Bubba Watson is a unique talent. He’s a throwback to the good ‘ol days of golf when every shot was curved left-to-right or right-to-left on purpose to attack pins and navigate doglegs. His distance and imagination have garnered him fans all over the world. But those who cover the PGA Tour every week sometimes see a different side of Bubba. For all the times where he can be goofy and fun-loving, there are also times where he can be a spoiled brat and just plain immature.
The latest example of his apparent lack of class came yesterday during the practice rounds at the PGA Championship in Kentucky. There was an old tradition with the PGA to hold an informal long drive contest during the practice rounds, and they decided to bring it back this year to benefit charity. You would think that a long drive contest would be right up Bubba’s alley, since he’s generally known as the longest hitter on the PGA Tour and hit the longest measured drive of the year last week at Firestone (424 Yards), but once again he disappointed everyone with a gesture of pure selfishness and disrespect.
The PGA was simply measuring drives as the players came through the tenth hole, and the winner of the contest would have $25,000 donated to two charities of his choice. Jack Nicklaus won the inaugural contest in 1963 and was given a gold money clip which he still uses to this day. It was not unlike the familiar routine at the Masters each year where players skip balls over the water on #16. Padraig Harrington even hit one Happy Gilmore style for fun.
Watson, who’s 2014 driving distance average so far is 313.6 yards, decided to tank the contest. Instead, he hit a 3 iron off the tee of the 595 yard par 5 and quickly scampered down the fairway before his playing partner could even hit. Later in a press conference he was asked about it by golfchannel.com and replied “I’m there to play golf, not to hit it far. I’ve got to practice. I’ve never been to the course. I don’t need to worry about a long drive on the 10th hole.”
Bubba was also asked about his decision to hit a 3-iron, and he indicated he did it to “prove a point” while calling the contest “hokey.” He added, “There’s no reason to make something up in the middle of a practice round like that.” he also said “I don’t think we should have a competition like that while we are trying to learn the golf course.” That statement struck me as odd, given the fact that he previously told reporters he planned to hit driver on that hole this week. I don’t think hitting a 3 iron off that tee helps you “learn” the hole very much. Remember, this is a guy that wanted to drive the General Lee down Magnolia Lane and got Oakley to build him a $40,000 custom hovercraft.
Perhaps it isn’t a big deal, but to me it is – Because I know Bubba’s track record when it comes to stuff like this. He cries when he wins a tournament and people love his dashing and aggressive style of play, but the Bubba Watson I know is self-absorbed and immature. For a man who frequently references his Christian faith, his actions clearly don’t speak as loud as his words. His
odd refusal to participate blatant act of defiance in a charity event that didn’t require him to do anything but hit a shot he would normally hit anyway is a slap in the face to the PGA, his fellow professionals and the charities that stand to benefit. By the way, Louis Oosthuizen won the contest with a poke of 340 yards, and the charities of his choice will receive the prize money.
I thought that winning the Masters and becoming a parent would help Bubba Watson mature and start understanding his position to do good and be a role model, but it appears he hasn’t gotten the message yet. Remember, he’s there to practice and win a major championship, not to goof around, just like at last year’s PGA Championship…