It wasn’t so long ago that Bubba Watson had to beg and plead via Twitter videos to get on a talk show.
Watson’s 2010 self-promotional campaign to woo the attention of daytime talk comedienne Ellen DeGeneres included singing Happy Birthday to the host as well as a series of videotaped trick golf shots.
“I don’t know how but one day I am going to be on your show!” Watson tweeted to DeGeneres.
Watson’s unusual persistence paid off with a February 2010 appearance on her show, but all he really needed to do was hit a little trick shot from the Georgia pines and put on a green jacket.
Within a few days of winning the Masters Tournament and crying on the green in the arms of his mother, Watson was the most ubiquitous personality on international television. In a whirlwind two-day media blitz from Florida to New York, Watson established a new unofficial PGA Tour 24-hour record with 13 national-television appearances mixed in with a flurry of radio and print interviews that kept him busier than his newly adopted son could have.
The self-made golf champion was such a hit on the paparazzi parade that the Wall Street Journal reporter shadowing him said, “Celebrity-jaded staffers lined the stage-door exits to ask for photos and autographs.”
Helen Ross, a longtime reporter for PGATour.com who has accompanied the Masters winner on several of these media tours, said the reaction Watson got was different than others.
“It’s interesting the way people responded to him after the cameras went off,” Ross said. “His story really captured the attention of people.”
Watson’s itinerary went well beyond the usual appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, who during the course of his interview asked Watson “Will you continue to be awesome?”
His airway saturation tour began last Tuesday with a surprise 30-minute stopover at the Orlando studio of The Golf Channel’s Morning Drive.
“My wife gave me a day and a half off so I figured I’d have a little fun and fly to New York,” he told the show’s co-hosts along with insight that the General Lee was still in the shop getting converted to street legal and that fellow tour pro Rickie Fowler helped him pack up to leave Augusta and nearly tossed away the hanging suit bag with the green jacket because he knew Bubba didn’t own a suit.
From there he went on to charm just about every media personality in the Big Apple. He filmed interviews with Letterman, CNN’s Piers Morgan, CNBC’s Darren Rovell, PBS’ Charlie Rose, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption.
He very nearly made an unscheduled appearance with Al Roker on NBC’s Today Show when his limo stopped outside the 30 Rock building where Roker was doing one of his morning standups. Watson walked across the street but a security guard was unable to get Roker’s attention for an impromptu moment with the green-jacketed champ.
During his conversation with Rovell on Power Lunch, Watson said he’d narrowed his options for the cuisine for next year’s Champions Dinner to “Waffle House, Chipotle, Lexington Barbecue or In-N-Out.”
Piers Morgan tweeted: “This @bubbawatson interview is one of my all time favourites.”
During the blitz Watson spoke with CNN’s Kyra Phillips, Fox News’ Jenna Lee and CNN’s World Sport with Pedro Pinto. He did phone interviews Jim Rome, Dan Patrick, Tim Brando and Scott Van Pelt. He told Mad Dog Radio that he bought the overalls he wore in his Golf Boys video for 99 cents at a thrift store. He also did interviews with PGA Tour radio and a taping for Inside the PGA Tour.
While he was traveling on foot through the streets of New York in his green jacket from one appointment to another, Watson got interrupted by a phone call. A stern voice on the other end said “the next voice you hear will be the President of the United States.”
Sure enough, President Obama opened with “Hey, Bubba!” to which Watson reflexively responded, “What’s up, bud – I mean, Mr. President.”
Watson met the president on a trip to the White House before last year’s U.S. Open at nearby Congressional Country Club, but that hardly prepared him for the political circles he walked in last week.
On Sunday night while celebrating his victory with the well-heeled members of Augusta National Golf Club, Watson took a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden. Before his taping on CBS This Morning, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, a potential Republican vice presidential candidate, fawned over the Masters champ. The first of his two-part segment on Charlie Rose had to share time with the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations.
Someone from CBS even invited him to the White House Correspondents dinner later this month.
This was a lot to take in from a guy who, last summer before a tournament in Paris, described the Eiffel Tower as “that big tower,” the Arc de Triomphe as “this arch I drove round in a circle” and the Louvre as “a building starting with L.”
But his worldliness has been trumped by his self-made golfing gifts and his unconcealed heart. He spoke openly to everyone that asked about his newly adopted son, Caleb, and his penchant for getting emotional and crying.
When singer-songwriter icon Carole King came out to meet him before one of his interviews, Watson had no clue who she was – perhaps because he told one of Paul Shaffer’s band members that he listens to Christian rap. King’s advice to him: “Try not to change.”
Best-selling author John Grisham shook Watson’s hand and told him, “You made my wife cry and she doesn’t even like golf,”
After all of that, Watson still had enough energy to show up Saturday at TPC Sawgrass to participate in the Tim Tebow Foundation tournament and gala. While upstaging the hometown hero on the course, Watson gave Tebow his Masters player badge that shared the quarterback’s No. 15.
“It’s been crazy,” he said.
The days of hitting trick shots out of his back door, over the pool and into a bucket to impress celebrities are over, as long as Watson keeps converting shots like the one from the trees that won the Masters.
He was asked immediately after winning his first major if he was ready for the fame.
“I don’t really want to be famous or anything like that,” said the guy who sought attention by using pink-shafted drivers. “I just want to be me and play golf.”
It’s too late. Bubba has taken on the world and everybody is watching.