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WHY WE FELL FOR BUBBA
MICHAEL BAMBERGER
May 07, 2012
The hook shot from the pines was an alltimer, but it is only part of the reason Masters champ Bubba Watson has been so thoroughly embraced
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May 07, 2012

Why We Fell For Bubba

The hook shot from the pines was an alltimer, but it is only part of the reason Masters champ Bubba Watson has been so thoroughly embraced

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But wait, there's more. Bubba is the latest in a series of golfing DIYers, and we're always fascinated by them. Hagen, Palmer, Daly, now Bubba. Golf, of course, has a million rules, about how to dress, how to keep score, how to swing a club. Bubba, the whole world now knows, never took a lesson. His swing is all weird angles and dancing feet, and his lefthanded clubs, customized in odd ways by Matt Rollins at Ping, would feel downright weird to Phil Mickelson or Barack Obama or any other southpaw golfer. Watson's sui generis swing represents liberation to any of us who can't get the headcover to stay between our lead arm and rib cage in the downswing or perform any other teacher's drill. And if you're looking to play with a polka-dotted shaft, have at it. Bubba's in all pink, and the rules are dying fast.

Do we really know him? Let's not fool ourselves, now or ever again. Of course we don't, quote, really know him. For now, we can say this: We like the goofy Golf Boys video, in which Bubba bounces around wearing overalls, no shoes and a custom-made Richard Mille watch easily worth $250,000. (The GBs video, a charity thing, has been viewed more than 4.6 million times on YouTube.) We like that he has posted more than 40,000 tweets, most of them three-word responses to regular fans. We like that his given name is Gerry Lester Watson Jr. but that he signs his scorecards with the nickname assigned to him as a baby. We like that he lost before he won, most notably at the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, in that two-man playoff with Martin Kaymer, when Bubba hit a semi-nutty shot into a hazard on the last hole. We like that he seems to be embracing his various roles: golfer and philanthropist and pitchman, husband and father and son. We like that he's not afraid to open his mouth, even if he's going to stick his size 13 FootJoys in it now and again. We like that he once clocked a drive in a Tour event that went 410 yards. (Everybody digs the long ball.) We love that early last week in New Orleans he admitted to being out of the game, mentally. Candor always plays well in the long run. You can't have a relationship with a liar. Not a good one, anyhow.

The Players wraps up on Mother's Day, and Watson's mom, Molly, will be there. Maybe that will be another chance for a Bubba-Molly moment on the final green, with the whole world watching. Bubba's played in the Players only five times, with three missed cuts and two lousy finishes. Strange. Still, there's no reason for Bubba 2012 not to play well there, as long as he's tanned, rested and ready.

Bubba was at the Stadium course six days after his Masters win—and several days after his New York media blitz—for a Tim Tebow charity golf outing. He played out of a cart, but he didn't play casually and he hammed it up for the crowd at 17, the TV-ready par-3 with the island green. With cameras rolling and fans watching, Watson yelled, "Tim Tebow, Tim Tebow—you're the ugliest guy out here!" He never forgot why he was there in the first place.

But the telling moment was a quiet one, earlier in the round, when Watson stood on the 5th tee. There were no spectators there, no cameras, just Watson, his four amateur partners and an Army veteran named Dan Nevins, there to play an honorary tee shot with each group that came through. Nevins, like Watson, was wearing shorts. His lower legs are metal rods and his golf shoes were attached to plastic feet. He hits it great.

Watson shook the retired staff sergeant's hand, looked at him from toe to head and said, "Do you mind if we ask you your story?"

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