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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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"I thought for sure when I finished that conversation," says Scott, "that'd be the end of me."

Says Watson, recalling that ultimatum, "For a guy I consider my teammate, my good friend—for him to actually sit down and tell me that ... it meant a lot."

In their next tournament, the Travelers in Connecticut, Watson was six shots back at the start of the final round but took a one-stroke lead to the 17th hole, which he proceeded to double-bogey. Walking to the 18th tee, Scott got in his boss's ear. "It's just you and me out here," he said. "And when it's just you and me, you're going to make birdie on me all day long on the last hole. You still got this. We can get in a playoff."

Watson birdied 18, beat Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank in the playoff, then made an indelible impression on national TV, tearfully dedicating his first PGA Tour win to Molly and Gerry, whose weight had dipped to 115 pounds. He died four months later, but not before seeing his son win on the PGA Tour and play for his country in the Ryder Cup.

On the eve of that victory, to prepare for one of the most important rounds of golf in his life, Watson engaged Aaron Baddeley and Rickie Fowler in a fierce battle of laser tag. The enemy that Watson most fears, it seems, is boredom.

"Some weeks we'll go to a water park, some weeks we'll visit a submarine," says Andrew Fischer, who is Watson's trainer but also serves in an unofficial capacity as the fun coordinator, like Julie McCoy on The Love Boat. Other field trips he has arranged: bowling, miniature golf, video arcades and firing AK-47s with Navy SEALs.

While Watson, 32, may be "just a big kid," as Fowler says, it's not fair to describe him as a visored Peter Pan, determined to never grow up.

"He's grown up a lot over the last couple years," says Baddeley, Watson's closest friend on Tour. "Between his dad's illness, Angie's health scare and his growth as a Christian—that combination has given him a lot of perspective. When he hits a bad shot now he'll say, 'Hey, it's just a bogey.'"

Watson tapped into that newfound maturity at Torrey Pines in January, holding off another lefty, hometown favorite Mickelson, to win the Farmers Insurance Open by a stroke.

In addition to the $1,044,000 winner's check, Watson collected a surfboard, prompting a reporter to ask if he was regular-footed (right foot back, left foot forward), or goofy (left back, right forward). Acknowledging that he had never surfed before, Bubba said he didn't know. After a moment's reflection, he offered this: "Probably goofy."

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