Ask Brandt Snedeker what he took away from being in Bubba Watson’s pod at the 2016 Ryder Cup, and he’ll tell you he got a chance to see how much Bubba “loved the game and being one of the guys.”
He called Watson volunteering to be a vice captain after being passed over for the second straight Cup team “one of the most unselfish acts I have witnessed in golf.”
When U.S. captain Davis Love III called Watson to tell him he would not be a captain's pick for the 2016 team - the second team in a row that Watson didn’t make despite being the next highest-ranked player behind the automatic qualifiers on the points list - Watson had a question:
“Can I ask you why?”
As Love later explained, Watson's tone was not defiant or offended. He simply wanted to know why. When Love explained that he was going with a hotter player in Ryan Moore, Watson said, “That’s fine. We still want to come.”
Love couldn’t believe it.
“Bubba,” he said, "if you want to be an assistant captain, you can’t come to hang out. We’ve got an empty spot for somebody that will work.”
“I’ll do anything,” Watson responded, before asking - as only Bubba would ask - “Do I get a cart?”
Based on the way he has reinvented himself as a player and a person, Watson, 39, won’t have to invite himself into the U.S. team room at Le Golf National — the way he did at Hazeltine National. Nor will he need a cart. Coming off what he described as one of the low points in his life, Watson has risen to third on the latest points list behind Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson.
Beset by illness and loss of weight, Watson had fallen to 117th in the world before he won the Genesis Open in February. In doing so, he joined Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer as the only three-time winners at Riviera Country Club.
“I’m not compared to anybody,” Watson said that day. “I’m the first and I’m the only Bubba Watson.”
On Sunday, when he won the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, Watson joined Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Ernie Els as the only multiple winners of both majors and World Golf Championships.
Should he win at Augusta National next week, he would join Mickelson, Nick Faldo, Gary Player, Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret as three-time Masters champions. If that were to happen, it would make “Bubba from Bagdad” a legitimate candidate for the World Golf Hall of Fame and a Ryder Cup captaincy someday.
Prior to the 2016 Ryder Cup and what he’s done thus far in 2018, the only lists Watson made were in player polls, and his peers weren’t kind when it came to ranking the most overrated players (Sports Illustrated) or helping Bubba in a hypothetical parking-lot fight (ESPN).
But what he did in the team room and on the golf course coaching up players at Hazeltine changed all that. It changed because Watson looked at himself and responded prior to the 2015 Masters, “I need to improve as a man.”
Along the way, he improved as a player, too, winning the Match Play not just based on his length or creativity, but because of what Johnny Miller described as “genius putting.”
The first and only Bubba Watson, a genius at putting and a positive influence in U.S. team golf. Now just one of the guys.