The first day of the 92nd PGA Championship was reminiscent of the final round of the 2000 Bridgestone, Tiger's so-called 'Shot In The Dark.'
Thanks to a lengthy fog delay on Thursday morning at Whistling Straits, many of our heroes battled the waning sunlight across Lake Michigan, racing against time to complete their opening rounds at the final major of '10. In the moments before the horn mercifully sounded at around 9 p.m. ET, the late starters in Wisconsin were flat-out hitting and hoping.
Shortly before the '00 Masters, then-10-year-old Qass Singh penned a note for his father, Vijay: 'Papa, trust your swing.' Vijay would go on to win that week, capturing his second major.
Sage advice, then and now. However, on Thursday, 'trust your swing' took on new meaning for those who played in the dark. Hit it and hope. As a life-long recreational player, I was completely entertained by the final hour of the first round at the PGA. Who among us hasn't putted out on 18, with dinner and bragging rights on the line, long after the sun has dropped below the horizon? Forgive the cliche, but it was terrific theater.
Fitting then, that the first-round clubhouse lead was shared by Bubba Watson. With all due respect to Francesco Molinari – the only other player in the house at 4 under – Bubba is terrific golf theater. His press conferences are happenings; his swing is something that not even Peter Jacobsen would attempt to imitate. Simply put, Bubba is a player. He plays golf, not 'golf swing,' as our friend Peter Kostis is fond of saying.
I have long held the belief that the world is divided into two camps: artists and mechanics. Artists are all about the result, with little regard for process. Mechanics revel in the details. Golf has given us a long list of successful 'mechanics,' including Hogan, Nicklaus, Player, and Tiger. However, the list of 'artists' in the game is far longer: Hagen. Snead. Trevino. Palmer. Ballesteros. Couples. Mickelson. And today, Bubba.
He may lack the resume of the previous list, but he has equivalent talent, and otherworldly imagination – the sign of a true 'artist.' In short, he's just damn fun to watch. And it was fun to watch him on Thursday.
My dad – another Watson – has been my preferred golf partner ever since he put a cut-down set of Nicklaus Golden Bear irons in my hands when I was seven or eight years old. He's a 'mechanic,' a player driven by process and detail, but has enough 'artist' in him to appreciate the beauty of the game.
For as long as I can remember, he has held fast to the belief that the twilight is the best time to play the game. There's nothing he enjoys more than racing against the dying sunlight, putting out on 18 in the gloaming, and retiring for dinner and trash talk. That's where memories are born.
We're only one day into the '10 PGA Championship, but there was something entirely pleasing about seeing an artist, Bubba Watson, atop the leaderboard at a course like Whistling Straits, itself a study in artistry. We can only hope that the next three days will be as entertaining, day or night.