Sport Golf

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Nothing is elementary about Watson's ways

Double champion's extraterrestrial brand of golf could reshape Augusta landscape

Bubba Watson of the United States holds his son Caleb after winning the 2014 Masters
Bubba Watson of the United States holds his son Caleb after winning the 2014 Masters
Adam Scott of Australia presents Bubba Watson of the United States with the green jacket
Bubba Watson of the US rushes to hold his son Caleb after putting on the 18th green

Oliver Brown

From the tears with baby son Caleb to the supplicatory schmaltz in the Butler Cabin, the spectacle of Bubba Watson's second Masters coronation in three years was a little like gorging on treacle. Rather apt, then, that he celebrated with dinner at the local Waffle House.

As we discovered from his lachrymose crumpling in 2012, Bubba, or rather 'Blubba', loves a good cry. He cried so much when he earned his tour card that he could not even conduct an interview. He broke down at his own wedding to the point where he was incapable of whimpering "I do". "I'm going to cry, because why me?" he asked. "Why Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Florida? Why is he winning? I'll probably cry again sometime, just thinking about it."

Paradoxically, it was the presence of Caleb that just about kept his father from dissolving into a puddle. Sensing a little paternal composure was called for, he cradled the two-year-old en route to the Green Jacket presentation as he small-talked with him about how "Daddy just gone and played a li'l golf".


The little boy had been adopted by Watson and his wife, former Canadian basketball player Angie Ball, just prior to his maiden Masters glory, and formed an explanation for why this most outlandish talent had scarcely featured on the radar at Majors since.

"We got him at a month old, so he didn't have a male figure for the first month of his life," Watson said. "So getting used to smell, touch, feel, sound, everything, I had to be there for my son. I was trying to be a good husband, a good dad. Golf was the farthest thing from my mind."

Leaving aside the likelihood that this tiny bundle had scant sense of who or what he was at a mere two weeks of age, the folksy tribute was duly lapped up amid the tenderness of the moment. This is Augusta, people, where syrup tends to be applied not with a teaspoon but a trowel. Still, there was no doubting the magnitude of Watson's accomplishment here.

Dear Bubba, ever-mercurial and madder than a jar of bees in the American parlance, has joined Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as only the eighth man to win two Green Jackets within a three-year time span. The sport's Mount Rushmore must now be recarved, with delightful novelty, to accommodate a figure who wields a blunderbuss pink driver and has yet to receive a formal lesson in his life.

To understand how this is even possible, it helps to realise that Bubba has a brain wired differently to the rest of us. One of the lesser-known anecdotes of his 2012 victory came from the prize giving, where he received his first Green Jacket from defending champion Charl Schwartzel, a qualified pilot. In those precious seconds Watson asked the South African not about their shared ordeal on Amen Corner, or what spot he might be given in the champions' locker room, but about the type of police helicopter flying overhead.

The same zany thought process held true this year as Watson, far from apprehensive ahead of his defining Sunday at Augusta, chose to run a trivia session on Twitter. Perhaps the same logic, or lack of it, applied to his decision to hit his second shot to the 15th green through a gap in the trees, over the water, clutching a three-shot lead with the Masters on the line.

It was the audacity of the one golfer in the field who could reduce the par-five 15th to a 366-yard drive and a gap-wedge – the same club, as it happened, that he had used from the pine straw at the 10th in his extraordinary play-off triumph over Louis Oosthuizen two years ago. This, then, was the very essence of 'Bubba golf': a crazy, instinctive, ask-questions-later approach to the game that Watson appears to have harboured since birth.

"I'm not playing this game for everybody to tell me that I'm one of the greats," he said. "I play it because I love it." While he extols the virtues of an extraterrestrial brand of golf, Watson also gives the impression of a man unsure of what planet he is on at times.

It seemed that way when he was asked, in the afterglow of Masters Sunday, how much he was looking forward to this year's Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

"It's an amazing feeling to go to Scotland – to the home of golf, St Andrews," he replied. The mistake had an echo of Bubba's infamous account of his cultural excursions in Paris, where he labelled the Louvre as "the building that starts with L".

His latest lapse was endearing rather than crass. But this is not to say that his conduct is without distasteful elements. He has a history of fiercely admonishing his caddie if he believes he has not been handed the right club – as in Connecticut last year, when he told bagman Ted Scott: "There's just no point in you turning up." His strength of born-again Christian conviction is also such that he has ventured bracing views on homosexuality, describing it as a "sin".

The Bible is invoked rather too often where Bubba is concerned, but one recent piece of advice that Watson received from his pastor was salutary.

"You dreamt about playing in the Masters," reverend Judah Smith said. "Why don't you just go ahead and rejoice in the circumstances of your life?"

Down at the Augusta Waffle House, Bubba's party was only just beginning. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport