Bubba Watson wins HSBC, Charlie Sifford to receive Medal of Freedom

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Sunday, Nov. 9, produced an interesting finish at the HSBC Championship in Shangai.  Heading into the championship round, U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer and Masters champion Bubba Watson were gaining momentum.

After the third round on Saturday, Graeme McDowell barely held onto the lead as Kaymer, Watson, and a Japanese journeyman Hiroshi Iwata rounded out the leaderboard. 

Sunday tested Watson’s patience and nerves as he stayed strong in the championship.  At the 16th hole, Watson hung with a two-shot lead.  At the 17th hole, he had to shake off a one-shot deficit in a five players tie for the lead. 

On the 18th hole, Watson blasted the ball out of the bunker 60 yards on the par-5 and watched it roll 25 feet where it dropped for an eagle.  Later, Watson finished it off with a 20-foot birdie putt in the playoff to beat Tim Clark for the first championship of the 2014-2015. 

Following the win, Watson moved up in the rankings to third in the world and the highest rated American. 

Following the tournament, the White House announced Charlie Sifford, the first African-American to earn a PGA Tour card in 1961, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Sifford is one of 19 recipients to receive the award and the third golfer ever to receive the honor. 

Following his stint as a caddy, Sifford won 6 National Negro Opens before the PGA Tour revoked their “Caucasian-only” clause in 1961. 

During his career, Sifford won two PGA Tour titles, the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and 1969 Los Angeles Open.  In 2004, he became the first African-American inducted into the Pro Golf Hall of Fame. 

In 2011, Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Plaschke reported Sifford’s struggles on the tour with spectators kicking his ball into the rough, burying it under trash and once filling his cup with feces before he reached the pin. 

As Sifford fought through these challenges and other forms of harassment, he never gave up.  His courage earned him this honor, but Sifford made a change to the PGA Tour for the better.