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Bubba Watson Criticizes PGA Championship Driving Contest

Golfer Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson hits off the third tee during the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club South Course, on August 3, 2014 in Akron, Ohio. Photographer: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Two-time Masters Tournament winner Bubba Watson, who hit a season-best 424-yard drive at last week’s Bridgestone Invitational, refused to take part in a long drive competition during practice at the PGA Championship.

“I want to practice the game of golf,” Watson said when questioned about hitting a 3-iron on the 520-yard, par-5 10th hole at Valhalla Golf Club, where tournament organizers yesterday resurrected a competition last held at the event 30 years ago.

Top players including 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott participated in the charity competition. Watson said the fan-friendly contest, twice won by 18-time major tournament champion Jack Nicklaus, was unnecessary.

“There’s no reason to make something up in the middle of the practice round like that,” Watson said. “Just kind of weird to me.”

Louis Oosthuizen, a South African who won the 2010 British Open title, won yesterday’s competition with a drive of 340 yards (311 meters). Jason Day of Australia was second at 338 yards, and American Johan Kok was third at 337 yards.

Padraig Harrington, a three-time major winner, attempted to hit his ball with a driver after taking a running start, a shot inspired by actor Adam Sandler in the 1996 movie “Happy Gilmore.” He missed the fairway.

Players were given the choice of whether to compete in the competition, which was held two days before the scheduled start of golf’s final major tournament in Louisville, Kentucky.

‘Perfect’ Shot

Watson said the 10th hole will require him to use a driver during the tournament. He said he hit a 3-iron yesterday “to prove a point that nobody cared” about the competition.

“I hit my 3-iron perfect, though, right down the middle,” he said. “Longest 3-iron of the day. I won that competition, take that.”

The top three finishers in the event received a money clip inspired by the one that Nicklaus, who designed Valhalla, got for the first of his consecutive driving contest titles in 1963. Nicklaus, using a persimmon driver and wound golf ball, hit a winning drive of 341 yards, 17 inches, that year. Watson leads the U.S. PGA Tour with a 313.6-yard driving average this season.

The top three long drive finishers split charitable donations of $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000. Players could donate their half to a charity of their choice, with the remainder going to the Nicklaus-designed American Lake Veterans Golf Course in Tacoma, Washington, the only U.S. golf course designed for the rehabilitation of wounded veterans.

Harold Williams won the first PGA long drive contest in 1952, with a 329-yard shot. The competition wasn’t held from 1965-73, before returning in 1974 as an open event. The previous long drive event held at a PGA Championship site was in 1984.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Buteau in Atlanta at mbuteau@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net Michael Buteau, Dex McLuskey

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