Did you hear the one about Bubba Watson claiming he would lay up rather than go for the green in two on the 571-yard, par-5 18th hole if the Olympics bronze medal were at stake?
No, really. One of the biggest bombers on the PGA Tour said Tuesday in Rio that he would rather take the risk out of the equation and come in third than possibly fall out of the medals race with a he-man shot.
"I'm going to lay up and go for bronze," Watson told reporters, who responded with amusement to what they apparently believed was a joke.
"Why is everybody laughing?" the two-time Masters champ wanted to know during the media scrum in which going for broke or settling for the reward rather than taking a risk at the end of the event was the subject of the moment.
Watson, who countered teammate Rickie Fowler’s contention that "I don’t think we’re going to play safe by any means" with his contrarian view, was laying it on the line. Problem was, no one believed him.
"I am actually serious," he tried again and was again met with laughter. "No, it would be better to have bronze than nothing."
Then, perhaps the only player on the U.S. squad with the length to hit a shot 290 yards into a prevailing wind with a driver off the deck explained that his approach would depend on the weather and circumstances. And a three-shot hole would not be his aim.
"It won't be an intentional lay up. It would just be the wind made me not get there," Watson clarified.
Ah, now, that makes sense from the competitor who also said Tuesday that the Olympics was "an individual event … all about Bubba Watson." And with regular caddie Ted Scott watching from afar this week, Watson will have only himself (and, of course, his childhood friend and temporary bagman Randall Wells) to blame should his strategy go awry.
As architect Gil Hanse described the final hole on the Rio Olympic Course to Golf Advisor, it will take mental fortitude for a player to "pick a line and trust it" off the tee to a partially obscured, heavily bunkered landing area. For those hoping to reach the putting surface in two, the contour of the ground feeding the ball to the green "could be a great asset for the golfer who thinks their approach shot through."
Watson may not be the most cerebral of golfers, but it certainly sounded as if he had given much consideration to how he would handle what could be his final hole as an Olympian.
"It’s all situational. Just depends on where you are and what kind of lie and you have what it is at that time," Bubba said. "But obviously you're going to be looking.
"If you're in third place," Watson concluded, "you're going to be trying to make sure you don't mess up and go to fourth real fast."
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