The Last Word: If only all sports stars would follow the open-book approach of Bubba Watson

He is free of guile and arrogance. He can never keep secrets from fans

It is a constant refrain on the Turf: "If only they could talk." In reality, of course, that would only put racehorses on a par with human beings – which arguably represents a fairly steep downgrade. Mind you, it's not so much the talking that gets us into trouble, as the listening. This time next week, when it's all over for another year, how many of us will be renewing a vow never to pay attention to anything heard after dusk during the Cheltenham Festival? (With one obvious exception: "Are you being served?")

If endowed with the power of speech, moreover, would horses achieve those associated capacities that further exalt us above the animals? Would they bet, for instance? Would they trade insults and lies? Would they refuse to race, unless promised more oats and better working conditions? And, vouchsafed the terrible secret of mortality, would they start debating the latest eviction from Celebrity Big Brother?

True to venal form, we yearn for equine conversation primarily to learn of any latent problem that would explain – or better still, enable us to predict – any failure to run to form. If an odds-on favourite happens to pull up in the back straight next week, you might be grateful if he could at least debrief the press afterwards. "Sorry guys. Toothache. Same as Rory."

All sports nowadays assume that our interest, as fans, is stimulated by access to the stars. And while we recognise the artifice of some post-match interviews, we are often granted a legitimate window on character. Football managers, for instance, tend to remain so saturated with tension, resentment or relief that they simply cannot dissemble. (Mancini is a personal favourite – staring off into the distance, running fingers through his hair, finally turning to his questioner in mild bewilderment.) And this week Rory McIlroy made such a charming show of contrition, at his first press conference since flouncing off the course halfway through a round, that he seemed not merely to repair his image but enhance it.

Ultimately, however, the more inscrutable a performer, the more we must read into his performance. In individual sports, with no team-mates to share high fives, he typically engages with the challenge as mutely as a racehorse. And while a golfer does have a release valve, in all that muttering with a caddie, it is in his loneliness and silence that he most fascinates.

We talk of a golfer addressing a ball – and he could hardly do so more expressively by pouring out a sonnet than in the way he puffs out his cheeks or chest. In very special cases, however, character is disclosed most vividly in the execution of the shot itself – in precisely that split second when the inner man is supposed to be suppressed by a scrupulously repeating technique. To that extent, the most graceful swing can also be the most robotic. If it's not working, you can only put it down to toothache or some other unknowable sorrow. Praise be, then, for the gloriously untutored, unfettered slash that ensures Mr Gerry Lester Watson Jnr can never hold any secrets from his fans.

Bubba is the most ingenuously captivating American golfer since Elwood P Dowd joined a 6ft 3.5in rabbit named Harvey at the 19th hole. In the Masters play-off last year, with Louis Oosthuizen strolling round the fairway like Steve McQueen after sex, Bubba was so convulsed with tics that his hooked wedge out of the trees seemed to be conjured from the very margin between instinct and insanity.

He can't hide a thing. He can't hide his humility, or his will to win. There's one big paradox for you right there – but it shows we are getting the whole, unadorned Bubba. A man whose beliefs subject him to plenty of rules; and a man as free as a bird. Free of guile, free of arrogance, free of all the selfish insecurities that infect not only millionaire sportsmen but all ranks of society. In his latest spoof rap video for charity, with the Golf Boys, Bubba appears to have borrowed both chest hair and dungarees from Harvey. (You really must watch this. And, if you do, note which of the four dudes clings pathetically to the hope that he looks really cool.)

To communicate all this, Bubba doesn't really need to talk. For the sake of clarity, however, he has just told more than 800,000 Twitter followers: "Today's prayer is to enjoy the day, No Matter What Happens!! Amen!" Never mind his Masters defence, now just round the corner. I can't think of a better axiom to take into Cheltenham week.

News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television The BBC have commissioned a series of programmes doing away with high-production values, commentary, script or drama
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable