Bubba shows what not to do in another country

Bubba Watson’s big adventure to Paris wasn’t a complete

disaster.

He was there long enough to take photos of that big tower

(Eiffel). He rode around in a circle at some archway (Arc de

Triomphe). He stayed in a beautiful hotel next to a castle

(Versailles). And he gave the tabloids plenty to write about.

Too bad it wasn’t about his golf.

Watson lasted only two days at the French Open, missing the cut

with rounds of 74-74. He said there were too many cameras, too many

phones, too much of everything except ropes and security.

“It’s not a normal tournament,” he said.

Watson, who after one day at the French Open said this would be

his last time playing in Europe, clarified his remarks upon missing

the cut by saying he would be at the British Open next week, but

only because it’s a major. Then he said he would spend another day

of sightseeing (maybe he meant that museum that starts with an

“L”) and get home “as fast as possible.”

He might have done the Americans a favor. This next generation

of U.S. golfers is showing signs of being more willing to travel

the world. Watson at least served up an example of what not to

do.

It sure got the attention of his peers on the PGA Tour.

Saturday morning on the practice range at Aronimink, the chatter

was endless about Bubba’s behavior in France. The words “ugly

American” came up on more than one occasion, accompanied by a lot

of head shaking.

Stuart Appleby famously said a decade ago, back when the World

Golf Championships were actually played around the world, that

“Americans are like a bag of prawns on a hot Sunday. They don’t

travel well.”

The Australian couldn’t resist weighing in on Twitter.

“Rumour has it that Bubba Watson has had surgery to mouth to

make it smaller so foot won’t fit with as much ease, hope it’s

successful ???” came the first tweet from Appleby. That was

followed by, “I’m not perfect all the time, but is not acceptable

to come to another tour and more than once show a lack of

respect.”

Watson gets the message.

He lost an opportunity to experience a great city, a different

culture, and to bring his game to a growing fan base. He let it

turn into a working vacation that felt like too much work. These

things happen. If this is all Watson is known for at the end of his

career, he will not have had much of a career. The hunch is this

will be forgotten before long (unless he makes the 2018 Ryder Cup

in France).

Not long after he returned home, Watson was busy apologizing on

Twitter to more than 150,000 followers.

In a series of tweets about his “rough week,” he said he was

sorry if he offended anyone and that it wasn’t his intention;

conceded that he played poorly and it was not the fault of the fans

or the tournament; said he had a great time seeing Paris and

Versailles (previously known as the castle); and that he would play

the Scandinavian Masters and an exhibition in Germany.

Watson remains somewhat of an enigma.

When he first made it to the PGA Tour, he had a pink shaft

inserted into his driver. On the driving range at Doral, he would

look around to make sure people were watching when he bashed drives

over a teaching center on the far end of the range. He started a

Twitter campaign, complete with video of his uncanny skills, in a

successful bid to get on the Ellen DeGeneres show.

And then he would try to explain that he only plays golf for the

love of the game, not to get any attention.

He wept when he won his first PGA Tour event last summer in

Hartford, Conn., and it was endearing to listen to him make fun of

himself for not being able to get through a sentence without crying

when speaking about his family, especially his father, who died

last year of cancer. Without prompting, Watson wrote a check for

$50,000 this spring to help with relief efforts in Japan.

He has worked hard to grow the brand that is Bubba. He is

blossoming into a star. Rare is the golfer these days who can curve

the ball any direction to get where he’s going, who has no formal

teacher and tries to keep golf simple. Bubba is fun to watch.

But all it takes is one week of bad behavior for people to

question whether he’s for real.

The tower? The building that starts with an L?

It sounded as though Watson tried to copy Boo Weekley, his old

high school teammate from the backwoods in Florida, who charmed the

kilts off the Scots in 2007. Playing with Paul Lawrie the week

before the British Open at Carnoustie, Weekley asked the 1999

champion how he qualified for the Open.

Boo was delightful. Bubba was distasteful.

Maybe there’s a reason for that.

Watson clearly loves the attention, and there’s nothing wrong

with that. What he has to recognize is that he can’t flip a switch

and make the attention go away when it doesn’t suit him.

Perhaps he should have followed his script from two weeks

earlier at the U.S. Open. Watson was atop the leaderboard in the

first round of the U.S. Open, lost three shots coming in for an

even-par 71 and refused to talk to anyone.

When a reporter caught up to him in the locker room and asked

for a comment, Watson replied, “If you can’t say anything good,

don’t say it.”

That would have been better than what he had to say in

France.