x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

In regards to the physics of a shot, it is all just elementary to Bubba Watson

Defending Masters champion does not waste time on figuring out trick shots, as he just swings away. Steve Elling explains.

Bubba Watson is one of the longest hitters on the US PGA Tour, but he can also bend it like Beckham with a soft and deft touch when he needs to. But ask him to explain it and he'll shrug.
Bubba Watson is one of the longest hitters on the US PGA Tour, but he can also bend it like Beckham with a soft and deft touch when he needs to. But ask him to explain it and he'll shrug.

Did art critics ask Picasso why his obtuse paintings featured one-eyed men and three-legged women? Did Beatles fans demand to know how Yoko Ono's caterwauling and screeching qualified as music? Can theatre patrons explain how a mannequin-like Keanu Reeves fashioned a career as an actor?

These are questions that have long baffled at least some patrons of the arts and entertainment world.

Finding satisfying answers is not so easy.

For instance, the resident artiste of professional golf, Bubba Watson, has trouble articulating how he can produce such an incredible array of shots, or why he can do more with a sand wedge than Wolfgang Puck can with a spatula.

In one of the most memorable swings in major-championship history, Watson last April hit a 40-yard, sweeping hook with a pitching wedge in his hand to win the Masters - a soaring, transcendent shot from a forest of trees that few players could envision, much less have the wherewithal to execute.

It instantly came to define the tournament week, if not his unusual career.

For Watson, a left-hander who was nicknamed "Freak Show" years ago by a college teammate, it is a waste of time to fixate on the brush strokes of his artwork.

Better to pull out a palette and mix the "how" and "why" together.

With that tint, you get "wow."

"I can hit shots that people don't hit," Watson said. "It's just one of those things, you can't explain it. There's things that happen all the time you can't explain. Who knows why it happens?"

Some physics are involved, involving torque, strength and imparted spin, though the impulsive Gerry Lester Watson Jr is rarely going to be guilty of over-thinking anything on the golf course.

Where he once learnt the game by hooking and slicing plastic Wiffle balls around his Florida front yard, curvin' and swervin' remain more a part of his shot-making repertoire than any other player.

"You can have the most educated man in the world and he can put a hypothesis on it," Watson said. "It's just an educated guess. For me, it's just something I do. I am used to being in the woods.

"So I just happened to hit another good shot."

The context of the shot makes all the difference.

Possibly the longest hitter on the PGA Tour, Watson had pulled his drive on the second play-off hole at Augusta National deep into the pines and magnolias on the right side of the 10th hole.

For any other player, it would have meant pitching out into the fairway. For the 1,000th time, Watson told caddie Ted Scott, as they walked to the ball and cleared away the spectators: "If I have a swing, I've got a shot."

The magic he delivered became jaw-dropping legend.

Watson, now 34, hit a scorching hook that had so much sidespin, it landed and ran uphill toward the flag, cementing his first major title and claiming a victory for every ad-libbing, hyperactive, blue-collar player everywhere.

Watson has never taken a formal lesson, does not believe in sports psychology and used to hit 25 balls during warm-ups before every tournament round. He is the modern golf pro deconstructed.

Three of his best friends on tour, Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane and Aaron Baddeley, walked the course during the play-off, a rarity in the pro game. They were glad they did. An hour after the tournament ended, Crane tried to explain why Watson, with his high-horsepower swing, was capable of hitting shots that even Tiger Woods cannot make.

Said Crane: "He's got more speed and he curves the ball more."

From 152 yards, Watson hit a 15-foot-high, curving wedge that made an abrupt right turn after escaping a constricting corridor of trees. It was avante garde Bubba at his freewheeling best.

A year later, after becoming a household name in the sport, Watson argues that one of the most famous shots in Masters history, examined within the scope of his careening career, was nothing special. In fact, a wedge shot he hit out of a muddy pedestrian walkway on the 71st hole of regulation was better, he insisted.

"Because of where it was, the history behind the game, the history at that course, the green jacket, a guy named Bubba to putt on that green from Bagdad, Florida, and for my family, it was a really big deal," Watson said. "But for the shot, it wasn't what I considered my best."

If the best is yet to come, here is hoping we all are there to see it.

 

SOME FACTS

Tournament 77th Masters

When Thursday-Sunday

Where Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia

Length 7,435 yards

Par 36-36 - 72

Cut Top 44 and ties, and players 10 shots off the lead

Purse TBD. US$8 million (Dh29.4m) in 2012

 

Past 10 champions

Bubba Watson, USA 2012

Charl Schwartzel, RSA 2011

Phil Mickelson, USA 2010

Angel Cabrera, ARG 2009

Trevor Immelman, RSA 2008

Zach Johnson, USA 2007

Phil Mickelson, USA 2006 Tiger Woods, USA 2005

Phil Mickelson, USA 2004

Mike Weir, CAN 2003

 

 

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