DORAL, Fla. – A pink-driver hitting, long bombing, General Lee driving, Doral hating, swing-for-the-fences, shot-shaping, left-handed son of a gun is leading the WGC-Cadillac Championship for the second consecutive day.
The display has been equal parts breath of fresh air and train wreck waiting to happen.
Such is life when you’re Bubba Watson. You take the good with the bad. Attempt shots no one else would consider and deal with the consequences. The end result usually is either loads or birdies or loads of bogeys. Conservative course management be damned.
Watson followed a second-round 62 with a third-round 67 Saturday at TPC Blue Monster. He takes a three-shot lead into the final round and will be paired with Keegan Bradley, who is tied for second with Justin Rose.
Bubba is, well, Bubba. The name says it all. He’s from Bagdad, Fla., he’s never had a swing coach (never will), and his personality can make people laugh and rub them the wrong way all in the span of five minutes.
Yet Watson is one of the best players in the world. In seven years he’s recorded three PGA Tour victories and has qualified for U.S. Cup teams each of the last two years. So far this week he’s recorded two eagles, 20 birdies, seven bogeys and leads the field in driving, greens hit and putting.
Whatever he’s doing, it’s working.
“He is putting effort into every shot,” said Watson’s caddie, Ted Scott. “Five under is a good score no matter what position you’re in. I like what I see.”
Watson is Phil Mickelson, with more shots. Remember the Phil the Thrill many have loved over the past two decades? The one who goes for broke and doesn’t care much about the consequences. The one who has the nerve to hit 6-iron from the pine straw 205-yards onto the 13th green during the final round of the 2010Masters.
Mickelson gets credit for his creativity and his shot-making skills – which are legendary – because he’s seen as more of a thinker, an intellectual. Watson comes across as more of a scatterbrain, therefore doesn’t get the credit he deserves for pulling off some of the shots he does.
The approach on the feared 18th hole Saturday summed up Watson’s creativity best. With 162-yards to the hole he “just choked up and chipped a low bullet 7-iron, just trying to fly it to the front there and let it somehow stay on the green.” It ended 12 feet from the pin.
After driving the ball in the rough behind a tree Friday on the sixth hole, Watson aimed 40 yards right and sliced the ball so drastically that it ended 7 feet from the hole.
Now, Watson also skulled a wedge that flew the 16th green Saturday and hit a television tower. He also beaned a guy on the left side of the 12th fairway.
Seve Ballesteros would be proud.
“I like a challenge,” Watson said. “I’m stubborn. I like doing it myself. I love applauding myself. I just swing funny and somehow it works.”
Rose was paired with Watson for each of the first three days. He’s had a front-row seat to golf’s most fascinating rollercoaster.
“Some of the lines he takes off tees can suck you into a false sense of security,” Rose said. “He’s cutting off doglegs, and for me it’s not doable.
“He’s going after it and it’s fun to watch. Obviously he’s got great control out of Bermuda (grass), too, and he’s 60, 80 yards from the green, and he’s not scared to let it bounce two or three times and let it roll up to the green. He has great hands and can work the ball.”
Watson is also eccentric. This is the guy who said Friday, after shooting 62, that the golf course didn’t suit him. It’s the same guy who shot 58 in late December at the Estancia Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., and tweeted live, play-by-play action over the last few holes. He recently bought a modified orange 1969 Dodge Charger from a Barrett-Jackson auto auction that was used in the 1980s television show “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
None of that matters now, I suppose. He’s on the verge of winning the biggest PGA Tour prize in his career. Whatever happens Sunday – he's one for four with the 54-hole lead – you can bet that it’ll be dramatic one way or another.
According to caddie Scott, though, the plan is simple.
“Time to go out and try to play Bubba golf again,” he said.