Sunday, June 27, 2010

When A Man Named Bubba Cries...

Maybe I'm just a sucker for guys getting swept up in the biggest moment of their professional lives but when Bubba Watson won the Travelers Championship Sunday afternoon and started crying like a baby on his wife's shoulder I almost got a little verklempt myself.

When a man named Bubba cries with the whole world watching -- a man who carries a pink-shafted driver just for the fun of it -- it shows how much a Sunday like that one can mean to a person. In the space of a few seconds, Bubba Watson went from being a mind-blowing, long-driving sideshow to a guy with a sick father, a jittery set of nerves and a whole new set of fans.

For all the superhuman distances Bubba Watson can hit a golf ball -- he drove it 396 yards with the aid of a cart path on the tournament's 72nd hole Sunday -- he looked beautifully human when he beat Scott Verplank on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff for the first PGA Tour victory of his career. We see way too many television shots of guys barely cracking a smile when they hole another 30-footer for birdie and we get more than enough muted celebrations in golf so that when Watson let it come pouring out Sunday afternoon, it was sweet.

Watson had just won what may have been the most curious playoff in tour history. It started with 50-year old, short-hitting Corey Pavin, who busted a 219-yard tee shot on his only playoff hole (about 7-iron distance for Bubba) and 45-year old Scott Verplank, one of the most underrated players and professionals of his generation. Pavin bowed out on the first hole after seeing Watson nearly hole his approach shot then Verplank chopped up the second playoff hole, opening the door for Watson.

Bubba's a different dude. He's into collecting sneakers, his hair's a little long by tour standards and he has a homemade golf swing that creates more force than a NASA launcher. He's been tough to get a read on because he flashes on the leader board then disappears. He's blamed part of it on his battle with attention deficit disorder. He's known for how far he hits it, not how he plays. But now he has a victory and, no doubt, the attention of Ryder Cup captain Pavin, who had to be imagining the possibilties of using Watson in alternate-shot matches in Wales this fall.

Here's how Watson, who can amble on in an interview with more gentle curves than a country road, explained his reaction to reporters in Cromwell, Ct., on Sunday:

"I'm a very emotional guy. I cry all the time. When I go to church on Sundays, I'm crying at church. I couldn't get the "yes" or the "I do" out on my wedding day. And the pastor said, you gotta say it. You can't just nod.

"So you know, and just all the -- everybody has issues, but you know, our family had some issues, and my dad's battling cancer; and my wife, we had a scare, we thought she had a tumor in her brain. We got lucky with that one, and now we're battling with my dad. So it's emotional.

"You know, my dad taught me everything I know. It's not very much, but that's all I know. He would agree with that.
You know, I've never had a lesson. My dad, he took me to the golf course when I was six years old and just told me he was going to be in the woods looking for his ball, so he just told me to take this 9-iron and beat it down the fairway. And now look at me after beating a 9-iron on the fairway coming from Bagdad, Florida, I never dreamed this."

Turns out the biggest hitter in golf is just a big softie.

Nothing wrong with that.


Anonymous said...

Very nice to see the emotion after a win. Its not about the money for some of the guys out there, its about proving to yourself you can win.

Anonymous said...

This just goes to show that you don't have to have the prettiest swing in golf to play well. Different strokes for different folks plays well in Bubba's book.