breaks the mold and is as anti-establishment as they come in the tradition-rich game of golf.
He has never taken a swing lesson in his life. He routinely bombs 300-plus yard drives that curve like a banana safely into the fairways. Oh, and he plays a pink golf ball.
But what many in the gallery did not realize is that Watson’s triumph in Group 13 meant that former University of Texas standout Jhonattan Vegas will not advance to the weekend.
It should surprise no one that Vegas wasn’t closely followed this week. He might have attended the University of Texas, but when the golden child Jordan Spieth also donned burnt orange, you become an afterthought.
While hordes of people followed local favorite Spieth — the gallery often extending four and five people deep — not much attention was paid to Vegas. If they had been paying attention, they would have seen a player whose game is rounding into shape at just the right time. And arguably, a player who outplayed Spieth this week.
While Spieth paraded around this familiar track with an army of Longhorn fans behind him, Vegas kept his head down, kept quiet and played some beautiful golf.
His only loss of the week came in his opening-round match – a 1 down loss at the hands of Watson. A match he very well could have won.
“I felt like there were a bunch of times where I had the momentum going on my side, and I just couldn't put enough pressure on him,” Vegas said. “He's (Watson) such a good player that he's not going to give you anything.”
But he has nothing to hang his head about in regards to his playing. The two-time PGA Tour winner, who only recently catapulted himself into the top 64 in the Official World Golf Rankings, had 12 birdies over the course of 52 holes this week. And he limited costly mistakes – a recipe for success.
He won his final match against Scott Piercy 3 and 1 on Friday. And in his Thursday match he showed a similar level of dominance, defeating Pieters 3 and 1.
Next time Vegas brings his game to Austin, maybe more people will pay him the respect he deserves as a terrific player. Not just as the “other guy” in the field who happened to go to the University of Texas, once upon a time.