Bubba Watson Overcomes Trying Year to Share PGA Lead
The lefthander from the tiny Florida Panhandle town of Bagdad shot a 4-under 68 to share the opening-day lead with Francesco Molinari, and then wasn't sure if he should laugh or cry. So, depending on the subject, he did a little of both.
Watson, who earned his first PGA Tour victory in June at the Travelers Championship, will turn 32 in November, but remains one of golf's biggest kids. That fact can be proven by Watson's first order of business upon arriving at the home he is renting this week: Call Ricky Fowler, the 21-year-old rookie who has become a new best buddy.
That's what made Watson laugh.
"We got here Sunday night, flew in, called Rickie at the house that I rented and I said there's three kids that live here," Watson said. "There's Razors, there's the push Razors, there's scooters, there's skate boards, there's basketball, there's football, there's disk golf in the back, there's bicycles.
"We shot Twitter videos, we threw the football, played catch with the baseball, we played basketball, we cruised around with some neighborhood kids on the Razors, road bikes, and we went and then we had an ice cream afterwards."
Thursday wasn't bad, either.
The left-hander may be one of the tour's longest hitters, averaging more than 307 yards off the tee, but his round of six birdies and two bogeys was crafted with shaped shots and a savvy short game, including nine one-putt greens.
"Everybody that plays good makes a lot of good saves," he said. "It just keeps the momentum. Your caddie's always in your ear bugging you about momentum. You make that putt, let's go. Don't worry about the bad shot, you got up-and-down, let's go, you made par, let's get to the next hole.
"You get that momentum. And that's what it is. If I don't get up-and-down a couple times today my momentum could shift, it might not, but it could shift and not go the right direction and I could be mad the rest of the day. So I just held it together, I made some key putts that I needed to make and now I'm here talking to you guys."
That was a good thing, until it finally brought Watson to tears.
The problem with leading a major championship (even if 78 players remained on the golf course when darkness halted play) is you better have a story to tell. The media guys make a habit of asking for details until there's no secrets left.
Finally, the inquiries shifted from Watson's opening-round 68 to his victory in Hartford -- where he broke down as he walked off the final green.
And he did it all over again.
"Hopefully, you all don't think I'm a sissy," he sobbed. "You know, I do hit the ball a long way."
Watson's emotions are heartfelt and run deep. So he began the story.
"Before I was having fun," he told reporters. "Now I'm not."
Nevertheless, he went on.
First, Watson's father learned late last year that he has cancer. Then, on Christmas Eve, while Watson was in Florida visiting his father, wife Angie, a former WNBA player, had to be taken to the hospital.
Her original diagnosis was a tumor in her pituitary gland.
"So my dad said, 'Look, I lived my life, you go home. You go get your wife and straighten her out. See what you got to do.'
"Two months went by, and we did some more tests. We went to Duke University Hospital and the doctors there said it's not a tumor -- man, I don't like you guys any more."
As it turned out, what was first believed to be a tumor was only an enlarged pituitary gland. Angie is healthy, and Watson's dad continues his fight. Still, the emotional toll was significant and the nerves remain raw.
"It was scary."
Watson blinked hard. His voice broke.
"Why do I want to go hit a golf ball right now," he said.
Because Bubba just likes to have fun.