Whether you like him or not, Bubba Watson is one of the premier golfers in the game today.
The southpaw proved his talent once again this past weekend when he won the Travelers Championship, for the second time, in a playoff against England’s Paul Casey. Watson has now won eight PGA Tour events since 2010, more than any PGA Tour player not named Tiger Woods (8) or Rory McIlroy (11).
Over the last five years, Bubba has captured two green jackets and nearly added a PGA Championship to his resumé, but came up one shot short of the Germinator, Martin Kaymer, in a three-hole aggregate playoff in 2010.
That PGA playoff was the only one that Watson has ever lost in his professional career. In fact, Bubba has been so dominant in the other five playoffs that he has competed in, that none of the extra sessions have lasted more than two holes.
Watson, who is currently ranked third in the Official World Golf Rankings, seems to play a different version of golf from almost everyone else in the field.
These days, many players are absurdly long off of the tee and Bubba is not even the longest one among them (at 309.5 yards per drive, he ranks third on the circuit in average driving distance). However, what separates Watson from the rest of the field — aside from his unorthodox swing — is his ability to hit massive hooks and cut shots off of the tee in order to put himself into positions that no other player would even attempt.
Bubba’s no-fear mentality, coupled with his extreme distance and magnificent short game, make him the closest embodiment to a living golf video game avatar that we have. With these natural gifts, he should be one of the most popular athletes in the world of sports — not just golf.
To boot, Ontarians have even more of a reason to like Bubba. Watson’s wife was born here and the couple travel up to Ontario often to visit. In fact, in 2006, Watson set the course record at Bushwood Golf Club in Markham with a 61. Since then, he has returned multiple times, trying to beat his score.
Yet, Watson, who owns a golf cart hovercraft and the original Dukes of Hazard mobile (confederate flag and all), is not well liked — not by his peers, not by his fans, not even by this columnist … and I’m a lefty!
My main issue with Watson is his arrogance.
That is not to say that there are not a lot of cocky golfers on the PGA Tour. Exuberant confidence can, in fact, even be an asset out on the golf course. However, Watson is the only player on the circuit who used to openly refer to himself in the third-person in post-game interviews.
Furthermore, Bubba never seems to own up to hitting poor shots or missing the cut, always deflecting the blame elsewhere. If you have watched him play on television, then there is a good chance you have seen him berating his poor caddie, Ted Scott, after errant shots.
Check out this VIDEO, recorded at the French Open in 2011, where after missing the cut with consecutive 74s, Watson airs his grievances about everything from camera placements and cell phones to his overall lack of comfort and security on the fairways. When the interviewer points out that surely the same distractions must also be present at PGA Tour events, Bubba replies, “We don’t see any cameras like this!” before essentially vowing to never play in Europe again outside of the Open.
Two weeks ago, before ultimately missing the cut at Chambers Bay, Bubba was heard yet again venting on the 18th fairway about the tournament’s pacing and labeling the caliber of play at the event, “pathetic professional golf.” I’ve even seen Bubba getting angry at pieces of turf, on numerous occasions, following poor strikes.
All of the players on the PGA Tour have to deal with the same conditions each week, whether it is the ‘camera placements’ or the sponginess of the turf. For a professional that plays the world’s most existential game, Watson has demonstrated that he is unwilling to accept any type of responsibility on the golf course.
Moreover, it seems that Watson’s new annoying catchphrase “You’re Welcome” is a good embodiment of what many people find so off putting about the man. Bubba releases all of these cool videos that showcase his one-of-a-kind talent and then feels the need to look smugly into the camera and say these two words.
Who are you saying this to Bubba? Is it your fans?
Ringy-Dingy. You are extremely talented. We get it …
When ESPN’s anonymous player poll came out earlier this year, Bubba was identified by a large contingent of players as the tour’s least popular player. Watson reacted to the news in a press conference by stating that the revelation was an eye-opener and that he would need to work on becoming a better person.
Fast forward to the final round last week at the Travelers, where an incident with a fan on the second hole made more headlines than his victory later in the day. Trapped behind a tree in the right rough, Bubba was sizing up his shot when a member of the gallery suggested that he should hit a punch 4-iron under the tree to get onto the green. Bubba elected to hit a magnificent towering sand wedge over the foliage to just a couple feet — a breathtaking shot by anyone’s standards — before tapping in the birdie. But before doing so, he apparently told the fan that hitting 4-iron punches is why he is on the other side of the gallery ropes. What did Watson do after sticking it to a couple feet? He searched out the fan that made the suggestion just to let him know that Bubba knows best.
I’m surprised he didn’t look right into the camera after the shot to say, “You’re welcome!”
Bubba may be trying to reform himself to become a better person, but clearly, he still has a long way to go.