Joy of Golf: The bizarre mind of Bubba Watson

Joy Chakravarty 09:56 02/07/2015
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Ups and downs: Watson.

Just because he is so utterly unpredictable, eccentric and a genius with a golf club, Bubba Watson is one of the best things to have happened to the sport in recent times. You never know what he might say, or what he might do on a golf course.

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The drama is relentless as the American continues to oscillate between the magical and ridiculous, much to the delight of his fans. There really is no middle ground for him.

Last week’s Travelers Championship was a classic example of how Bubba’s mind works. Tournament champion in 2010, after which he could not say a single sentence without crying – not only because it was his maiden win on the PGA Tour, but also because his father was on the verge of losing his battle against throat cancer – Watson started this year by announcing how much he hates the 15th, 16th and 17th holes of the TPC River Highlands course.

This is what he had to say: “Well, 17, in 2010 I made double bogey, so I hate that hole. Then in ‘12 or maybe ‘13, I made a triple bogey on 16, and lost the tournament. I had a two-shot lead at the time. So I hate that hole as well.

“Fifteen is really tough because the water sticks out on the right for me. It’s a very scary stretch, especially for a head case like myself.”

Of course, Bubba then went on to mess it all up on exactly those holes.

On the short par-4 15th on Saturday, he hooked his tee shot with the driver, and was saved only because the shot was so wild, it clattered against the faraway trees and bounced back into the fairway bunker, from where he made a par.

You would have thought Bubba had learned his lesson and would play an iron off the tee on Sunday when two ahead of Paul Casey. But no sir! The commentators and the crowd let off a collective gasp as Bubba once again took out his pink PING driver. He then once again hooked it, and again made a par that looked like accomplishing Mission Impossible.

The hoodoo on 17th continued with another bogey that tied him with Casey. And then in the second extra hole, he hit a breathtaking drive and a laser-guided wedge for a birdie and victory. It’s a continuous theme with Bubba.

His most unforgettable utterance was when he was invited to play the 2011 French Open. He played poorly, ranted about the crowd behaviour, and then crushed the national pride of France with his questionable description of things he did in Paris that week.

His exact quote: “I don’t know the names of all the things. I went to the big tower…Eiffel Tower, to an arch way (Arc de Triomphe), then what’s that with an ‘L’? Louvre or something like that, and saw the castle (Palace of Versailles) that we are staying next to.”

But then, very few people on this planet can hit the impossible-looking hooked wedge shot like he did in the playoff at the Masters against Louis Oosthuizen, or crush a drive of such measured beauty on the par-5 13th a couple of years later at Augusta National that it evaded each of the hundreds of danger lurking on the famous hole and left him with just a pitching wedge second shot into the green.

The one statistic that clearly shows how good Bubba has been in these last five years is his number of wins on the PGA Tour. With eight titles, including two majors, he is tied for second place alongside Tiger Woods.

Only world No1 Rory McIlroy has won more in this period – 11 wins with four majors. Clearly, Bubba the golfer deserves a lot more respect that he gets.

The rise of French golf

Whatever Bubba Watson may think of French culture, even he would appreciate the strides made by the the nation’s golfers in recent years. In 2013, there wasn’t a single French player in the top 100 of the world rankings.

Now there are three: Victor Dubuisson (No 37), Alexander Levy (No 61) and Gary Stal (No 100). And from three players in the top-200, they now have seven.

In 2014, there were as many as five French players among the 25 who graduated from the European Challenge Tour.

Last month, 19-year-old Romain Langasque won the 120th Amateur Championship at Carnoustie – the scene of the biggest French heartbreak in golf in 1999 with Jean van de Velde’s last-hole collapse at the Open Championship – thus earning a trip to this year’s Open and the 2016 Masters.

With the 2018 Ryder Cup scheduled in Paris, that should be enough motivation for some more players to break through.

Quote of the Week

“I mean, I get it…he’s one of the most famous human beings on the planet and we share a last name as well as a profession. But let me clear something up once and for all: I love my uncle, and I treasure the advice he gives me when we speak every few months, but I am not Tiger Woods.” – The 24-year-old Cheyenne Woods in an article published on The Players’ Tribune.

Stat of the Week

8.58 – Average three-putt percentage during the US Open at Chambers Bay as the players kept complaining about the state of the greens. It was almost double the average for the tournament from 1997-2014, which is 4.84 per cent.

166 – million euros (Dh675m), the total prize purse on the European Tour this season. This is up by €26m (Dh105.9m) from 2014, which is an increase of 18.5 per cent.

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