Like him or not, if Bubba is anything, he's honest

By Rex HoggardFebruary 24, 2016, 7:46 pm

Bubba Watson can ramble. He can be reticent. He can be defensive and self-deprecating, often times in the same sentence. 

The man from Bagdad, Fla., can even open up, given the subject matter, like he did on Sunday at Riviera Country Club following his ninth PGA Tour victory.

As only he can, Watson explained that his poor play prior to his triumph at the Northern Trust Open - he finished tied for 70th the week before in Pebble Beach and 14th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open - was the byproduct of an inflammatory headline in a local newspaper the week of the Scottsdale event.

“It was a bad headline that said I didn't like the community, I didn't like the golf tournament, which was a lie, which I'm going to say. I'm man enough to take the bad press now,” Watson said.

The headline, which ran on and in the Arizona Republic, read “Bubba Watson on TPC Scottsdale: ‘I don’t like it all.’”

What Watson actually said on Tuesday before the tournament was, “I don’t like it (the golf course). I’m not going to PC it. I don’t like it at all. I just mentioned why I’m here. I’ve got three beautiful sponsors that love it here.”

Whatever your interpretation of the incident, which in retrospect has the feel of a runaway case of splitting hairs, or ywhatever our views on Watson, he is honest, sometimes to a fault. Even on Sunday in Los Angeles after initially suggesting he had no culpability in the media melee born from his own comments, Watson acknowledged that he has a tendency to run through stop signs when the microphones are on.

It’s a trait he’s come by honestly.

“My default is my dad always told me to tell the truth, so if I don’t like something, I’m going to tell the truth,” Watson said.

While Watson’s personality leaves plenty of subject matter for armchair psychiatrists, the truth is that his is a psyche far too complex for even the most astute layman.

The truly remarkable aspect of Bubba – besides, of course, his unorthodox and entertaining style of play – is how forthright he can be. As a general rule, professional athletes tend to be guarded and often revert to clichés to maintain their competitive firewalls.

But that’s not Bubba.

“I have a lot of fears in my life, which as I'm reading the Bible, I'm not supposed to have, but I do. I'm human,” Watson admitted on Sunday at Riviera. “A lot of those fears come out on the golf course. Big crowds, just people, people touching me, people yelling at me. Just, I want to go and hide. So I'm getting better at that. I'm trying to.

“I don't like change. I don't know what it is. When my shirt doesn't feel right, things like that, I just don't know how to deal with certain situations in my life.”

While Watson may go beyond the normal parameters of being candid, he’s hardly the only Tour type willing to reach deep down when asked a complex question.

Just last week Rory McIlroy was asked how his competitive side manifests itself in the rest of his life and whether he struggles to maintain a healthy balance between what he does inside and outside the ropes.

“I definitely don't struggle with it now. I think it probably changed when I became more comfortable in my own skin and sort of knew who I was,” he said. “There's a transitional period from a teenager getting out on Tour to your early 20s and you're still sort of discovering yourself and sort of knowing who you are and what you are.

“So I think somewhere in that time period, I learned that it's OK to be a winner. It's OK to be selfish at times.”

McIlroy went on to explain that there are times when he wrestles with his success and the relative ease of his climb to the top of his profession.

“Sometimes I feel like I haven't had to work as hard to get to where I am as some other people,” he said. “I don't know if that's guilt or if that's questioning, 'Why is that me? Why am I the one that feels this way?' But I feel now that I definitely have got a ruthlessness on the course that I maybe didn't have a few years ago, but I never struggle with that anymore.”

World No. 1 Jordan Spieth has shown a similar sincerity and willingness to provide a glimpse into his psyche, something players of previous generations have been reluctant to disclose.

Tiger Woods rarely allowed anyone a look behind the walls he created early in career. Vijay Singh was even more guarded despite a story that was made for the big screen, having grown up with few opportunities in Fiji only to become the world’s top-ranked player and a major champion.

For players like Watson and McIlroy, however, acknowledging weaknesses and fears, the same kind of issues that everyone deals with, comes naturally.

Their play on the golf course makes it easy to cheer for them, but it’s their personalities and their willingness to be honest that make them human.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”