Souhan: Watson at the Masters is not science, it's genius

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 12, 2014 - 12:23 AM

Bubba Watson’s unconventional game puts him atop the Masters leaderboard after Round 2.

– Friday was a bad day for swing coaches, personal trainers, workaholics and anybody who can’t hit a 9-iron 186 yards without the help of a cart path and a strong breeze.

Friday was a bad day for the average Masters entrant, most of whom played Augusta National so defensively you wondered if they kept Mace in their bag, just to keep sport’s greenest monster at bay.

At the Masters, Friday was a bad day if your name wasn’t Bubba, you don’t use a hillbilly doll dressed in overalls as your driver head cover and you can’t hit the ball 370 while moving your feet like a septuagenarian learning the tango.

In the second round of the Masters, two years after he won his first and only major at Augusta, Bubba Watson went deep, smashing his driver improbable distances, shooting a 68 on a pretty-but-windy day, and revealing the emotional underpinnings of his greatest success and recent slump.

Bubba reprised everything he’s famous for other than crying, and why would he cry after taking a three-shot lead at the Masters with a run of five consecutive birdies on the back nine?

“It’s not science,” Watson said, debunking an entire golf industry based on video lessons, swing prototypes, magazine tips, sports psychology and trampoline effects.

It’s never science with Watson, a self-taught golfer from a poor family in Bagdad, Fla., who plays by feel, took a long vacation from the game after his only major victory, and admits his practice sessions rarely last an hour.

Watson followed a bogey-free, opening-round 69 with a 68 on Friday, leaving him at 7 under for the tournament, three shots ahead of John Senden, then admitted his 2012 Masters victory sent him into a career funk that he seems to have greatly enjoyed.

“I was still celebrating my green jacket,” he said, drawing laughter as he nodded to a questioner. “How many green jackets you got? If you had one, you would celebrate it for a year or two.

“You’ve got to think about where I’ve come from, my mom having two jobs to pay for my golf, my dad working in construction. And when you think about that and where I am in my career and where I am with my family, my young family …”

Here Watson paused, as if ready for his traditional news-conference cry … but then he swallowed, and continued. “You’re thinking about how great this was,” he said. “Besides the Lord, marrying my wife and having our child, it’s right there, it’s fourth or fifth on that list. So when you think about that, it’s an accomplishment for a guy named Bubba.”

If you ever forget his name, just look at his driver head cover, a hillbilly with one overall strap unbuttoned wearing a visor with his name emblazoned on it.

“My year, my career, was complete after that win,” he said. “Obviously I was going to have a hangover. I’ve never been drunk before, but a hangover from the green jacket. You know, I do everything my way.”

Yes, he does. Conventional golf instruction encourages a square, athletic setup, a limited backswing, elbows that remain close to the body, a smooth transition and solid footwork. Watson takes an open, narrow stance, brings the club back until it points at the ground in front of him, sticks his left elbow out like the dreaded chicken wing, then unleashes a motion so violent his feet slide around as if he’s standing on ice.

With such a wide arc and so few inhibitions, he hits inconceivable drives and ozone-piercing iron shots. On the par-3 16th on Thursday, he hit his 9-iron 186 yards. “He’s hitting wedges and sand wedges into a lot of holes and I’m hitting 6-iron,” said playing partner Luke Donald. “When he’s controlling his ball as well as he is right now, it’s going to be tough to catch him.”

Donald thinks Watson has another advantage: Being lefthanded, he’s able to play a controlled fade instead of a draw into Augusta’s fast greens. If Watson wins this weekend, six of the past 12 Masters would have been won by lefthanders Phil Mickelson (2004, 2006, 2010), Mike Weir (2003) and Watson.

Watson’s view of that theory was typically unscientific. “Lefties,” he said, “are the best.”

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Photo gallery: The Masters: Round 2

    Friday April 11, 2014

    Friday highlights from the Masters. Bubba Watson takes the lead going into the weekend.

  • Masters leaderboard

    Thursday April 10, 2014

  • Bubba keeps it simple and builds a 3-shot lead

    Friday April 11, 2014

    Bubba Watson won the Masters two years ago with his brand of "Bubba golf," producing shots of raw skill and wild imagination. His strategy now is to keep it simple,...

  • Couples shows the kids a thing or two at Augusta

    Saturday April 12, 2014

    At 54, Fred Couples is again high on the leaderboard at the Masters through two rounds. Now he just needs...

  • Golf instructors might shudder to watch Bubba Watson’s self-taught swing, but his length and creativity helped him to a 68 on Friday and the Masters lead.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Fla Southern 2 FINAL
Detroit 12
FIU 2 FINAL
Miami 7
Toronto 74 3rd Qtr 3:34
Philadelphia 68
Golden State 51 3rd Qtr
Brooklyn 57
Phoenix 39 2nd Qtr 3:58
Miami 46
LA Clippers 36 2nd Qtr 10:25
Minnesota 29
New Orleans 7:30 PM
Dallas
Nashville 1 2nd Prd :13
NY Rangers 2
Carolina 0 1st Prd 19:51
Chicago 0
Montreal 9:00 PM
San Jose
Virginia 51 2nd Half 5:45
Syracuse 38
Baylor 50 2nd Half 5:22
Texas 43
SE Louisiana 38 2nd Half 16:52
Northwestern St 51
Central Arkansas 26 2nd Half 19:45
Sam Houston St 33
Norfolk State 16 1st Half 7:56
Howard 13
Bethune-Cookman 24 2nd Half
NC A&T 30
Hampton 31 1st Half 5:49
Delaware State 33
Lamar 30 1st Half 4:12
McNeese State 29
Nicholls 24 1st Half 4:51
New Orleans 17
Incarnate Word 24 1st Half 1:30
Stephen F Austin 31
NC Central 0 1st Half 20:00
Savannah State 0
Texas Southern 7:55 PM
Alabama A&M
Prairie View 8:00 PM
Alabama State
Oklahoma 8:00 PM
Iowa State
Grambling St 8:00 PM
Miss Valley St
Boston College 8:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Jackson State 8:10 PM
Ark-Pine Bluff
Bethune-Cookman 55 FINAL
NC A&T 58
Hampton 78 FINAL
Delaware State 63
Norfolk State 63 FINAL
Howard 60
NC Central 54 FINAL
Savannah State 65
Texas Southern 83 FINAL
Alabama A&M 46
Prairie View 42 FINAL
Alabama State 60
Jackson State 60 2nd Half 3:55
Ark-Pine Bluff 65
Grambling 56 FINAL
Miss Valley St 61
Tulsa 67 2nd Half 1:51
Cincinnati 58
(1) Connecticut 78 2nd Half 3:30
South Florida 55
UCF 47 2nd Half 4:20
East Carolina 65
Central Conn St 41 2nd Half 5:01
Bryant 52
Wagner 57 2nd Half 3:51
Robert Morris 56
Sacred Heart 70 2nd Half 0:30
Fairleigh Dickinson 78
St Francis-NY 73 FINAL
Long Island 49
Mount St Marys 72 2nd Half 7:47
St Francis-PA 71
Temple 16 1st Half 5:01
Houston 12
Texas Tech 15 1st Half 6:56
(6) Baylor 28
Iowa State 20 1st Half 3:40
Kansas 28
SMU 24 1st Half 2:54
Memphis 19
Oklahoma 12 1st Half 5:30
Oklahoma St 12

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Wild finish out the hockey season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close