The Enigmatic Mr. Watson

by   |   June 25, 2013
Bubba Watson enigmatic

Growing up in Connecticut, I attended first Greater Hartford Open, then the Buick Championship, now the Travelers Championship most every summer.

Of all the tournaments I watched at TPC River Highlands, the only one I saw to its Sunday evening conclusion was in 2010, when Bubba Watson vanquished Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank in a playoff after coming from six shots behind Justin Rose’s 54-hole lead. Watson was overcome with emotion when he accepted his first PGA Tour trophy. Tears streamed down his face as he leaned on wife Angie and he dedicated the victory to his father, who was back in Florida in failing health. As he addressed the cheering crowd, it was easy to sense that it was entirely his.

This past Sunday at TPC River Highlands’ 16th hole, where he had secured his maiden victory three years ago, an evidently very different Bubba Watson faltered. Leading the tournament at the time, Watson’s tee shot — a nine iron — came up short in the pond that guards the green of the 178-yard par 3. Watson, incredulous, threw up his hands and glared at caddie Ted Scott. Scott has seemed to serve a more active role in Watson’s life than most caddies—the tall Floridian has credited Scott in the past with helping build a more positive on-course demeanor.

After rinsing his tee shot, Watson proceeded to the drop area, conferred with Scott and hit a half-wedge shot that careened over the green.

“So you’re telling me that’s the right yardage,” seethed Watson, all condescension.

Viewers, especially those who have caddied before, cringed at the awkwardness of what had just happened. Watson ultimately made triple-bogey on the hole and finished a disappointing fourth place, two shots behind eventual winner Ken Duke.

Watson and Scott have publicly made up (thanks, Twitter), laughing off the exchange as something that happened in the heat of competition. But nevertheless, the incident is bound to lose Watson some fans.

Image-wise, Watson’s last three years have been eventful, and not always in a positive way. He won the 2012 Masters in spectacular fashion, yes, but the prior summer, during a trip to play in the European Tour’s French Open, he was reportedly uncooperative with media requests during the week, made some comments that belied little engagement with the culture and promptly missed the cut in the event. The ordeal left European golf fans and media with the impression of Watson as a stereotypical “cowboy American” — culturally clueless and borderline boorish.

Early in 2012, Watson purchased an orange 1969 Dodge Charger, a “General Lee” of “The Dukes of Hazzard” fame for more than $100,000. For some, the extravagance smacked of the same indelicacy Watson exhibited in France but for most, it was merely “Bubba being Bubba.”

In 2013, Watson has had mixed success on the golf course while continuing to build his own personal brand off it, to the extent that some have wondered which side of his life has taken the lead. With new clothing sponsor Oakley, Watson made literal waves in April by appearing in a video that showed off a futuristic mode of golf course transportation: a hovercraft.

The stunt generated almost as much buzz as Watson’s two appearances in the pro-golf faux boy-band The Golf Boys’ videos and only added to Watson’s visibility.

Do not take this as a condemnation of Watson, though, for all its mention of his public foibles. Quite the opposite, in fact: his fun-loving public attitude and down-home roots make him an everyman figure the game has not seen since John Daly — the type of figure golf needs.

He also happens to be one of the longest-hitting and most creative players of the game today, which adds to his appeal by backing up the sizzle with considerable substance. But moments like Sunday’s, when he laid his own ill-execution at the feet of his caddie, available to all who were watching the telecast, are frustrating to all golf fans — this one included — who want the best to be true of Watson.

Here’s hoping Sunday’s behavior was an aberration, rather than an accurate glimpse at the real Bubba Watson.

About

Tim grew up outside of Hartford, Conn., playing most of his formative golf at Hop Meadow Country Club in the town of Simsbury. He played golf for four years at Washington & Lee University (Division-III) and now lives in Pawleys Island, S.C., and works in nearby Myrtle Beach in advertising. He's not too bad on Bermuda greens, for a Yankee. A lifelong golf addict, he cares about all facets of the game of golf, from equipment to course architecture to PGA Tour news to his own streaky short game.


12 Comments

  1. D-mac

    June 27, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Bubba is an emotional mess! Witness his wins always end in the floodgates opening up. Then, when he hits a bad shot, he blames his caddy. Yea, maybe it’s the swing…with more movement than a sumo wrestler after an all-nighter at a Mexican restaurant. Dude, get some help!

  2. MLH44

    June 27, 2013 at 7:39 am

    I believe Brad hit the nail on the head. They are playing for a “W” worth $300-$500,000. They are in the heat of competition and emotions are red lined. Bubba wanted to pull an 8iron, but Scott convinced him to use a 9iorn. If the 9iron lands 5 feet from the hole, Scott is a hero. As we know it did not therefore Scott was held accountable, unfortunately, publicly. Give Bubba a break, cause although he was the one pulling the trigger, Scott was the one that handed Bubba the gun. Add to the mix HD mics and HD cameras all over the place and what we heard/saw was probably more common than most of us would like to think. It’s golf at it’s highest level and if they can move on so should we.

  3. Brad

    June 26, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    @t Not a legend? Name one player in the top 50 in the world that has no swing coach, no putting coach, no short game coach, and no long game coach that has won a major? Many can be taught and programmed to do the right things but only legends CREATE greatness …fyi: you can’t.

  4. SC

    June 26, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Bubba is a one-hit wonder. The Masters will be it for him, as he is unwilling to adapt his game to the golf course he is playing. Take for example the Olympic Club last year, when he wouldn’t give up his driver, even hitting it off the deck a few times. That’s not how great golfers play the game. Also, anyone that buys a car with a Confederate flag painted on the top of it deserves no respect.

  5. wtfci

    June 26, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Based on this argument, you can string together disconnected events to make any person look like a monster.

    What Bubba does really well is to get people talking about golf that wouldn’t be talking about it. He gets people watching golf that wouldn’t be watching it. The TPC event was the first event after the US Open. This event gets almost no coverage. The attendance at the event was underperforming. Bubba’s falter in the last three holes was a great story that was told to people that wouldn’t have heard anything about it if he pared the 16th hole in the final round.

  6. Rich

    June 25, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    The Boss is always right? Right!

  7. Brett

    June 25, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    agreed^^^They play the game for money unlike most of us. what if the caddy was wrong? and i find this a non issue because certain people have been caught muttering far worse after a shot multiple times and dont get criticized for it. this is a non story.

  8. Brad

    June 25, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    This is very common in any working relationship. Read something this morning that put it in perspective. It said Bubba basically lost from $300,000-500,000 with that one bad hole. I know who cares when pros make so much right? No, like the great saying ” Don’t hate the player hate the game”. If my business partner and I made a joint decision that his call was correct and it lost us $300-500,000 I have a feeling I would give him some s@#t while still being fully aware of my responsibility in the situation. Don’t forget the fact that Ted said Bubba wanted to pull an 8 and he convinced him to hit the 9. All sounds like a great sunday on the PGA TOUR. Give Bubba a break…he’s a living legend.

    • t

      June 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm

      Bubba is not a lengend !!!!!!!

  9. Patrick

    June 25, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    The problem is that this isn’t an isolated incident from Bubba. In fact, I’ve never seen a player more willing to blame his caddy that he. Multiple times on live television coverage I’ve seen it happen, and the commentators just ignore. It really makes Bubba look bad, and I’ve never been a fan as a result.

  10. C Masty

    June 25, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Scott threatened to drop the bag a few years back if Bubba didn’t change his on course attitude. One of the true testaments and reasons I play golf is because real players of the game learn to overcome on course adversity and play through. This was just Bubba showing his true colors. History does tend to repeat itself.

    • Tony R

      June 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      It wasn’t that big of a deal. I wish people would stop and think what these professionals are playing for. It’s not a 2 dollar Nassau at your munie.

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