There is nothing about Bubba Watson that makes you think “great champion.”
He is a champion, no doubt, and he has the green jacket in his closet at home to prove it.
But nothing he has done since that magic week in April of 2012 could be used as evidence that he’s a great champion.
He is, however, flighty, whiny and fidgety, and he carries a considerable attitude under that floppy mop of hair.
The first three adjectives are pretty much part and parcel of the Bagdad, Florida native’s makeup and probably can’t be changed. That attitude, however, is perhaps the biggest thing keeping him from playing like he did in the 2012 Masters.
In 2010, Watson was a very unhappy man in addition to those other adjectives.
He was wound up tighter than a drum, and every shot, good or bad, was life or death. His caddie, Ted Scott, and trainer, Andrew Fischer, let him have it over dinner one night.
They brought to his attention what he had become, and he began the process of rehabilitation. And that talk took place over a year before he won the Masters.
That talk, plus the adoption of a child, seemed to right Watson’s listing ship, at least in terms of how he comported himself.
Other than his winning week at the Masters, however, the “talked-to” Watson hasn’t become much more of a golfer than he was before.
Since tying for second in the Travelers Championship last year, he hadn’t been in really serious contention for another title until this week at the Travelers.
While he was in a dogfight at the top of the leaderboard, he was clearly the most talented player in a group that included Chris Stroud, Ken Duke and others.
But you could see those Bubba-isms starting to creep to the forefront as he made his way to the back nine Sunday.
Backing off shots, changing his pre-shot routine and happy feet all made their way into Bubba’s bag.
Then the blowup came. On the par-three, 171-yard 16th hole, Watson’s tee shot found the water. Clearly audible on the CBS broadcast, Watson said to his caddie, “You’re telling me that’s the yardage? This club?”
And then from the drop area, he hit a shot that was too long. When he finally got on the green, he could be heard firing another salvo in the direction of the caddie: “There’s no reason for you to show up.”
All of that led to a triple bogey and took Watson out of contention.
I understand the "heat of the moment" thing. I do. Great champions, however, don't melt down on national television after hitting a couple of bad shots with bad results.
While Watson and his fans looked at his Masters triumph as getting to the mountaintop, it was my contention then, and it is my contention now, that he isn't a major champion kind of player.
He'll win again a few times on the PGA Tour, and he'll make a lot of money, but he'll never be able to duplicate the lightning he captured in a bottle at Augusta National Golf Club.
Watson lacks the consistency and focus needed to participate and dominate at the highest level of professional golf.
He is one of the most creative players the game has seen for many years. He can pull off shots (like the 40-yard hook from the trees in the Masters playoff) very few others can.
But there are too many demons at work to allow him become more than a one-hit wonder.
The answer to the question of what Bubba Watson is missing is simple: a lot of things. Mostly, however, it's a matter of him needing to mature
Having the right stuff to be considered one of the best in the game?
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