Some time back, a couple of PGA Tour pros waxed poetic about how a certain set of men’s grooming products made them comfortable in their own skin.
Bubba Watson was not one of them.
The big-hitter from Bagdad has been in the public eye since entering the PGA Tour winner’s circle in 2010 and capturing his first green jacket in 2012 and adding a second one two years later have made Bubba Golf must-see TV. Some players might welcome the up-close-and-personal treatment that comes with being one of the world’s best golfers in today’s social media milieu.
Bubba, again, is not one of them.
Indeed, with on-course temper tantrums and off-course faux pas painting a less-than-flattering picture of the nine-time tour champion, the spotlight has not exactly been a happy place for Watson.
Sometimes it's better to just let the players do the commentating. https://t.co/xUzb9oinOU— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 3, 2015
So it was not surprising that the winner of the recent Northern Trust Open said ahead of this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship event at Trump National Doral that he would welcome the distraction the Republican frontrunner in the presidential sweepstakes is likely to bring to the festivities.
"I think it's great if there's a big ruckus when he shows up, because the media gets away from me and you don't hear the bad comments I say or twist them," Watson told reporters on Tuesday about the anticipated arrival of Donald Trump during Sunday’s finale, if not before. "For it [Trump’s arrival] to be in the middle of a race, yeah, it will be different, but I'm pretty sure he'll show up at some point. It's his baby and he's part of this event."
Word has it that Trump, as is his wont, will stick the landing of his chopper in time to suck the oxygen away from Watson and the so-called Big Three — world Nos. 1-3 Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy — on Sunday. It is, after all, his MO.
In the midst of a campaign filled with bluster and demagoguery, this week may be Trump’s last hurrah as the public master of his golf domain. Though two tracks in his portfolio are slated to host upcoming major events — the 2017 U.S. Women's Open and 2022 PGA Championship at Trump National in New Jersey and the 2017 Senior PGA Championship at Virginia’s Trump National — they could come up empty.
Various golf associations have offered tepid disapproval of Trump’s bombastic and often offensive remarks, with the PGA of America actually axing last year’s Grand Slam of Golf rather than stage it at Trump National in Los Angeles. There was some discussion about moving the 2015 Women’s British Open from Trump’s Turnberry, though the show did go on. Doral, which has been in the PGA Tour rotation in one form or another since 1962, could be on the chopping block, with Cadillac reportedly not planning to renew its contract and no future sponsor stepping in so far.
But back to Watson, who vows that he’s working on becoming a better Bubba, who in the future may not need an outside force like The Donald to help him maintain his focus.
"In L.A., there was a couple times where I could have backed away and just kind of withered away like I would do when I was younger on tour," said Watson, who let real or perceived irritations roll off his back and walked away a two-time Riviera winner.
"I kept my head in it, slowed down, took deep breaths, slowed down my walking, did everything I could to focus on the next shot," he said. "So by changing who I am or trying to be better, who I am off the golf course, is going to add to the golf course some better play, because I think my mental side will get better."
Watson conceded he might revert to Bad Bubba at times.
"I'm going to have bad days, even at home I'm going to have bad days," he admitted. "We all get sick or tired or something, or something's bothering us."
But with his four-year-old son Caleb growing up before golf fans’ eyes, Watson acknowledged one of the prime reasons for his own new-found maturity.
"I’m trying to become a better person off the course, trying to become the best husband for my wife, best father I can be for my kids," he said. "My attitude has got to change because Little Man’s going to find out about YouTube one day, and he can see all the bad things Dad does."
As for this week’s event, "Dad" would rather you not refer to him as a member of the "Big Four" (the number you get if you lump him or Rickie Fowler in with Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, and Rory McIlroy) since such renown would bring even greater scrutiny of his every move.
"Like I said, I play a lot better when the media is not asking me questions," he said.
Like it or not, Watson was scheduled to be in one of the marquee groups (about an hour after the Big Three tee off No. 10 at 11:32 a.m. ET), with a 12:38 p.m. start on No. 1 with Fowler and Henrik Stenson.