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Bubba's Masters win a victory for "Everygolfer"

POSTED April 17, 2012
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

How can you not be thrilled about Bubba Watson winning the Masters.

I mean, the guy uses a pink driver, which, by the way, he hits about three miles, swings from the heels like some duffer at the local municipal course on a Saturday morning, and has Southern boyish good looks, a shock of long hair falling from under his golf visor that would have made him a hit on the Andy Griffith Show back in the day.

Watson winning the Masters was a victory for the "Everygolfer," you know, most of us who weren’t born with a silver putter in our hands, didn’t have playing privileges at an exclusive private country club and never had a “swing coach.” (As an aside, why does Tiger Woods need a swing coach? Ever thought about that one? With a swing and the physical ability he has? It would have been like Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams listening to a batting coach.)

OK, back to Bubba. Watson grew up a middle class kid just playing a game he loved. He thinks a swing coach might get in the way of his natural ability and confuse his mind. Let’s face it, if Bubba had had a coach would he be falling off the ball every time he hits a driver? Umm, no.

Watson shot a final round score of 68 and defeated Louis Oosthuizen on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to win at Augusta National Golf Club.Watson, who earned his first PGA Tour victory at the 2010 Travelers Championship, hit one of the most historic shots in Masters history on the second playoff hole when he hooked his approach shot from deep in the woods to within 15 feet of the cup. His two-putt par sealed his victory,

Watson’s victory over Looie Oooey in the playoff was hailed by the common golfer everywhere. Finally, someone we can all relate to, kind of. Let’s not forget that hit hits the ball about twice as far as we do with a driver and has a sweet all-around game. And he’s rich.

Just like when a fighter wins a championship, even if he holds it for a month, he can still always call himself “champ.” Well, win a Major in golf and you are a made man. I talked with Andy North and Curtis Strange recently and both admitted that they owed their whole career and broadcasting success to the two U.S. Opens they won. Watson is going to win many more tournaments if he stays hungry. But he’s got a Major and that’s huge, whether he wins another or not.

His game isn’t really made for the British Open or the U.S Open, where the rough is high, the gorse and pot bunkers lurking, and the penalty for spraying it with a driver severe. The Masters was made for a bomber. Hence, Jack Nicklaus’, Phil Mickelson's, and Woods’ success at Augusta. There is little rough to speak off and length off the tee means you will be hitting more wedges and short irons into the putting surfaces and thus controlling the ball flight to the incredibly sloped greens, where placement of the ball is paramount to birdies (or eagles) and preventing three-putts. (The PGA Championship is another venue were length usually plays a major role in deciding a winner, and the rough not as penal.)

At last year’s Travelers Championship Media Day Watson said if won the $10 million FedEx Cup top prize he would retire. Everybody laughed but I’m not sure he was kidding. He just might go off into the sunset in that Duke’s of Hazard car of his, with a fishing rod and a six-pack in the back seat and play golf for fun with his buddies. He’s really that kind of a guy. This is a golfer who is totally self-taught and as a youngster hit Whiffle balls around his parents’ home and chipped real golf balls inside the house. Watson said the solo approach works for him, saying that he just lets the game happen.

“I don't like taking instruction from anybody. I want to be the boss. My dad always taught me that there are two options; you can either be a follower or a leader, and he said you don't want to be a follower you want to be a leader. For some reason it just stuck with me and I've always wanted to do it my way. That's where I sort of coined the phrase 'Bubba Golf,’ doing it my way and making it more fun. If my mind is going right, if I'm in the right spot, I'm thinking about my target and that's it. I think target and it means I'm going to move it one way or the other. The first tee here, there's that cart path, and whatever, a board there, I take it right at that. So that's all I'm thinking about, aiming it over there and then cutting it, real simple. I'm not thinking about how my swing is going to look. I'm thinking about the target and I know I want the ball to cut or fade or slice sometimes.”

Watson, a deeply religious man who is very family-oriented (by the way, his wife, Angie, is a former WNBA player), spends as much time in his new home in Scottsdale, Az. as he can. He has also never forgotten his Florida and North Carolina roots. His laid back Good Old Boy style belies the talent the 33-year-old possesses. He’s won four times on the PGA Tour, has amassed over $15 million in winnings, and is second in this year’s Fed Ex Cup race, with a real chance of “retiring” (LOL) at season’s end with that $10 million prize in his back pocket.

Watson won the Travelers Championship two years ago, only three months after laying his beloved father, Gerry, to rest after his dad had a long bout with rheumatoid arthritis. It shook the son up pretty good. But he pulled himself together the way a tough young guy does and went back to doing what made his father proud, playing great golf.

He talked about the struggle to refocus after losing his father and how it kind of helped him win the Cromwell event.

“It was my mind. My mind got where I needed to be. My dad’s situation has passed but this tournament, him battling cancer, inside the ropes was my point of peace. My mind got where it needed to be. I was still focused on golf once I was in the ropes and I got to block all the bad stuff or the tough situations out. I've learned how to focus a little bit more on the golf course.”

Watson said meeting the late Payne Stewart and his father’s struggles grounded him and made him a stronger, God-fearing man who decided it was time to grow up inside the ropes and not be such as a hothead, which he admits to being in his younger days.

On the pink driver, Bubba says that his father told him to stand out in a crowd and the club was one way of doing that. Yep, and winning the Masters.

Watson is commiited to be at this year’s Travelers Championship at the TPC at River Highlands and he'll likely not bail because he is a recent past champion. If he does come, make sure you get out and root for him. Bubba is one of the really good and fun guys on the PGA Tour.

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