Does Bubba Watson Have the Consistency to Remain a Top Player?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2012

The only weakness in Bubba Watson's game is his putting.
The only weakness in Bubba Watson's game is his putting.Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images

Bubba Watson took a huge step up the golf ladder last year when he won the Masters.

The huge-hitting Watson has always been his own man. He is a self-taught player with a huge wingspan and an even bigger swing.

Watson was the player who could launch the longest drive on the tour, but after busting one 330 yards down the middle and putting himself in position for an eagle or short birdie, he would blow the putt.

He'd also be likely to hit his next drive two fairways over.

But there was quite a bit of refinement to Watson's game last year. Not only did he win his first major in an exciting playoff with the steady Louis Oosthuizen, he made the cut in all 16 tournaments he entered and served notice that he was ready to compete on an every-week basis.

When the Ryder Cup lineup was announced, Watson not only made the U.S. team, he was one of the anchors.

So as the 2013 season gets ready to start, it's a given that Watson will remain one of the PGA Tour's brightest stars, right?

Not so fast.

Watson has made significant improvements over the years, but his superior 2012 season does not guarantee that he will be able to raise his level of consistency. Becoming a great player on the tour means having no discernible weaknesses when you play.

Watson must show that he can improve his putting.

"Drive for show; putt for dough" is one of the oldest and truest maxims in professional golf. Those words have to be hanging over Watson as he prepares for the 2013 season.

A look at the stats shows he won slightly more than $4.6 million last year and finished fifth on the tour in earnings. However, he finished 157th in strokes gained while putting.

The only reason he was able to overcome that is that he was first in driving distance and second in greens in regulation.

When you think of the great players in the game's history—Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Tiger Woods—none of them were 157th in putting. They all became the players they were because they could command the ball on the green.

One or two faulty putts early in the season could hang over Watson and prevent him from becoming a top-10 golfer again this season.

However, Watson goes to his own beat. He seems to have his off-the-course life under control after becoming a father for the first time last year (source:

He knows his priorities. The feeling is that Watson simply has too much talent and tee-to-green ability to fall back in the rankings.

With just a couple of good putting breaks early in the season—meaning no disastrous finishes to cloud his mind—Watson will once again get back to his current position of tour royalty and stay there in 2013.