IRVING — On a day when the sun finally came out and Johnny Manziel nearly stole what was left of the thunder, Steven Bowditch’s AT&T Byron Nelson win may not have seemed the best local angle. Trust me, it’s better than you could imagine.
And not just because Bowditch lives in Flower Mound or his wife Amanda is a Fox Sports producer or they celebrated his four-stroke win Sunday on the same green where they posed four years ago for their wedding pictures.
Life couldn’t be better for the Bowditches.
Life is good. Period.
Bowditch’s wire-to-wire win — only the third in Nelson history — is the reward of keeping it together day after day after day after day. He was better this week than last year winning the Valero Texas Open, when he went into the tournament 339th in the world, soared to the top of the field, then held on Sunday with a 76.
He was better than he was living in a tent while on the Troppo Tour back in his native Queensland, broke and just trying to get by.
And he was far, far better than in 2006, the year he tried to end it all in an Addison swimming pool.
Bowditch has come a long, long way, all right. Moving from 68th to the top 20 in FedExCup standings is the least of it.
“It’s a pretty surreal feeling,” he said.
Everywhere behind him on the leaderboard lay wreckage of other contenders. Jimmy Walker blowing short putts for back-to-back bogeys on 11 and 12. Dustin Johnson hacking out of the hay on par-4 No. 6 and putting up a snowman.
Meanwhile, Bowditch could seemingly do no wrong. On the par-3 17th, he blocked his tee shot and watched it leak 30 feet right of where he’d aimed, threatening a splash in the disaster, only to see the ball curl up on the edge of the green.
Bowditch stood with head cocked, left arm hooked around his neck, expression conveying the unmistakable question.
Can you believe that?
No, Steven, we couldn’t.
What’s even harder to believe is how he got here, at 32 next week, son of a truck driver and mail sorter. Last year, his parents, Barry and Robyn, had to work on the day he held off the field in San Antonio for his first win. His big brother, Adam, watched every minute on TV.
There was no way anyone could see it coming, then or now.
“With Steve,” Adam told the Courier-Mail last year, “you don’t know what’s going to happen week-to-week.
“You play it by ear.”
The family had grown used to Steven’s booming drives, the tremendous talent, the debilitating depression.
There were times he’d withdraw from tournaments, times he’d disappear, times he’d go a dozen nights without sleeping. In a 2009 Golf Digest profile, Steven recounted the headaches, the nosebleeds, the binge-drinking, the despair that left him floating in a swimming pool before he was found and resuscitated.
Since then, he’s worked with beyondblue, an Australian organization that raises awareness of the impact of anxiety, depression and suicide. He’s played his best golf, too. But he’s also been all over the map.
Just last week at Colonial, he shot a 69 and 76 and was about to miss the cut when he was disqualified for reasons undisclosed.
And then this week he posts four sub-70 rounds.
“Nah, I just ran out of money,” he said, dryly, letting the laughter die before summing up the vagaries of a life in professional golf.
“It’s basically the way my career has been my whole life,” he said. “When it’s good, it’s good, and when it’s not, I’m just trying to hang on and make some cuts and get better and better.
“You know, it’s the game of golf, and I’m obviously not at the superstar level.”
Whether you’re Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy or Johnny Manziel — who left the Four Seasons on Saturday after throwing a water bottle at a fan who’d reportedly been hectoring him — golf can be a maddening exercise at times. What you learn if you’re to make a living of it is that it’s not how well you play on any given day. It’s putting one good day after another.
Steven Bowditch learned that lesson about life in 2006.
“It’s built me into the person I am today,” he said Sunday, as close as he’ll come to opening that door.
Besides, he’s too busy making better memories. Take his wedding day on Sept. 10, 2011, or 9-10-11. For the record, Steven and Amanda got hitched in a church. The reception was at the Four Seasons, and the pictures were made on the TPC’s 18th.
“Taking photos on the green today,” he said, smiling, “it’s definitely the second-best time I’ve had on that green.”
Another lesson learned: Keep your priorities straight. Especially with your lovely wife in the back of the room.
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