According to his captain and namesake, Tom, Bubba Watson ‘would probably be the guy that people be looking to defeat’ on the American team at Gleneagles this week.
It’s a reasonable conclusion to arrive at. Not only is he the only non-European major winner this year – following his victory in The Masters – Bubba also qualified first from the American points list for this year’s match. That’s before you factor in his big-hitting prowess, which, according to his teammate Hunter Mahan, will be an enormous asset over the long PGA Centenary Course.
“Bubba, with his length, that’s just an incredible tool to have, especially on this golf course,” said Mahan.
Considering all this, then, it’s rather surprising that people are struggling to see anybody other than Webb Simpson as a partner for him this week.
"We just try to have fun on the golf course." - Bubba Watson on his partnership with Webb Simpson
“I can play with anybody on the team,” noted Watson during his press conference yesterday, adding with a laugh: “Maybe they don’t want to play with me.”
His unique brand of ‘Bubba Golf’ could be the reason for his apparent incompatibility with others on the team. Watson plays by feel, hits it hard, hits it high, hits it long but hits it wild. He led the PGA Tour in terms of driving distance this year but ranked a lowly 102nd in driving accuracy.
All of which makes him enormous fun to watch from a fan’s point of view but perhaps not the most reliable partner in the better-ball and alternative shots formats which make up four of the five Ryder Cup sessions.
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson: friendship is key
Simpson, though, seems to see it differently. At the 2012 Ryder Cup, he and Bubba teamed-up to win two of their three matches and it’s widely expected they will rekindle that partnership this week.
“We believe in the same things off the course,” suggested Watson by way of explaining why he and the former US Open champion are such a good match. “For us, our friendship… our personalities off the golf course, we try to do the same thing. We just try to have fun on the golf course.
“Webb gets a little nervous, so I put my arm around him, try to loosen him up a little bit.”
He added: “Me and Webb have just gelled so well. We go to Bible study together and believe in the Bible together and we can talk about different things and things me believe in.
“Plus, we both hit it long off the tee, and straight.”
That last part was said with a grin. For all the (many) column inches devoted to his much-less-frequent-than-reported bursts of petulance, Watson has a terrific sense of humour. That’s a quality that cannot be understated, particularly in the pressure-cooker environment of the Ryder Cup.
During Tuesday’s practice round, where he and Simpson played in the company of Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth, Watson hit his approach into the par-4 15th from the middle of the fairway. Not much more than a wedge. A US official in the group accompanying them encouraged Bubba’s ball to make it to the green, shouting mid-flight: “Get up. Go on, get up.”
Referencing Watson’s mid-round crossed words with caddie Ted Scott this year, Simpson spun round and, laughing, replied: “You’re talking to his ball? Geez, Teddie gets fired for that.”
Cue much laughter and back-slapping, led by Watson himself.
Relaxed, laughing and ready to play with anyone – but probably Simpson – expect Bubba to have a big say at Gleneagles this week.
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