NEWPORT, Wales – Bubba Watson could be this year’s Boo Weekley for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, a guy who keeps his teammates laughing, scratching their heads or maybe just wishing he’d shut his mouth every now and then.
Rest assured, the big-hitting Watson won’t be laying up – on or off the course – during his week in Wales.
He put it all out there Wednesday during an entertaining and emotional session with the media, whether it was shrugging off the history of the event (“it’s no big deal to me”), dismissing the need for serious discussions (“all I’m asking is what team outfit we are wearing that day”), or choking back tears as he spoke of his cancer-stricken father serving in the U.S. military during Vietnam (“this is a chance to be like my dad”).
If some are offended that a golf match played at a ritzy resort is mentioned in the same breath with a war that claimed some 60,000 U.S. soldiers, well, so be it.
Bubba isn’t backing down for nobody.
Just ask the reporter who tried to get him to reveal whether he’s had an intimate talk with teammate Tiger Woods.
“What are we going to sit down and talk about: ‘What are we eating at night?”’ Watson asked in an exasperated tone. “I mean, it’s just golf.”
Just golf? The Ryder Cup?
Yep, in the world according to Bubba.
“It’s a big honor and it’s just golf,” Watson repeated, before turning back to the subject of what he should be discussing with Woods. “Tiger’s game is different than mine. Jim Furyk’s is different than mine. Phil Mickelson’s, well, his is pretty close to mine. We both miss fairways a lot of time. Maybe I should talk to Phil.”
Watson claimed his first PGA Tour win this year at Hartford, but his big breakthrough nearly came at the PGA Championship. He started the final round six strokes off the lead, but overpowered Whistling Straits with his booming drives, winding up in a three-hole playoff with Martin Kaymer (the one that didn’t include Dustin Johnson because of the disputed penalty for grounding his club in a bunker).
With his foot firmly on the accelerator, Watson refused to play it safe at the final playoff hole, even after he drove into the thick rough. From 210 yards and with a tough lie, he went for the green – and wound up in the water.
Still, the runner-up finish sent Watson to the Ryder Cup for the first time, and he showed absolutely no remorse about attempting such a bold shot on such a big stage.
He still doesn’t.
“Some days, I’m going to beat you at golf,” Watson said. “Some days, you’re going to beat me at golf. That’s how it is. The only history I look at is, I’ve got one win and a lot of people have a lot more wins.”
That’s how he’s approaching the Ryder Cup.
“I just see it as a competition and hopefully by the end of the week, we have won more matches than the other team,” Watson said. “I don’t look at the history of it. No big deal to me.”
Obviously, he’s dealing with a much tougher issue off the course, which might be why he seems so nonchalant about being a Ryder Cup rookie, trying to help the U.S. keep the trophy it won two years ago at Valhalla.
“My dad is dying of cancer,” Watson said. “The doctor says he’s got three months to live. I’m playing this for him and representing the United States.”
His father served in the military during Vietnam, so it was especially moving when U.S. captain Corey Pavin brought in Maj. Dan Rooney, a decorated F-16 fighter pilot and a PGA of America golf professional, to speak to the team Tuesday night.
Watson conceded to choking up when listening to Rooney, and the tears nearly flowed again as he thought of his ailing father.
“More than likely I am never going to be in the military, so this is the chance to be like my dad,” Watson said, referring more to the idea of representing his country, even if it didn’t necessarily come across that way.
Before anyone had a chance to be offended, Watson had already moved on. It’s that sort of free-wheeling attitude – and willingness to say just about anything that comes into his head – that reminds teammates of Weekley, who played the valuable role of jester at Vahalla, keeping everyone loose with his folksy look at life.
“Bubba is not quite as funny as Boo,” Steve Stricker said. “What is the word, ‘compatibate,’ that Boo came up with at Valhalla? We have not got to that point with Bubba. But he’s very light. He’s very vocal at times.”
He does know how to get a laugh.
When told it’s been 17 years since U.S. last won a Ryder Cup on European soil, Watson quickly chimed in with a poke at the youngest member of the team, 21-year-old Rickie Fowler.
“Is Rickie that old?” Watson quipped.
Another reporter remarked, “You run a pretty high rev falling out of bed in the morning, don’t you?”
Watson didn’t miss a beat.
“I’ve never fallen out of bed,” he said.