Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Did you really think while watching the
Masters that Bubba Watson might make the sport cool again?
Well, it's way, way too early to tell, but if anecdotal evidence means
anything, it sure didn't hurt.
Just notice the folks talking about Bubba, folks who couldn't have picked him
out of a GolfSmith lineup two weeks ago.
The ones who saw a guy who broke nearly every golf stereotype in half.
The guy with the neon pink driver.
The guy who hit a mile past the other players using the pink driver.
The guy, we learned, who never had a formal lesson growing up.
The guy who learned the game by hitting Wiffle balls around his yard for hours
on end, teaching himself to hit crazy shots on demand.
The guy who hit the craziest shot ever seen to set up his wild playoff
Ooh, almost forgot, the guy who also bought one of the "General Lee" Dodge
Chargers used in the classic "Dukes of Hazzard" television show.
And, of course, the nickname. Nothing upper crust about Bubba, that's for
sure. Named after a Hall of Fame football player (Bubba Smith for you younger
folks) for goodness sake.
This dude isn't like the others, there's no question about that, and that can
only be good for golf.
In a game desperate for a new hero, along comes Bubba and maybe he can save
The game still has Phil and Rory, but Phil isn't getting any younger, and Rory
needs to win another couple majors to become more than just a golf household
It also doesn't help that Rory is from Northern Ireland, not northern Iowa.
It's a little sad to say that, but being American really does help you become
an American folk hero.
And not only is Bubba American, he's a good ol' boy from Georgia. Central
casting couldn't have come up with him.
Golf needs him, of course, because Tiger is no longer cool, no matter how you
You can blame that fire hydrant in Orlando that Woods ran over a few
Thanksgivings ago, which ultimately led to all of his secrets becoming public.
Or you can just blame Woods for being a bad guy.
Regardless, he went from cool to uncool faster than you can say Arthur
Fonzarelli and golf took the hit because he was golf.
And you can argue he still is golf because the TV ratings soar when he's in
contention, but now the people tuning in seem to be rooting more for him to
lose than to win.
Because of that, the TV folks continue to show his every move on the course
and that doesn't help him much, either.
"Here's Tiger walking 300 yards to his drive."
"Here's Tiger lining up his two-inch putt for par."
"Here's Tiger barking at a photographer."
"Here's Tiger throwing, kicking or cursing at his club."
The all-Tiger, all-the-time stuff needs to go away. Less is more works in this
situation. Now, that's easy for me to say, but the TV gurus won't buy it
unless somebody new comes along.
And maybe that will be Bubba.
He has the opportunity right now to grab the game by the throat and become the
man. If he can win the U.S. Open, or even the British Open, something that
keeps him in the spotlight and solidifies his standing, it could be done.
He's likeable. Did you ever see so many Tour players waiting around to
congratulate a guy right after he walks off the green?
He looked good in the green jacket (the best trophy in sports, by the way) and
he hugged and cried with his mother. Perfect.
Maybe, just maybe, he can become the next guy.
Now, what if Louis Oosthuizen had beaten Watson in that playoff?
Drew Markol has been a sports writer and columnist for several Philadelphia-
area newspapers for over 25 years.
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