Bubba Golf. It sounds like an attraction at Blackpool's Pleasure Beach just along the coast from here. There are 206 bunkers that look like bears' eyes with eyebrows on this crazily tough Lancashire links, but there are no windmills or clown's faces – apart from one joker following Masters champion Bubba Watson dressed in a rubber Captain America costume. The spectator was the one in fancy dress. Bubba is daft but he's not that barking mad.
Watson has quickly become the fans' favourite quirky American now that John Daly is more famous for his shockingly bad fluorescent coloured disco pants (Union Jacks on Friday, strobing orange and green maze yesterday) than his ability with ball and stick. Daly is 10 over par. Watson is the new superhero, a golfing Captain America (with a visor instead of a mask), especially after his gung-ho victory at Augusta in April and his goofy way of speaking and behaving. He upset the French last year (guaranteed to endear him to an English crowd) by referring to "that tower that begins with 'E'" (Eiffel). No such problems for him identifying the Blackpool version. Clue: it begins with 'B'.
Almost 40,000 spectators stomped the dunes yesterday and hordes of them yelled Bubba's name and cheered him to a two under par 68. It places him in the chasing pack at two under for the championship. Watson knows he will have to attack Lytham in the final round but that's the way he loves to play, anyway. Spectators will be treated to another display of Bubba Golf. It's sure to be a fast ride and the faster the fans scream, the faster he'll go. Buckle up for a twist or stick rollercoaster ride. His Saturday score was five shots better than his Friday 73 that saw him dabble with the cut mark but he is quite capable of racing to a score in the low sixties. With winds of up to 30mph forecast for this afternoon, if Watson can rack up the birdies before the hooly arrives, he could still give the leaders a fright.
It's an outside chance but Bubba is gunning to become only the ninth player to complete the Masters and Open double in the same year. The first was Ben Hogan in 1953; the last was Tiger Woods in 2005. Watson knows he needs the weather to blow his rivals off the course. "Yeah, I'm hoping it's calm when I play and then it's really rough for them," he said. "And rainy, too," he added with a grin. "We need tough conditions so we can play great and hope to move up. It looked like I was going to miss the cut as bad as I was playing," Watson said.
"To get back to two under for the tournament is pretty good. I still have to shoot a low round, but it can be done."
Watson is not the only American Masters champion on the leaderboard. Woods has four green jackets but is more concerned with getting his hands on a fourth Claret Jug, and the first since Hoylake in 2006. The 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson is also poised for a challenge for silverware at five under par. Watson glanced at the leaderboard and was asked was he delighted to see fellow Americans fairing so well. "Well, obviously, no," was his customary unexpected Bubba view on the world. "I'd rather it be me on top of the leaderboard," he said. "Who cares about the other people?" Well, quite.