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THE SWINGING SAVANT
Austin Murphy
March 21, 2011
His game is unorthodox, he tries shots others would never consider, and he's sort of goofy, which makes Bubba (from Bagdad) Watson a wildly entertaining, world-class player
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March 21, 2011

The Swinging Savant

His game is unorthodox, he tries shots others would never consider, and he's sort of goofy, which makes Bubba (from Bagdad) Watson a wildly entertaining, world-class player

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Watson took up golf when he was six. He learned to "move" the ball by knocking a plastic ball around the family house on Old Bagdad Highway. Literally. Swinging a cut-down nine-iron, "I'd go around one way, say clockwise, drawing the ball, 'cause I'm lefthanded," he says. "Then I'd go the other way. This time, I'd have to cut it"—bend it right to left. No wonder the guy couldn't hit it straight if he tried.

The Watsons weren't poor, but Gerry and Molly definitely made sacrifices to keep their son in golf gear. "When I turned pro," Bubba says, "they were still making minimum payments on their credit cards from stuff they bought for me when I was in junior golf."

Their first big-ticket item? When Bubba was eight, they bought him clubs. A full set wasn't in the budget, so he got odd-numbered irons that year, evens the next.

Within a few years Ping chairman John A. Solheim was getting calls from Billy Weir, a company rep who lived in Milton, Fla., near Bagdad. A typical message:

"There's a kid down here who just won a tournament by 38 shots. I think we need to keep our eye on him."

Bubba befriended Weir (who died in January 2005), and every so often he accepted a club from him. But that was about all the help he got. Or needed. It is a point of pride with Watson that he has never taken a lesson, never had a swing coach.

The truth is, a lot of coaches wouldn't know where to begin with his deeply unorthodox swing, a violent, corkscrewing motion that "kind of proves," as Scott puts it, "that all the things we think you shouldn't do aren't necessarily things you shouldn't do."

Yes, Watson's setup is cockeyed, his feet aiming right, his shoulders left. True, his backswing goes way past parallel. To see where Watson strays farthest from the mainstream, however, watch his hips and feet.

"Most people would turn their hips 45 degrees" on their backswing, says Scott. "When Bubba's really gettin' after one, he turns his hips almost 90 degrees. His hip turn is where most guys' shoulder turn is."

All that torque makes it impossible for Watson to stay grounded. "He's swinging so hard," says Scott, "his feet are slipping and sliding and moving. He's almost walking around as he's hitting."

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