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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed