Commentary

Tearful Bubba Watson leads at PGA

Originally Published: August 12, 2010
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- If blissful ignorance helped you get the ball in the hole faster, Bubba Watson could write a book on the topic and sell his fair share of copies to aspiring golfers.

That is, of course, if he could remember what to include in his manuscript.

[+] EnlargeBubba Watson
AP Photo/Eric GayBubba Watson shot 68 on Thursday in the first round of the PGA Championship. It's the first time he's broken par in four starts in the year's fourth major.

Watson, a self-taught player from the panhandle of Florida, managed to tie for the clubhouse lead during the first round of the fog-delayed PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on Thursday, shooting a 4-under-par 68 on the Pete Dye layout.

"Is this a Pete Dye course?" Watson wondered aloud when the subject came up after the round.

This is a week after he told a television interviewer at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational that his main goal was to make the cut. The World Golf Championship event didn't have a 36-hole cut.

"Well, I guess I made it then," Watson said.

Watson shares the lead at the 92nd PGA Championship with Italy's Francesco Molinari, Matt Kuchar, Ernie Els and Nick Watney, all at 4 under. Only Molinari was able to finish his round before play was suspended due to darkness.

Watson, 31, is a long-hitting lefty who flails away at his tee shots, then goes and finds the ball. The technicalities of the golf swing are beyond his scope, as are the thoughts necessary to keep it on track.

"I have no idea," Watson said. "I never had a lesson, so I just play golf. 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 to maintain it? You tell me. I kept my card for five years. And now I've got two more years [due to a win]. That makes seven no matter what, so I guess for seven years at least [my swing has] maintained."

As an example, Watson talked about how he barely practiced in the days preceding his first PGA Tour victory, in June at the Travelers Championship.

Having noticed a sign for a water park on the way to the golf course in Connecticut, Watson couldn't get the idea of visiting off his mind.

"I got to the golf course and hit about 10 balls, and I didn't feel like playing," he said. "I didn't feel like doing anything. We went to the water park and we played there for about four hours, and now we got the idea that we're going to have fun and do as much fun stuff as possible.

"The win just showed me that we're onto something, the right thing. Let's have fun with our lives and let's have fun with golf. And that whole week I never thought about winning."

Watson won that tournament in a sudden-death playoff over Scott Verplank and Corey Pavin, and although he talked about having fun and not worrying about the consequences, the victory did elicit emotion.

He talked about it that day after his win and again Thursday at Whistling Straits, where he got choked up discussing his father's cancer and a scare his wife, Angie, had earlier this year that turned out to be an enlarged pituitary gland.

Watson went through the story, stopped to wipe away tears, then quipped: "Hopefully you all don't think I'm a sissy. You know I do hit the ball a long way."

Yes, he does. Watson is second on the PGA Tour, averaging 307.7 yards off the tee. He had two measured drives that averaged 318 on Thursday, when he hit 12 of 18 fairways and needed just 27 putts. He 1-putted eight greens.

And if things had gone poorly? Watson said it wouldn't have mattered.

"I got to a low point last year, and my caddie [Ted Scott] who is not here this week set me down," Watson said. "I was mad at every shot. I wasn't happy. He said, 'You need to quit, take a week off, do something. And if you don't, I'm going to quit.' Me and him are great friends. … Love the guy to death. And when a good friend of mine told me that he was going to quit because of my attitude, you've got to change.

"So as soon as I sign the scorecard, I love to have fun. I don't ever worry about anything. I never pout, never get mad."

Other than a few weepy moments, Watson was certainly all smiles Thursday.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com