LOUISVILLE, Ky. – About 90 minutes after Bubba Watson finished his second round at the 96th PGA Championship, he finally emerged from the clubhouse. Smiling and energetic, he stopped to answer a few questions about a day on the course that found him visibly and audibly demonstrative at various times.
Not that he saw it that way.
“No, what would I be frustrated about?” he asked rhetorically. “I feel great.”
Really? Not a little angrier than usual? Maybe a little more irritable?
“I don’t think so. Maybe if you watched me on three of the four holes I made bogey. But no, I didn’t feel any different today.”
Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.
But if this was the norm, then something might need to change.
On the 16th hole – his seventh of the day - he cried, “I can’t play golf, man. I got nothing.” On the 18th tee, a double-crossed drive was followed with a scowling, "It doesn't matter what I do, man. It doesn't matter. It's f------ horses---.'' On the next hole, unhappy with a recovery shot, he tossed his club into the rough. Two holes later, he accompanied another poor swing with another outburst: “God doggit.”
In social media circles, the debate heated up as to whether Watson is everything he claims to be, whether he might be more disingenuous than many realize.
He denied that claim, instead focusing on what went wrong from a technical standpoint.
“When the rain comes, my driver is really difficult to hit straight, because of the water on the club face,” he explained. “So anytime it starts raining, I don’t hit my driver very well. It squirts one way or the other. … [There was] just a stretch where you get one shot that goes one way and another shot that goes another way. I didn’t think my swing caused it, but it just makes you second-guess yourself next time you’re up on the tee.”
No apologies. No admission of guilt. No regrets.
Deep inside, though, he must have known that his on-course behavior was over the top.
About 30 minutes after speaking with GolfChannel.com outside the clubhouse, Watson got his message across through social media. He tweeted:
Sorry for my actions today! Trying to get better as person. Thanks to all who support me. #YallDontGiveUpOnMe
This was hardly the first public relations blunder of his career.
He once got into a televised argument with Steve Elkington during a round. He played the role of ugly American while competing in France. He blamed caddie Ted Scott for club selection while in contention down the stretch of a tournament.
It wasn’t even the first public relations blunder for him this week.
Two days before the tournament started, the PGA Tour’s longest hitter adamantly declined to take part in the restored long-drive competition, instead opting to hit 3-iron off the 10th tee of his practice round.
“I was just trying to prove a point that nobody cared about,” he later explained. Or perhaps more precisely, failed to explain.
All of this from a player who announced in January that this year would be more of a spiritual journey.
“This whole year is about rejoice,” he said at the time. “When I look back, I have to rejoice on what I have done.”
He even addressed his behavior inside the ropes.
“On the course, I have to act the same way I do off the course. Off the course, I don't get angry. I don't flip out. On the course for the last few years, you know, I have showed anger, showed me being disgruntled. That's not the way I should be portraying myself.”
The way he portrayed himself on Friday was like a diva, pouting throughout the round.
It was enough that even his playing partners took notice, though neither blamed him for affecting their rounds.
“He was fine,” said Rory McIlroy, who posted a 4-under 67. “He complained a couple of times on a couple of bad shots, but everyone complained. I complained out there, as well. That definitely didn’t affect me.”
Added Martin Kaymer: “A couple of times, he said that he had water on the clubface before he hit. If that’s true, who knows? We are all just very different characters. Rory and I get along very well. Bubba, he just did his own thing.”
For a player who so clearly has made it a goal to control his attitude during the course of a round, Watson is obviously failing to meet that ambition.
Before he left the course for the day, he was asked one more time if he was annoyed or irritated or frustrated.
“Me? Just frustrated because of bad golf.”
At least he admitted that much.