Bad Behavior by Bubba Watson in Paris: Two Golf Worlds

Espen UldalContributor IIIJuly 1, 2011

Watson not comfortable on the European Tour
Watson not comfortable on the European TourStuart Franklin/Getty Images

The PGA Tour versus the European Tour. It’s coming up from time to time.

Right after the US Open, Rich Lerner aired his thoughts on the matter on the Golf Channel, claiming, “As we know, the PGA Tour is much tougher,” and that the players in the US are much better than what the European Tour can manage. The general American thought is that courses in Europe are easier and the players are of a lower standard.

With that impression still fresh in my mind I watched Dustin Johnson—apparently one of the PGA Tour players with the brightest futures—finish tied for 18th on Golfclub München Nord-Eichenried (actually one of the easy courses on the European Tour) in BMW International Open.

Only once did Johnson break 70 and after a 67 he ended on nine-under par, seven shots from two Spanish players Sergio García and Pablo Larrazábal, who won the playoff after five holes. The tournament in Munich was maybe a sad experience for Johnson, but the final exposed another side of golf, only portrayed in Europe: heart.

When García returned from the scoring tent to the 18th green to get a golf cart back to the tee for the first playoff hole, Larrazábal was not only waiting for his countryman; he walked to him and as they embraced each other with a sincere hug they started laughing about the fact that they were to play each other—and the fact that both of them had just qualified for the British Open.

During all five playoff holes the two players talked in between shots, even with their caddies and camera people.

The difference between the PGA Tour and the European Tour is ever so more visible at the breakfast buffet in the morning at the hotel. Have you ever stayed in a tour hotel during a tournament and had breakfast when the players eat? On the PGA Tour you will find seven tables with one player at each of them. On the European Tour you find one table with seven players around it.

Strict security is not needed on the European Tour
Strict security is not needed on the European TourStuart Franklin/Getty Images

Never mind who’s best, but let the behavior of Bubba Watson this week in Paris be a good reminder of what the majority of US players could work on.

Watson, participating in the Alstom Open de France, shot two rounds of 74 on the Golf National—the 2018 Ryder Cup course and not that easy. While doing so, he refused to share a courtesy car with other players from the hotel to the course, even though the hotel is on the course.

“It’s different,” Watson said to SKY after he had missed the cut, finishing on six-over par. “I just did not feel comfortable and it was a strange experience.

"I'm going on sightseeing now and I'm not going home. But I don't know if I will be playing other tournaments in Europe. I will be playing the British Open because it's a major."

The American also did not like that there was no real security on course (which is usually not used on the European Tour), and he saw too many mobile phones, too many camera’s and felt the crowd was too close.

Watson's disappointment was easily matched by the European Tour, Sky, the sponsors, television viewers and the public on course. In a first-round interview Watson ridiculed the city of Paris when he talked what he had done during before the tournament.

“It seemed like he made an effort of being condescending,” SKY analyzer Howard Clark said about Watson after the second round. “He let down sponsors and organizers with his behavior this week. He had a chance to apologize today, but he didn’t.

“As a Ryder Cup player and on the PGA Tour, he has a responsibility to behave properly. To refuse to share a car with another tour player is just a disgrace, and telling television people they can contact him through his agent is just strange. Nobody bothered Bubba Watson out on course and off the course. We know he is a great player, but he is no Nicklaus with his behavior.”

By the way, last week’s Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour was won by Swedish Fredrik Jacobson and this week’s AT&T National has English Justin Rose as the defending champion.