Lusetich: Bubba may be different, but his success is no fluke
Now that the last pimento cheese sandwich has been consumed for another year (thankfully, for they’re disgusting), it’s time to bury a few myths in golf.
Let’s start with Bubba Watson, who buried the myth of his own self on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with golf’s most coveted prize on the line.
He’s a two-time Masters champion, people.
Bubba Watson, with all his jumpiness, his odd mannerisms, his, well, idiosyncratic approach to playing golf, has won two green jackets in three years.
Here’s the kind of company he’s keeping, the other men to have won twice at this cathedral within a three-year span: Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
That would be golf’s Mount Rushmore.
And then, of course, there’s Bubba, who’s generally considered more of a Redneck Riviera knock-off of something grand and historic and meaningful.
The sort of guy who’d be happy enough to see an Eiffel Tower in Vegas and not feel the need to fly all the way to Paris and deal with their strange food and customs just to see another Eiffel Tower (even if it is, you know, the original).
That last part may be true of our Bubba, but let’s get back to the first part, about him being a knock-off of the real thing.
Now, I know he’s often portrayed as something of an idiot savant from the Florida panhandle who has no idea what he’s doing. He contributes to this with his own homespun Bubba-isms.
Indeed, examine what were among the first words out of his mouth on Sunday evening.
“A small-town guy named Bubba now has two green jackets; it’s pretty wild,” he said in that self-deprecating way he has.
Well, I’m not buying the myth you’re selling, Bubba. Not anymore.
Have I mentioned that he’s won two Masters in three years?
Maybe one green jacket might be an accident — and certainly there have been a few fluke winners at Augusta National over the years — but no one’s ever fluked two.
I mean, players of the caliber of Greg Norman and Ernie Els never won one!
The idea that Bubba’s a one-trick pony — a guy who hits it “Bubba long” with his pink driver but doesn’t really play “proper golf” — is dead wrong.
Watson now has six wins in his career — and let’s not forget he won earlier this year at Riviera, Hogan’s Alley, one of the most revered courses in the game — and two green jackets.
He’s the real McCoy, as it were (unless, of course, his kin were Hatfields).
That’s not to say he doesn’t do things his way, and that’s not to say he doesn’t hit it long.
Indeed, maybe the green coats of Augusta National will start thinking about Bubba-proofing the old girl after he sliced his drive 366 yards around the trees on 13, leaving him just 144 (and the same gap wedge he used to hit the winning hook in 2012) into the par 5. But they couldn’t even if they wanted to, because there’s no room left after the Tiger-proofing last decade.
But it’s not like all he can do is drive the ball prodigious distances.
I asked him on 18, after he hit the tee shot, I said, ‘Are you from Mars or something, because I don’t believe that you can hit these shots that you hit.’
Caddie Teddy Scott
The truth is that Watson’s never had a lesson and isn’t a straight hitter — in fact, I don’t ever once recall him hitting a straight shot — but a golfer whose mind sees shapes. He hits weird cuts and hooks, for sure, but where does the ball finish?
Mostly, it goes right where he’s looking.
There have been times in his career when he’s led the PGA Tour in greens hit in regulation, so it’s not like all he can do is grip it and rip it with a pink driver.
And on the greens, he’s got a deft touch, as he showed for four days on the spiciest greens in the world. A golfer needs mental toughness to survive this place or he’ll be getting on the Washington Road on-ramp to Interstate 20 on Friday nights.
None of this is to say Bubba doesn’t march to the beat of his own drum. In that sense, he’s a throwback to another era, when golfers didn’t come out of factories with identical — and often geometrically perfect — swings (only to not be able to win).
His caddie, Ted Scott, had a great line when he was asked why Watson hit a shot through the trees on the par-5 15th toward the green instead of laying up from 190 yards.
There is, of course, water guarding the front of that green and the risk seemed unnecessary.
“It’s Bubba golf,” Scott said with a shrug. “For him, it’s not that big a deal. For me, it would have been a big deal; I’m like, that’s not a big gap. But for him he sees huge gaps.”
And he hit the shot, stayed dry and safely made par and went on to win the Masters by three shots.
Scott was asked to describe “Bubba golf.”
“Freak show. I mean, I can’t describe it any other way,” he said. “I asked him on 18, after he hit the tee shot, I said, ‘Are you from Mars or something, because I don’t believe that you can hit these shots that you hit.’ ”
Start believing, Teddy.
Bubba’s a two-time Masters champion, and that’s never been a fluke.