Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Unfortunate moment shouldn’t define Bubba
Defending Masters' champion Adam Scott, of Australia, helps Bubba Watson, right, with his green jacket after winning the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 13, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Correction: Bubba Watson became the 17th multiple winner of the Masters after his victory Sunday. The number of multiple winners of the golf tournament was incorrect in this column.
It was almost perfect.
On Easter Sunday two years ago, devout Christian Bubba Watson won the Masters.
His wife missed it to stay home with Caleb, their newly adopted baby.
Feel-good stories filled newspapers, radio and TV.
Bubba and Angie had met in college, both were strong believers (OK, a lot of mainstream media stayed away from that), she played basketball at Georgia (and had a short stint in the WNBA) and he was on the Bulldogs golf team.
Angie, who was born in Canada and stands 6-4 in her bare feet, had told her 6-3 husband on their first date that she could not have children and Bubba never blinked.
Bubba had never had a golf lesson, or a swing coach.
He was your next door neighbor who won the lottery.
Then came the Travelers Championship last year, and the big guy had a well-documented meltdown. He was leading the tournament by two strokes with three holes to play.
That is usually a great spot, and definitely better than being 10 down and in the clubhouse.
Bubba teed off into the water and turned to his caddie and said: “Water. It’s in the water. That club. Yes, the water.”
On his next shot he went over the green and he again blamed his caddie.
“So you’re telling me that’s the right yardage?” he said.
Caddies help with clubs and yardage, but they don’t take the swing, so criticizing them publicly is generally unheard of. Still, just because Bubba is a believer and basically leads a great life doesn’t mean he isn’t human. To err is human, to forgive divine.
The pressure got to him, plain and simple.
It would have gotten lost in the triumphant march of our man Ken Duke winning his first PGA event, except it was captured by television and a little of Bubba’s image was tarnished.
Which probably explains why he received some mild rebukes for his victory Sunday in the Masters.
It wasn’t exciting. Some say it was more methodical, more mechanical, more survival than fun.
Jordan Spieth, the 20-yearold phenom from Texas, had a two-stroke lead, but a par putt turned into a bogey, and over the next two holes Bubba took the lead and later told CBS that he went to auto-pilot.
Whatever, he became just the eighth person to win more than one Masters.
Every golfer wants to win the Masters, but just playing in it is a major accomplishment.
This time Angie and Caleb were there, and it was obvious the glorious moment was a family one.
Since his outburst Bubba has spent more time with his family, and his closest friends say golf is definitely third in his order of what is important in life.
Which is the way it should be, and by no stretch of the imagination has Bubba led a golden golfing life.
He spent three years on the Nationwide Tour and in 2005 finished 21st, making him the last player eligible for the PGA Tour in 2006, a year in which he played well enough to earn more than $1 million.
It wasn’t until 2010 that he won his first PGA event, and that was in a sudden-death playoff. He dedicated the victory to his father, who was dying of cancer.
In 2011 he won the Farmers Insurance Open, and then the Masters in 2012 in a year when he had six top-five finishes.
Then the All-American kid behaved like a human overcome with frustration, snapped at his caddie and for all the world to see looked a little like, well, a bully.
He isn’t. He’s just a regular guy with a great life, one that he gives thanks for on his knees on a regular basis.
Bubba was still Bubba on Sunday. He went for it every time he drove the ball down the stretch, never playing it safe.
In the end he was the Masters champion, and still an all around good guy.
Sports, Pages 21 on 04/16/2014