Out of the Rough: Bubba, the cult hero
By Jim Brighters, Senior Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - "If I have a swing, I've got a shot."
That is the basic philosophy of "Bubba golf," according to the new Masters champion, Bubba Watson.
It's a philosophy, coupled with several personality traits, that will make Bubba the most popular man in golf not named Tiger or Phil.
The Bubba style is no doubt a huge selling point.
"My favorite club is the driver," Watson said. "I told Teddy (Scott, Watson's caddie), we were going to live and die by the driver."
That philosophy, swashbuckling as it is, has endeared thousands to Phil Mickelson over the years. People love watching golfers just go out and mash, and Watson does that every time. He is the longest hitter in the known universe and patrons marvel at the distance his ball travels.
Watson is not one to hit every fairway. It's not his style. Sometimes, like at the 10th hole, the second playoff hole for, say, the Masters, it pays off for him.
"I'm used to the woods. I'm used to the rough," he said. "We were walking down the fairway going, we've been here before. I get down there, saw it was a perfect draw. Even though the tower was in my way, I didn't want to ask if I get relief or anything, because it just set up for a perfect draw -- well, hook."
Watson hits a majestic, 40-yard hook and it rolls to 10 feet. Few have the moxie to attempt that shot, but fewer even practice it. Watson does because he's so erratic off the tee, but so long.
The notion that he essentially doesn't care where the golf ball is because he can handle it, is appealing. Reminds us again of someone named Phil.
"If you watch Phil Mickelson, he goes for broke. And that's why he wins so many times. That's why he's not afraid," said Watson. "So for me that's what I do. I just play golf. I attack. I always attack. I don't like to go to the center of the greens."
That will burn you, especially in the U.S. Open, but at Augusta National, and other specific courses, the reward is astronomical.
Attacking everything is fun, but there's a lot more to Bubba for people to love.
He's a devout Christian, who frankly, wasn't always the nicest man in the history of the sport. Watson was guarded with the media, annoyed fellow playing partners with a combination of slow play and disrespect.
Watson lived and died by every shot and the emotions got the best of him.
"I was going the wrong way," said Watson. "I was so wrapped up in what everybody else was doing; why is he beating me; why is this; why is that; why can't I make putts; why can't I make the cut; why can't I do this."
He changed, in part due to his faith, and the results have been noticeable. Watson now has four wins, all coming in the last three years, and is a major champion.
If overt religious-ness is not your thing, there's also the uplifting personal odyssey of Watson and his wife, Angie, adopting a baby boy named Caleb last month.
"The first date me and Angie ever had, she told me she was going to have to adopt, she couldn't have kids and I said, 'That's fine. I said if God tells us he wants us to adopt, we'll adopt,'" Watson said.
That's pretty heavy for first date chit-chat, but the two handled their reality and began the adoption process, which was not always joyous.
"Monday night at Bay Hill, we got turned down," he said, referring to three weeks ago. "And then we made a call to an organization Chicks in Crisis in California on Tuesday morning and on Tuesday night, she said, 'we have one for you if y'all are willing to accept.' Monday at Bay Hill we got turned down, which was heartbreaking, watching my wife, and then Tuesday, we got the great news."
After a four-year process, Bubba and his wife have their family.
If teary-eyed beautiful stories aren't your thing, how about the coolness of Bubba.
First, don't dismiss how awesome a name Bubba is.
It's certainly not his baptismal name, that would be Gerry, but hearing galleries at Augusta National, for all the stuffiness the course possesses, was awesome.
Also, he owns, and drives, the General Lee from "Dukes of Hazzard." That's right, if you're in the Orlando area Monday morning, there's a fair chance Bubba's driving the General Lee to pick up donuts.
There's so much going on inside the mind and heart of Bubba Watson. He lets people in through his tears of joy and brutal honesty. He's a genuine man and now a major champion.
Watson may not have the accuracy for a U.S. Open, or the ball flight for a claret jug, but you can't take away how much he means to the people watching him.
"I don't play the sport for fame. I don't try to win tournaments for fame. I don't do any of that," Watson said. "It's just me.
"I'm just Bubba."
He's not just Bubba.
- Phil Mickelson can rationalize his decision to play from a bush on the par- three fourth, instead of a penalty and re-teeing it all he wants. ("Then I got the hardest shot again. I felt like it was worth the risk and it may have cost me, what, half a shot at most?") All I know is that hitting two shots, opposite-handed, from a bush, could not have been the best strategy to save strokes.
- Tiger Woods' tantrum on Friday where he cursed and kicked his club like a kid whose parents denied him candy, was horrendous to see. His pathetic half apology on Saturday was worse. "Certainly I'm frustrated at times and I apologize if I offended anybody by that." Be a man and sincerely apologize for embarrassing yourself and tarnishing the game. No matter your opinion of him, Tiger is still the face of golf and that was a sad showing. So was his golf. A tie for 40th, spraying the ball all over, clearly signaled he is not back.
- I'm starting to get the feeling that if Lee Westwood is ever going to win a major, he's going to need a blowout, like Louis Oosthuizen's 2010 British Open rout. It's not that Westwood chokes, but he just never gets it done all the way. He's not a great putter, but something isn't quite there. It's hard to pinpoint.
- If you don't pick Fred Couples as one of your Masters pool picks next year, you're a fool.
- Movie moment - I've written about "Major League" before and the preposterous decision to bunt with a 40-year-old catcher with bad knees, but here's my question - who made the All Star team for the Indians that year? The team didn't make its move until the second half. So, I'm going to go with the crafty Eddie Harris. Name player, but Taylor, Vaughn, Dorn, Cerrano or Hayes could've gone. Harris is my choice not just for name factor, but he probably won something like eight games in the first half with his stuff. That's probably enough.
04/09 13:04:20 ET