If the question is who is the most artistic shot maker on the PGA Tour?
Easy answer – Bubba Watson.
He hits shots the way stunt pilots fly their planes, with big swooping loops and mind-bending faith and imagination.
Who is the most misunderstood player on the PGA Tour?
Open for debate but Bubba has been in the discussion for years.
Who seems to have mellowed in recent years without losing what makes him unique?
On Sunday, the 39-year old Watson was in position to win the Travelers Championship for the fourth time because that’s what he does. Only this time it didn’t happen.
Not just didn’t happen. Watson played the last five holes in 6-over par, falling from the lead to T19. He was making bogeys as fast as the rest of us usually do.
This time, Bubba didn’t blame the golf gods or the wind or anything else, something he has been known to do.
“I’m glad that I was there, had the opportunity. I would love to do it again next week, throw up on myself again. It would be great. I want the opportunity and the chance to win,” he said somewhat philosophically.
It’s no secret that Bubba Watson is different and not just because he plays left-handed and hits a pink-headed, pink-shafted driver. He’s twitchy, quirky and immensely talented. He’s nervous in crowds and more idiosyncratic than most professional golfers.
In a sport that sometimes feels short on characters, he’s Disney-level in a good way.
Because of his personality and style, it’s been easy to slip past how good Watson’s career has been. He’s won two Masters, finished second in a PGA Championship and has 12 PGA Tour wins. Not bad for a guy who said he would retire if he ever won 10 tour events.
Beyond the golf course, Watson has created his own empire of sorts and he is considered among the most generous players on the tour.
Living in Pensacola, Florida – not far from the panhandle town of Bagdad where he grew up – Watson has owned an ice cream/candy store, purchased a part of a Class AA baseball team and bought a Chevrolet dealership, among other business ventures. At some point in the future, Watson has said, he intends to run for mayor of Pensacola though it seems he’s done plenty for the community already.
At times, Watson has been understandably protective of himself and his family. Other times, his thoughts and feelings spill out.
That Bubba, the one who thinks about others, was revealed again at the U.S. Open where he spoke about the mental-health challenges facing Matthew Wolff, who has returned to competition after a two-month self-imposed break to deal with his own psyche.
Wolff didn’t ask for Watson’s advice but he offered it anyway, figuring it was his way of trying to help, having a sense of what Wolff had been wrestling with.
“I love him. I love his family. I love his team,” Watson said. “So I was just talking to them and just shared that I’ve wasted money, I’ve saved money, I’ve bought businesses, sold businesses, I’ve lost 20, 30 pounds because of struggles. I said, I’ve done everything you’re thinking about, I’ve done it all. So I said, if you ever want advice, just call me, and so that’s what I said.
“I was going to text him a few weeks ago, but I wanted to talk to him in person. That’s what I did. Obviously, he hasn’t called me … I was just trying to give him my two cents. He didn’t ask for it, but I gave it to him anyway.
“Again, it’s probably more helpful to me than him just because I can hear it again in my own head, me saying it out loud.”
At least from the outside looking in, Watson’s life has not run in a straight line. He’s been ranked as high as second in the world, he won three times in 2018 and he’s looked like a shell of himself when he lost a substantial amount of weight a few years back.
“There’s milestones that we go through in life, but the top would be making it to the pearly gates and making it to heaven. I guess that would be my top.” – Bubba Watson
When he failed to make the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team, a bitter disappointment considering he was the seventh-ranked player in the world, he lobbied for and was named an assistant to captain Davis Love III. Watson treated the assignment like it was one of the greatest things that ever happened to him.
Though he hasn’t won in three years, Watson is showing flashes again. In the midst of it all is part of the message he wanted to share with Wolff.
“I’m definitely not on the bottom,” Watson said. “I don’t know what we ever considered a top, right? My wife’s saying yes (to proposal); adopting my two kids – I guess those would be high on the list. Passing 17 years of marriage, I guess that’s high on the list, too. So there’s things that … there’s milestones that we go through in life, but the top would be making it to the pearly gates and making it to heaven. I guess that would be my top.
“Losing all that weight was definitely my lowest point, and the things that we don’t talk about a lot is the people around us. They’re going through it, too. Even though they don’t show it, they know I’m going through something. So my wife’s having to deal with my low point, but, yeah, I don’t know where the high is, but I’m definitely not at my lowest. So we’re heading in the right direction.”
It’s a yellow brick road of sorts.
Top: Bubba Watson tees off to start the final round of the Travelers Championship, where he finished T19. Photo: Michael Reaves, Getty Images
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