Souhan: Tour golf is big kid Watson's playground

Aug 13 2010 - 5:19pm

HAVEN, Wisc. -- One of the early contenders here at the PGA Championship doesn't know who designed Whistling Straits, never has taken a golf lesson, skipped a practice round before his only tour title to take his wife and caddie to a water park, and admits he can hit just about any golf shot except one that flies straight.

Bubba Watson views golf through a funhouse mirror, yet he shot a 4-under-par 68 in the first round Thursday, leaving him a shot behind leader Matt Kuchar heading into Friday's second round.

Watson wore what can best be described as a golf mullet and took divots the size of personal pan pizzas, then laughed, and cried, and laughed again.

He laughed while explaining how he spent a three-hour fog delay Thursday morning, saying he played video games and "threw stuff at Rickie Fowler," his friend and fellow tour member.

He laughed while explaining that he prepared for the first round by staying up all night playing video games. This was after he rode scooters with the neighborhood kids.

"Me and Rickie are friends, we do a lot of stuff," Watson said. "Laser tag, a lot of kid, fun, stuff."

Then Watson mentioned his father's battle with cancer, and his wife's cancer scare, and began wiping away tears. "Hopefully, you all don't think I'm a sissy," he said after a long pause to regain his composure. "You know, I do hit the ball a long way."

Yes, he does. Watson's homemade swing looks better suited to killing water moccasins than taming par-5s. Even while favoring what he admits is a "30-to-40-yard slice," Watson finished second on the tour in driving distance last year, averaging 311 yards off the tee.

"I do that because I can't hit it straight," he said. "I do it because that's how I play golf. I love curves. Straight is way too hard."

That phrase would have made a great bumper sticker for the lime green Lamborghini he bought in 2008.

"I love lime green and pink," he said. "As you can see, the shaft of my 4-wood is lime green, and the shaft of my driver is pink."

Watson's swing is either an homage to past eras of golf, when players developed their own idiosyncratic motions, or it's proof that he was too busy playing "Angry Birds" on his iPhone to adopt the prototypical, widely-taught swing favored by most of today's young pros.

"I never had a lesson, so I just play golf," he said. "This job is fun to me. If I would have shot 82 today, I wouldn't go home and pout, I would be like, 'I'm playing on the PGA Tour, at a major.'

"So what do I do to maintain it? You tell me. I kept my (tour) card for five years. And now I've got two more years, that makes seven no matter what, so I guess for seven years, at least, it's maintained."

Milton (Fla.) High produced Watson, Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum. If Watson and Weekley became a little more refined, and learned a few 50-cent words, they could fit right into the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

"We got here Sunday night, flew in with Rickie, called Rickie from the house I rented and I said, 'There's three kids that live here,"' Watson said. "There's scooters, there's skateboards, there's basketball, there's football, there's Frisbee, golf in the back. Disc golf in the back. There's bicycles.

"I said, 'Do you want to come over?' We shot Twitter videos, we threw the football, played catch with the baseball, we played basketball, we cruised around with some neighborbood kids on the (scooters), rode bikes, and then we went and had ice cream."

You get the feeling that if Watson wins his first major at Whistling Straits, the champions' dinner next year will feature pizza and popsicles.

"The game comes natural to me," he said. "It's fun. And I don't want to make it a job."

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