Driver on every par-4 or par-5 hole? No problem.
Shots both sliced and hooked – on purpose – from trees, bushes, rough and sand? No problem.
High? Low? Right? Left? Bubba Golf knows only the bounds of its inventor’s imagination, and those limits have yet to be discovered.
With Bubba Golf, there’s no weighing the risk and reward. The risk is taken every time and if there’s a reward, great.
If not, well, Bubba Watson, the pride of Bagdad, Fla., Milton High School, Faulkner Community College and the University of Georgia, has an answer for that.
“I’m not going to go home and pout,” he said.
On the ultimate risk-reward course, the Augusta National Golf Club, Watson took every chance possible, and won the Masters Tournament Sunday on the second hole of sudden death against Louis Oosthuizen.
Oosthuizen, a product of the South African golf factory and already a major champion with his dominating performance at St. Andrews in the 2010 British Open, played by the book in the final round and shot 69. He even one-upped Bubba Golf on a par-5 when he made the first double-eagle in tournament history at No. 2 and birdied both par-5 holes on the second nine.
Bubba Golf merely birdied No. 2, parred the par-5 eighth, and birdied the two par-5s on the second nine, shooting 3-under on those holes to Oosthuizen’s 5-under.
But Bubba Golf resulted in four birdies in a row on the second nine to catch Oosthuizen with a 68. Then, on the second playoff hole, Watson closed down a pitching wedge, played for a wicked hook, and ran the ball onto the green from deep in the woods with a shot that Oosthuizen admitted that he would never have conceived, much less tried.
“He played brilliantly,” Oosthuizen admitted.
Oosthuizen tied for seventh in driving accuracy and tied for ninth in greens in regulation. He was first in putting.
Guess what? That only enabled him to break even with Bubba Golf, which produced a tie for 46th in hitting fairways, a tie for fourth in greens and a tie for 27th in putting.
After Oosthuizen and Bubba Golf were deadlocked through 72 holes at 10-under-par 278, Bubba Golf went 4-4 in the playoff and Oosthuizen went 4-5.
Watson was formulating the defining shot of the tournament even before he realized just how deep into the woods his second shot was at No. 10.
“I’m used to the woods,” said Watson, who is 134th on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy this year – a good year for him. “I just play the game that I love. I just play golf. I attack. I always attack. I want to hit the incredible shot. Who doesn’t? That’s why we play the game of golf, to pull off the amazing shot.”
Well, no one’s sure about this “we” stuff, because even Phil Mickelson backs down on occasion.
Watson plays golf one way: wide-open, with the emphasis on fun. He’s not about to change, especially since he’s become a new father, part of a long maturing process that he said was sorely needed.
Watson and his wife Angie adopted a boy, Caleb, three weeks ago. Since the day they picked him up in south Florida, Watson has tied for fourth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and won the Masters.
Think fatherhood has been good for him?
Watson said adopting his son has been one more piece of a family puzzle in which he’s tried to tone down his live-wire personality. Watson said golf was getting to him in all the wrong ways, to the point where his wife, his caddie, Ted Scott and close friends had a series of sit-downs with him about his attitude.
“Every golf shot was controlling how mad I got,” he said. “On the golf course, I was just going the wrong way. I was so wrapped up in what everybody else was doing, why is he beating me, why can’t I make putts, why can’t I make the cut … so my wife, caddie, close friends told me I was going the wrong way.”
Scott threatening to quit shook Watson to his core, because they already were close friends. Becoming a Christian in 2004 helped the most.
“It hit home,” Watson said. “It’s a slow process. This year, it’s gotten better. Last year was a little better and hopefully the years to come it gets better and better.”
He’ll never apologize for his emotions. With his wife home attending to their child, Watson broke down sobbing in his mother Molly’s arms after winning the Masters. When asked about his son in post-tournament interviews, and his deceased father, Watson found it difficult to speak.
As usual, his golf speaks louder than his words. The fact that he’s using a pink driver is in honor of his father, who died last year of cancer.
Watson has played his brand of golf since emerging from Georgia and the Nationwide Tour. He needed 122 starts to win his first PGA Tour event, but he’s now won four in his last 39 starts, three in playoffs.
Clearly, fearless and even reckless golf doesn’t hurt.
Watson also carries it as a badge of honor the fact that he’s never taken a formal lesson, has never had his swing videotaped for instructional purposes and probably couldn’t articulate what swing plane, launch angle or core rotation means.
Watson swings, goes and finds the ball, then swings again. The result is certainly marvelous entertainment and proof that golf is big enough for one more left-hander other than Mickelson with nerves or steel – or the triumph of an uncluttered head.
“I can hit straight,” Watson said. “It’s just easier to see curves, get the ball working to the hole. I had to hit three dead-straight balls on No. 18 to hit the fairway the last three times [Saturday and regulation and playoff Sunday]. So I can do it. It’s just not something I really want to do. It’s easier in the trees like I did on the last playoff hole.”
While golf has always been full of free-wheelers off the tee such as Mickelson, John Daly and Arnold Palmer, Watson is the first to actually profess a desire to be in trouble.
It seems to go hand-in-hand with his freewheeling emotions. He jokes, he makes silly YouTube videos, he cries openly and jumps from topic to topic like Fred Couples wired on caffeine.
“I don’t play the game for fame,” he said. “I don’t try do win tournaments for fame. I’m just me. I’m just Bubba. I goof around. I joke around.”
And he wins golf tournaments, going against the book. Judge him however you want but he’s a major champion.
“I can’t do any better than this,” he said. “I’ve won four times and a major championship. Hopefully I keep crying. Hopefully I keep having the passion to play golf and keep doing what I’m doing.”