With a heavy mist in the air and damp turf, the ball isn’t supposed to carry.
And yet Bubba Watson’s drive at the sixth hole at Tiburon Golf Club didn’t appear as if it was ever going to come back to earth in Thursday’s pro-am.
“It measured the drive at 427 yards,” Watson said. “Actually, it was only 395 yards.”
Bubba loves showing off, and that’s what makes his pairing so much potential fun this week at the Shark Shootout. He’s got the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year as his teammate. Rickie Fowler can generate some pretty good clubhead speed himself, but it’s not power that these guys will delight in trying to one-up each other with all week. It’s their creative shot-making abilities.
For young guns in the bomb-and-gouge era, Watson and Fowler take great pride in their shot-shaping skills, their abilities to work balls like they’re still made of balata.
“In a way, our games are very similar,” Fowler said. “We like to have fun. We’re not just going to sit there and hit one stock shot after another.”
Draws, fades, high or low, they relish trying to work shots into tight spots or out of tight trouble. Watson said they’ve had some interesting practice rounds together this year. They met in the third round at Quail Hollow in May and hit it off again caddying for Drew Brees and Mark Wahlberg at the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge in June.
“I show off,” Watson said of his many practice rounds with Fowler. “When I’m in the trees, I’ll go, 'Watch this, Rickie. I’m going to cut this shot out of here.’ And he’s like, 'There’s no way you can do that.’ So, it’s always, let’s drop a ball over here and try this. You’ve got to go over or under a tree. You’re always trying to pull off a shot you think can’t be done.”
Watson, 32, may be 11 years Fowler’s senior, but Watson remains a kid at heart. Watson loves video games, playing laser tag and miniature golf. So does Fowler.
Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell pledged they’ll have fun as teammates in the bar this week no matter what they shoot, but they’ll be hard pressed to have as much fun as Watson and Fowler, on or off the course.
“Rickie and I don’t drink,” Watson said. “We’re not about partying.”
But they do know how to have a good time.
The night before Watson broke through to win his first PGA Tour event at the Travelers Championship in June, he burned off nervous energy taking on Fowler in a game of laser tag.
At the John Deere Classic in July, Watson and his wife, Angie, took on Fowler and his girlfriend in miniature golf.
At the PGA Championship in August, Watson rented a house that was home to a family with a lot of young kids. There were scooters, skateboards and bikes in the garage. Watson invited Fowler over, where Watson said they ended up befriending a pack of neighborhood kids. They played football, basketball and rode Razors with the kids.
“Down the street a block, we fed the goats for 25 cents,” Watson said.
Watson likes the boldness in Fowler’s game.
“For Rickie to wear the bright clothes, the orange outfit on Sundays, that’s hard,” Watson said. “It puts a lot of pressure on him. He might not say it, people don’t like to talk about pressure, but it shows he can back it up.
“The one thing that is so good about Rickie is his mind. His physical game is so great, but his mind is the best part of his game. Just like at the Ryder Cup, when he was losing by three or four and he ended up halving the match. Shows that he has that fight in him. He’s a fighter all the way.”
The duo hopes the fight and the fun in their games wins them the Shark Shootout this week.
Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell