Masters victory vindicates bold Bubba's battles


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The Independent Online

Never had a drink. Never read a book. Never had a golf lesson. Never had a green jacket, either, until last Sunday. The cult of Bubba Golf, as Masters champion Bubba Watson calls his gung-ho style, has just gone global. Look out Lytham when the Open Championship arrives on the outskirts of Blackpool in July.

Heck, Bubba isn't even his real name. It's Gerry. But he still has that chubby baby face that prompted his father to quip when Watson was born: "We seem to have a bubba here, not a baby."

Watson is John Daly – without the vices. He's highly strung yet his swing is loose. He's uptight yet free-wheeling. He's preppy with his floppy Ringo Starr mop top yet he's redneck as the owner of the General Lee, the orange Dodge Charger car from the 1980s American TV series The Dukes of Hazzard. He's a loveable, simple guy – in a homespun American backwater kind of way. But, boy, he's complicated, too. His caddie once threatened to leave him if he couldn't find a way to control his mood swings, and he upset the French last year playing in their national Open displaying his lack of worldliness by describing the Louvre as "that building beginning with L". But he meant no harm. It was just classic American insularity.

Bubba is a goofy dude from Bagdad, Florida who went to the same school as the charmingly daft Boo Weekley. There must be something in the water. But Watson is not as dumb as he sounds. Or as some people, and maybe Watson himself, would have us believe. He's no village idiot. Without telling anyone, he completed his final examination papers to earn his consumer economics degree at the University of Georgia in 2008. It's hard to believe he had the discipline to see it through.

He's a 33-year-old kid who is easily distracted and fidgets constantly as if he is sitting on a box of frogs. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are perfect forums to keep his busy little brain ticking over. His videos have become legendary: chipping balls out of his garage into his swimming pool and blasting vegetables with a driver. And he wields that pink driver for charity – the club manufacturer Ping donates $300 for every whack that clears 300 yards. Does he ever pause for breathe?

"I probably do have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)," he said. "I have never been tested by a doctor but I guess I do. I just can't sit still."

Bubba lives life riding an emotional rollercoaster and always seems close to tears. "I can't really say this is a dream come true," Bubba said blubbing in his champion's press conference at Augusta. "I've never had a dream go this far."

There has been much for Bubba to get emotional about recently and for more important reasons than winning his first major. His father (a lieutenant in the Green Berets during the Vietnam War) died of cancer shortly after Watson made his debut in the 2010 Ryder Cup, and only two weeks ago he and his wife, Angie, adopted their first child, Caleb.

"Up early, can't sleep, don't want to miss any part of being a dad and going to get a new cell phone number!" Bubba tweeted early on his first day as Masters champion. "It's crazy how people get your number."

Watson loved baseball and golf but it was the latter that became his obsession from the age of six. He taught himself to shape shots by hitting over trees and under branches in his garden and thwacking a plastic ball around his house with a 9-iron. He got so good his father eventually let him use a real ball.

"I never broke any windows," Watson said. That DIY style hit pay dirt last Sunday as Watson wowed the galleries smashing controlled slices and hooks around the Augusta pines. It will come as no surprise, then, to discover that Watson's role model is fellow lefty and three-times Masters champion Phil Mickelson. "He goes for broke," Watson said. "That's what I do. I always attack. I want to hit the incredible shot." But Watson's boyhood hero was not an American but Spain's Seve Ballesteros, who won the Masters in 1980 and 1983. "Seve learnt on the beach in Spain. I learnt around the house and trees in Florida," Watson said. "When he hit into trouble he always found a way to get out. It was his imagination taking over. You can't teach that. You just do it. He always made something out of nothing." It is easy not to take Watson seriously but he deserves respect for what he has achieved.

He has indeed made something of himself out of nothing.

"I'm just Bubba," he said. "I goof around. I'm not ready for fame. I don't really want to be famous." Too late. Bubba Golf has just gone viral.

Bubba Watson

James Charlton

Born: Gerry Lester Watson Jnr, 5 November 1978, Florida

Turned Pro: 2003. World rank: 4.

Best major finishes: Masters 2012 (won), PGA Championship 2010 (2nd), US Open 2007 (T5th) and the Open 2011 (T5th).

PGA titles: 4.

Has had over five million hits on the internet for music video "Oh Oh Oh" alongside Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan.