Ryder Cup 2014: ‘Big dog’ Bubba Watson says he won’t be goofy in Gleneagles

Two-time Masters champion aims to play it straight but his captain says Europe will target him

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The Independent Online

Bubba Watson says he won’t be goofy this week. How about droopy, then? It doesn’t help him when his captain calls him the “big dog” of the US team. The 35-year-old two-time Masters champion from Bagdad, Florida, is a real-life cartoon with a walk as dopey as his talk. He should have his own reality television show: Celebrity Big Bubba, perhaps. He’s certainly got the X-Factor.

Two years ago in the Ryder Cup at Medinah, he created history by inviting the spectators packed into the grandstands around the first tee to whoop and holler as he was hitting his ball. Quiet, please? Not a chance. Ian Poulter had the bottle (of course he did) to call Bubba’s bluff and do it, too. But this year, in the away match, Watson said he will keep a lid on it. Whether he does or not will be revealed on Friday.

“When you’re at home, you can be goofy,” Watson said here. “But when you’re away, you don’t want to do anything like that, even though we had some fun a couple of years ago with getting the crowd revved up.”

So is it a reverse plan at Gleneagles – the classic tactic of the away team keeping the home crowd quiet? “No. You never try to silence the crowd,” Watson said. “They are going to applaud good shots. They are going to applaud their team obviously. The few that came over from the US are going to cheer for us.”

While US captain Tom Watson has declared that Rory McIlroy and Poulter are the European players with the most-sought-after targets on their backs, he claimed Bubba was the US equivalent. Bubba is the big dog, captain Watson said. The big droopy dog. “If you knock off the big dog, that gives your team a boost,” he said. “I would say that if I just had to pull a name, he would probably be the guy that people would be looking to defeat. I think Bubba would be a target,” Watson said. “He can really get it going and make it happen. I hope he does.”

Bubba was having none of it. “He’s making that up,” he said of his captain’s claim. “He’s making attention come to me when it’s the other guys.”

 

He wasn’t accepting that he was the US team’s Poulter, either. “No, we’re out here just having fun and enjoying the game and trying to grow our game,” he said. “Poulter has grown the game by great play. Obviously, McIlroy is pretty good; he’s No 1. But Poulter, what he’s done in the Ryder Cup, has grown the game,” Bubba said. “There have been some kids out there that want to do the same thing he’s done, the way he’s come up, his background. I mean, what a story that is and what a great talent that is – his compassion, his energy and his great play and his great putting. I might not be the talent of golf, but there’s other ways that I’ve helped grow the game. Maybe that’s what he [Tom Watson] is saying,” Bubba said.

Expect Bubba to be paired with his Bible study buddie Webb Simpson. They won two matches together in 2010 and witnessed the Miracle of Medinah as Europe fought back from 10-4 down to win. Whatever Watson says, expect more Bubba buffoonery before the week is out. The joke doing the rounds on the range at Gleneagles is that Bubba had to be reminded to take his place on the team jet. He thought the Ryder Cup was being held in Scottsdale, Arizona, not Scotland.

Tom Watson sent his straight man, Jim Furyk, to be the follow-up act to the team’s comedian in the conveyor belt of preview press conferences. “I was surprised by the thickness,” Furyk said. He was talking about the eight-inch deep rough, not Bubba’s aeroplane blunder.

This is Furyk’s eighth appearance in the biennial tussle with Europe and such has been the revolving door of defeated players as Europe has won five of the last six Ryder Cups, Furyk has seen 14 partners come and go, including Tiger Woods, absent through injury this year. The 44-year-old will certainly be on rookie babysitting duties again this year for 21-year-old Jordan Spieth or 24-year-old Patrick Reed.

“I like to look at the positive side of that,” Furyk said. “I’m like the utility infielder that leads off now. Half these people have no idea what I’m talking about,” he said, then laughed. “These are all baseball references, by the way. My temperament and being a veteran allows me to move around and be a bit of a chameleon and fit into some different situations. I’m one of those wheelmen and I could end up with a bunch of different partners. It’s kind of the blessing and a curse I’ve had for my career.”

You can bet your last Tesco dividend that he won’t be partnering Bubba. The talk returned to big dogs and the intimidation factor. Who would Furyk signal out as the main threat in the European team? Unlike his captain, Furyk gave it the ol’ sidestep but all in good humour. “Which ones bring the intimidation? You don’t expect me to actually answer that question, do you?” Furyk said. “You know I’m going to dodge it.”

For those looking for a useless omen, Bubba is still undefeated at table tennis in the US team room.

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