Phenomenon of Bubba Golf
Bubba Watson officially dropped the term on the golf world Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I’m still a kid,” Watson, 32, said at Quail Hollow Club. “I’m hitting shots that I want to hit. I’m doing things I want to do. I play it my way. People started coining the phrase 'Bubba Golf,’ whatever you want to call it, I like that. Let’s use it.”
“Bubba Golf” may sound like a game played through clowns’ mouths and windmills, but it’s not. It’s played through a more colorful venue than that. It’s played through one of the most vivid golf imaginations in the world.
With Watson’s Zurich Classic victory last week, his third PGA Tour title in 10 months, “Bubba Golf” sounds like something that will catch on. Watson’s star is rising with his near victory at the PGA Championship late last summer, with his Ryder Cup debut last fall and with his cracking the top 10 in the world rankings this week.
“Bubba Golf” is working.
So what is it, exactly?
Watson didn’t lay out the definition, but that’s an integral element of “Bubba Golf.” It’s beyond words, beyond truly understanding.
Bobby Jones once said Jack Nicklaus played a game with which he wasn’t familiar. Watson plays a game with which nobody is familiar, except Bubba himself.
“Bubba Golf” is more a phenomenon than a skill. It’s a peculiar combination of physical prowess, intuition and contradictory philosophies and attitudes.
Explaining how Watson’s swing repeats is like trying to explain why the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano at nearly the same time every spring. It’s partly cosmic programming. Watson, after all, doesn’t have a swing coach, says he’s never taken a lesson, doesn’t like hitting a lot of balls on a range and doesn’t worry about alignment, or nearly anything technical or mechanical in his swing.
Don’t expect Watson to publish an instruction book anytime soon.
He plays by “natural feel” and doesn’t like analyzing his swing.
That Watson is rising to prominence now is intriguing.
That Bubba’s style of play makes him the hottest American in the game as Tiger Woods’ slumps is interesting because Bubba is the anti-Tiger.
Now that’s not to suggest that Watson is better than Woods, or his approach is preferable. How could it be? Woods has won 14 major championships, Watson none. It’s just that Watson’s approach appears to be the antithesis of the way Woods is honing a new swing.
That isn’t lost on Watson.
“Yeah, I'll just go ahead and say it,” Watson said. “I think Tiger is going the wrong way. I think he's so mental right now with his swing. Just go out there and play golf. He used to hit shots, used to bomb it, used to do all that stuff. In 2000 and '97, I think he did pretty good. He won the Masters by 48 shots, or whatever he won it by. But, I think, sometimes, he gets carried away on that. A lot of guys do.”
Actually, trying to play the way Watson plays seems crazy.
Watson’s like a savant, a quirky genius. He’s long suspected he suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder. Somehow, some way, that must factor into the “Bubba Golf” phenomenon. As much as Watson can spray his driver, tough courses can bring out the best in him. As much as he seems to struggle with emotions off the course, he’s mastering them on the course.
'Bubba Golf' was also once a clothing line, defunct since the company behind it went bankrupt. 'Bubba Golf,' obviously, was too big to be defined by tailors.
Nobody will ever play quite like Watson. He owns that swing, the Elvis Presley footwork, the imagination that triggers all those giant fades and draws and low stingers.
“The lines and shapes Bubba takes, sometimes I can’t see them myself, until he hits them,” Woods once told Golf Digest.
That’s “Bubba Golf,” enjoy it. Nobody’s sure if he’s riding a hot streak or riding a long arc to the top of the game, but it promises to be an entertaining ride, either way.
Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMellGC
Bjorn adds four Ryder Cup veterans as vice captains
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn has added a quartet of vice captains for the biennial matches this fall in Paris.
Bjorn had already named Robert Karlsson as his first assistant, and he announced Tuesday at the BMW PGA Championship that his group of advisors will also include major champions Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, and former world No. 1s Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.
Westwood is among Europe's most decorated Ryder Cup players, and his addition in this role signals he likely won't participate as a player in the matches for the first time since 1995. The Englishman has spoken openly about his desire to captain the European squad at Whistling Straits in 2020, but he's been quiet on the course in recent months, with a missed secondary cut at the Houston Open his only start since mid-February.
Harrington is seen as another possible captain for the 2020 matches, and he'll don an earpiece for the third straight Ryder Cup, having represented Europe as a player on six straight teams from 1999-2010.
Donald played on four Ryder Cup teams from 2004-12, with the Europeans winning each time he was on the roster. This will mark his first stint as a vice captain, as Donald announced last month that he would be sidelined indefinitely while recovering from a back injury.
At age 38, McDowell will be the youngest vice captain in the room, having holed the winning putt eight years ago at Celtic Manor. He won the French Open in both 2013 and 2014 at Le Golf National, site of this year's matches, and will also be making his debut as a vice captain.
Bidder pays $50,000 to caddie for Woods
Someone has paid $50,000 to caddie for Tiger Woods at this year’s Hero World Challenge.
An unnamed bidder paid for the opportunity at an auction Saturday night at Tiger Jam, where monies are raised to support the Tiger Woods Foundation.
"Joe, take the day off." @TGRFound supporter to caddie for Woods Wednesday at #HeroWorldChallenge for $50,000 donation in the #TigerJam live auction. - TGRhttps://t.co/EjoJ2bpRh4 pic.twitter.com/yu2MY2dUGV— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) May 21, 2018
The Hero World Challenge will be contested Nov. 29-Dec. in Albany, Bahamas. The pro-am is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28.
NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times
The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
After three days of stroke play, eight teams have advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.
- Quarterfinals: Alabama vs. Kent State
- Quartefinals: USC vs. Duke
- Quarterfinals: UCLA vs. Arizona
- Quarterfinals: Northwestern vs. Stanford
- Individual stroke play
TV Times (all times ET):
11AM-conclusion: Match-play quarterfinals (Click here to watch live)
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals
Arizona grabs last spot with eagle putt, playoff win
STILLWATER, Okla. – With her team freefalling in the standings, Arizona coach Laura Ianello was down to her last stroke.
The Wildcats began the final round of the NCAA Championship in third place, but they were 19 over par for the day, and outside the top-8 cut line, with only one player left on the course.
Bianca Pagdaganan had transferred from Gonzaga to compete for NCAA titles, and on the 17th hole Ianello told her that she needed to play “the best two holes of your life” to keep the dream alive.
She made par on 17, then hit a 185-yard 6-iron out of a divot to 30 feet. Not knowing where she stood on the final green, Pagdaganan felt an eerie calm over the ball. Sure enough, she buried the eagle putt, setting off a raucous celebration and sending the Wildcats into a play-five, count-four team playoff with Baylor at 33 over par.
Their match-play spot wasn’t yet secure, but Ianello still broke down in tears.
“Bianca is such an inspiration for all of us,” she said. “She’s the kind of kid that you want to root for, to have good things happen to.”
Arizona prevailed on the second playoff hole. As the 8 seed, the Wildcats will play top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals Tuesday at Karsten Creek.
Though the finish had plenty of drama, no teams played their way into the coveted top 8 on the final day of stroke-play qualifying.
Baylor came closest. The Bears barely advanced past regionals after a mysterious stomach virus affected several players and coaches. They competed in the final round with just four healthy players.
On Monday, Gurleen Kaur put Baylor in position to advance, shooting 68, but the Bears lost by three strokes on the second extra hole.
Arkansas finished one shot shy of the team playoff. The second-ranked Razorbacks, who entered NCAAs as one of the pre-tournament favorites, having won seven times, including their first SEC title, couldn’t overcome a 308-300 start and finished 10th. Player of the Year favorite Maria Fassi finished her week at 19 over par and counted only two rounds toward the team total.