Bubba Watson and the 10 Most Likeable Players on the PGA Tour
Nice guys are supposed to finish last. Well, that's how the old adage goes. And it may hold true in some cases.
But on the PGA Tour, being a nice guy oftentimes means there will be legions of patrons following you around a golf course, with support from near and far. And typically, at least for most of these guys, a place on the top of the leaderboard.
There are certainly more than 10 likeable players on the PGA Tour, but here is a group that has developed a reputation, each as a fan favorite for one reason or another—with the game to back up the nice guy image.
K.J. Choi is fast becoming one of the most popular players on the PGA Tour.
He displays a steely eyed, intense focus on the golf course. That alone has intrigued audiences.
But his appreciation for the growing fan support he's receiving—including a group that calls themselves "Choi's Bois"—has him slapping hands with patrons and always politely waving and smiling to tournament galleries.
"Without the fans, we would be competing in a quiet arena by ourselves. How boring would that be?" Choi said in our recent exclusive interview for B/R.
"I don't think what I do is special at all. It's just natural for me to acknowledge the fans that support me and cheer me on. If you think about it, these are people that don't even know me personally, but they are cheering me on. That alone is motivating and exciting to see, and I'm very appreciative of that."
Steve Stricker is the very definition of nice guys finishing first on the PGA Tour, as was evidenced by his win at The Memorial Tournament earlier this month.
Stricker is a quiet, unassuming type. So you're not going to see a lot of fiery emotion from the fifth year pro. There's nothing flashy going on here.
But he has become known as one of the better players on tour and he has earned the respect of every one of his peers as a solid golfer and all around good guy.
That in itself has made him a player fans want to see do well. Plus, if you need a clutch putt made—this is the guy I'm turning to.
In Japan, Ryo Ishikawa is easily the most likeable golfer. In fact, not only is he likeable, he's a rock star.
At a mere 19 years old, Ishikawa has the looks, personality, swagger and talent to pull it off. Those things combined make him very popular, yes.
But he also promised to donate all of his 2011 earnings to Japanese earthquake relief. Plus another 100,000 yen for each birdie he makes this year.
How could anyone not like that?
Ishikawa is obviously grounded. And likely destined to be one of the best golfers in the world.
Boo Weekley isn't playing his best golf these days. His best finish was T13 at the Bob Hope Classic back in January. And he's only made cuts in half of the 16 tournaments he's entered in 2011.
But PGA Tour fans have grown to love his good ol' boy demeanor and down to earth, "regular guy" attitude.
In some ways, he's like a real life Happy Gilmore.
With Weekley, what you see is what you get. He's a guy any one of us could play golf with—and not feel intimidated by. Well, at least not in conversation around the golf course.
Weekley's a fun loving free spirit and his loyal followers get it.
Like Boo Weekley, Rocco Mediate is struggling with his golf game these days.
He's only made the cut in five of 15 events in 2011. But he's always a fan favorite wherever he goes and patrons will pull for his success at every opportunity.
Naturally, you don't need to look any farther than the 2008 U.S. Open when Mediate went toe-to-toe with the then best player in the world, Tiger Woods, for an 18 hole playoff.
It was like David vs. Goliath.
Of course, Woods won the tournament on the final hole. But Mediate added a lot of names to his fan club in the process.
If it weren't for Tiger Woods' incredible career, Ernie Els would have won a lot more golf tournaments. Major golf tournaments.
His impressive resume, which includes six major championship second place finishes, has been overshadowed by the more successful Woods, but Ernie Els will always be known as one of the best golfers of all-time.
That being said, he still has three major championship victories under his belt and 18 total PGA Tour wins.
On top of that, fans have been drawn to his tireless work in the fight against autism and his efforts in giving under-privileged youths an opportunity to showcase their golfing abilities.
Ernie Els has always been and will always be good for golf.
Fred Couples is a member of the Champions Tour. But he plays with the "big boys" at times and his fan base is enormous, so I'm including him here.
Couples has always been a fan favorite.
His laid back approach to the game matches his sweet swing. And it produces results.
It was hard to find anyone not pulling for the 51-year-old Couples at The Masters Tournament the past two years—where he found himself in contention on both occasions.
Couples has been plagued by back problems over the years. And he doesn't play in as many tournaments as he used to. But his golf game remains sharp when he does play. And as long as he's strolling around PGA and Champion Tour fairways, he's sure to find plenty of support.
I think Phil Mickelson wants to be the most liked player on the PGA Tour. And there's nothing wrong with that. He seems to work hard to achieve that status.
If the worst thing you can say about Mickelson, currently the No. 6 ranked player in the world, is that he cares too much what the public thinks about him—well, he's doing OK for himself.
Mickelson's obviously got the game and out of this world shot making ability down pat. He's one of the best ever. But his fan interaction and friendly demeanor are legendary. There are tournaments where he will seemingly sign autographs all day, until every last patron has been accommodated.
Mickelson lumbers down fairways, acknowledging encouraging shouts with a nod, a smile and a tip of his cap. It's as important to him as winning golf tournaments. And his fans appreciate the effort.
You've heard about Rory McIlroy.
The media has labeled him the greatest thing since Tiger Woods. And he's recently had the world thrust on his shoulders as the future of the game.
At just 22 years old, that is, honestly, unfair. But you can't doubt his potential for greatness.
All the while, McIlroy—technically a member of the European Tour but he plays a fair amount of PGA Tour events—has taken the praise and remained as humble and down to earth as he can possibly be. It's certainly a credit to his upbringing.
Sure, he's got the confidence to say he'll be in the hunt in every tournament he enters. But, McIlroy seems quite content winning golf tournaments, then hanging out with his buddies to celebrate at a pub afterward.
McIlroy doesn't seem to care about the star treatment and honestly, I'm not even sure he knows he's a star yet.
Bubba Watson didn't always used to be so likeable.
Watson was a short-tempered hot head who went off in an angry rage at the slightest miscue, yelling at camera operators and throwing clubs around like some sort of tyrant.
In short, he had anger management issues.
But this is the new and improved Bubba Watson—a kinder, gentler, friendlier player who enjoys the spotlight and the social responsibility that comes with it.
But don't mistake his new attitude for passivity. Watson is ultra-competitive.
He still has that fire inside, it's just more focused into producing positive results on the golf course. Plus he hits the ball a long way, dances in music videos and sometimes wears camoflauge pants to work.
What's not to like about any of that?