Bubba Watson masters ability of rubbing fellow professionals up wrong way

The reigning champion remains popular with patrons at Augusta but not with players

Bubba Watson hits his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first practice round at the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta. Photograph: Andrew Gombert/EPA.

Bubba Watson hits his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first practice round at the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta. Photograph: Andrew Gombert/EPA.

 
Bubba WatsonBubbaclaus

Bubba also owns a bulletproof Ford Raptor truck, in black digital camouflage with lime green trim. The horn plays four different jingles. Bubba also owns the original General Lee Dodge Charger from the 80s TV series The Dukes of Hazzard. He paid $110,000 (€102,000) for it at auction in 2012. And Bubba says coming back to the Masters “makes me feel like a little kid again”.

Bubba doesn’t drink. Bubba doesn’t smoke. Bubba loves to eat at Waffle House. He went there last year the very night he won the Masters for the second time, along with his wife and their friend Judah Smith, a pastor at the City Church in Seattle. They ordered grilled cheese and hash browns all round and left a $148 (€137) tip.

Still, some people were angry about this. They felt that eating junk food was a bad example. According to the right-wing radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh the “base of the Democratic Party” was “livid” that Bubba would “take young kids to the Waffle House and feed them poison”. Limbaugh spun a whole show out of his support for Bubba’s right to eat waffles without being bothered by “the left”. It didn’t help, Limbaugh said, that Bubba was with “a man from the cloth. You’re not supposed to do that. Athlete with a preacher? Not supposed to happen.”

Bubba is devout. Bubba believes it is a sin to be gay. He says he doesn’t mean any harm by it. “It’s just my belief system on the Bible says you can’t be gay. That’s a sin. So somebody living in sin I believe to be wrong.”

‘The saviour’

On Monday, ESPN published the results of an anonymous survey of 103 PGA professionals. One of the questions read “____ is in a fight in a the parking lot. You’re not helping him.” Players were invited to fill in the blank and 23 of the respondents said “Bubba Watson”. Bubba says he was one of the 23. “I put my name on there too, because I’m not going to call out anybody. There’s nobody I dislike on tour. I dislike them if they beat me but I don’t dislike them as a person. So I put my own name down there.” Bubba says he has never been in a fight but if he was, well, “it was my fault. I caused somebody to get angry. So yeah, I wouldn’t help myself either.”

Bubba says that he takes pride in the fact so few of his fellow players would help him out in a fight. It is, he says, a sign he needs “to improve as a man”, that he needs “to get better”. And, he says, he has been getting better since he made his debut on the Tour. “But obviously there’s more room for me to improve as a man.” It is, he says, “a challenge, it’s great”.

Bawling out

Travellers ChampionshipTed Scott

Bubba made the news again last year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, when he put his ball in the water three times at the 6th, shot 11 for the hole, then dropped out of the tournament when his round was over. He blamed his allergy problems. No one believed him. Bubba says: “I’ve had some mess-ups on tour, and I think I’ve improved in those areas and I’m trying to get better. That’s all I can do. I’m glad people call me out when they do, that’s the only way I can get better.”

Bubba has been to the kids’ Drive, Chip, and Putt Championship at Augusta for the past two years, so he can hand out trophies to the children competing. There was no need for him to go last year. He just wanted to. “Because it’s inspiring,” and it reminds him of competing in similar competitions during his own childhood in Bagdad, Florida. “We got to go to Disney World if you won it. That was our Augusta National.”

Last week Bubba donated $35,000 (€32,000) to his old school, to pay for a new IT department. After Tiger, Bubba is probably the most popular player with the patrons at Augusta. Why? Bubba says it’s because “I’m nuts”. Guardian Service

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