Bubba Watson: A goof with Attention Deficit Disorder or USA's Ryder Cup hero?
The Masters champion is fiercely patriotic and prone to getting emotional, but, writes Paul Mahoney, the Floridian will get deadly serious this weekend
Friday 28 September 2012
Bubba Watson is not a golfer; he's a reality TV show. He always seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown and indeed throughout his entire press conference yesterday, he looked like he was close to bursting into tears. The goofy guy from Bagdad, Florida is a kid trapped inside the body of a 33-year-old.
His daft videos of hitting trick shots over his garage into a swimming pool and bashing vegetables with his driver have gone viral and of course he drives around town in his bright orange redneck General Lee, the Dodge Charger from The Dukes of Hazzard. "He's a clown," said his buddy, US Open champion Webb Simpson. "Everybody laughs at him. I'm still trying to figure him out. What you see in his golf videos and all the other funny stuff he does, that's him on the golf course.
"He jokes around," Simpson added. "But he still is a competitor. You can't win the Masters and not be a tough competitor."
Watson's explosive homegrown game that so wowed the Augusta patrons in April when he played that hook around that tree to win the green jacket, and his crowd-pleasing fist pumping and yee-hawing makes him perfect for the volatile atmosphere of the always emotionally-charged Ryder Cup. He's the USA's self-appointed cheerleader. "Any time you can play in the Ryder Cup and put the red, white and blue on your sleeve and represent your country is an honour and a privilege," Watson said choking back the tears in his opening statement at Medinah.
"This is my first team event in the US," he continued. "The crowd has been amazing. They're really pumped about it. Our team is pumped about it, being here in the US."
It's fair to say Watson is pumped. The danger with him, of course, is that he is pumped up too much – like a child who has scoffed too much chocolate cake. His captain Davis Love III will have his work cut out to make sure Watson doesn't run around popping all the other boys' balloons, calling them names and starting fights. Love obviously wants to fire him up but he also doesn't want to unleash a loose cannon. So is Watson going to be able to keep control of his emotions when the matches start today?
"You know, it's going to be challenging because we want to win so bad," he said, not doing a very good job of keeping his emotions in check. "I'll probably get really excited." There's no 'probably' about it. "There are a lot of things going on in my head that are normally not going on," Watson said. "So I will need to slow down, walk slower, do a lot of things slower, just so I can get back to some kind of normalcy."
Normalcy? There's little normalcy, as they say here, in Watson's DNA. He's never had a drink, never had a golf lesson and claims the only book he has ever read is the Bible. The dude with the Ringo Starr mop top can't sit still, either. "I probably do have ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder]," he said. "I have never been tested by a doctor but I guess I do. I'm just Bubba. I goof around." "
"I'm not ready for fame," he said after winning the Masters. "I don't really want to be famous." But while Tiger Woods was born to be famous, and Ian Poulter has earned fame, Watson has had fame thrust upon him. He's a natural born entertainer and the crowds love him. Heck, even the largely British crowd adopted him on his Ryder Cup debut in 2010 at Celtic Manor in Wales. Mind you, he did upset the French (perhaps another reason for his popularity in Britain) by referring to "that tower that begins with 'E'.
But he endeared himself to Europeans when he revealed his boyhood hero was not an American but, surprisingly, Seve Ballesteros, whose importance to European golf and the Ryder Cup is honoured this week, 16 months on from when he lost his fight with cancer, with his silhouette on the European players' bags. "When Seve hit into trouble he always found a way to get out," Watson said. "It was his imagination taking over. You can't teach that. You just do it. He always made something out of nothing."
Which is just what Watson did teaching himself golf from the age of six by hitting plastic balls around his house until he became so good his father let him do it with a proper ball.
The slightest mention of Watson's father Gerry, who died two years ago, is guaranteed to start Bubba's bottom lip quivering. The 2010 Ryder Cup was the last time father watched son play golf and so, for the son of a Vietnam veteran, military connotations are never far away. "Well, it's the United States flag, the military that wears our flag everywhere they go, they give us freedom to play golf, to play the Ryder Cup," Watson said eyes welling up again. "So for me, it's the one chance I get to represent our country. So the passion just comes from that.
"There's no way to compare us to the military," Watson added just in case anyone thought that he really has lost touch with reality. "They're doing something that really means something. We're playing golf."
Watson expressed his admiration for Europe's self-appointed cheerleader, Poulter, who said on Wednesday that he wanted to "kill" his opponents. Watson is not worried that rivalries will become hostile. "I don't think it's over the top unless you go in their faces," he said. "If you ran in somebody's face and said 'I just beat you', it might be a little over the top." Just a little?
And then Watson signed off with one of his classic quirky nonsensical pearls of wisdom – a Bubbism."It's just that little trophy we want to win so bad," Watson said. "So it's really not a dislike of the other team, it's just a dislike for any opponent." There's a difference?
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