Like many of you, I marveled over the shot Bubba Watson hit to win the 2012 Masters Tournament. You remember it: the hooked pitching wedge shot from the trees right of the 10th fairway, his ball dancing on the green to set up his win over Louis Oosthuizen in the sudden-death playoff. Great shot. Great champion.
And like many of you, I was flabbergasted when Watson melted down at the par-3 16th hole in the final round of the Travelers Championship on Sunday. In case you missed it, Watson was leading the tournament when he splashed his tee ball. Then, he hit his third shot over the green and wound up with triple bogey. During the disaster, he went off on his caddie, Ted Scott. Awful shot(s). Worse reaction. Here it is:
Watson was certainly blowing off some steam. Did he mean to blame his caddie? Probably not. But to some golf fans, he's damaged his character as this fun-loving, free-swinging fellow. People have taken to social media (Twitter, his Facebook fan pages) to call out Watson for him not owning up to his play. Blaming the caddie (especially during a round) is the worst faux pas a golfer can make - even if the caddie did make a mistake.
After the round, Watson and Scott spoke with the PGA Tour's Brian Wacker, who wrote the following:
Afterward, Scott took full responsibility for the tee shot, saying Watson wanted to hit 8-iron initially but that he convinced him it was a 9-iron.
"I convinced him to hit the wrong club," Scott said. "I 100 percent take responsibility for it. It's totally my fault. I got in the way of the painter on that one."
For his part, Watson defended Scott and said of the exchange they were simply trying to figure out what went wrong.
"Did we do the yardage wrong, was it a gust of wind? We were just trying to figure out what was going on," Watson said . "We planned to do one thing and it didn't do it. We mis-clubbed is all."
Even if Scott was at fault, viewers only saw Watson's reaction. He would've been better off taking a deep breath and letting it go, but that's easy to say now.
The first time I interviewed Watson was during a practice round last year at Doral. I had heard horror stories from other members of the media beforehand when I mentioned I was writing a story about him, but when I interviewed him he was awesome. While he may not be a favorite of certain media, he seems to be a stand-up guy who wants to be a great friend, great father and great husband.
So my advice to him for this situation is simple: apologize. Silence is the enemy. If he wants to try to regain the golf fans he lost Sunday, he needs to come out publicly and apologize profusely for berating Ted Scott. And an apology is not one of those sorry-if-I-offended-you things. He needs to be sincere, honest. Apologize now and golf fans will remember. Don't apologize, and golf fans will also remember.