The Bubba Golf Era Has Begun

It’s said that golf is supposed to be a game of precision and accuracy. That was the imprint on the game that Bobby Jones wanted to leave when he opened Augusta National in 1933. This is a course that punishes you for hitting the wrong part of a green by sometimes multiple strokes. The motto you can’t bomb it there because the bunkers will kill you was destroyed in 1997 when Tiger Woods dominated the field with his overwhelming power (to boot he didn’t hit it in a bunker all week). The course was then “Tiger proofed” to ensure that its integrity wouldn’t be lost. Many holes were lengthened to a point that it pushed the older generation who still wanted to play in the Masters out; most of the bunkers were deepened so much so that only a wedge could be used to get your ball back into play. It finally looked like Augusta National chairman Billy Payne and his crew had gotten the course to a point where they felt like it would bite back if any professional tried to take advantage of it. All I can say to Billy Payne is, good job, but good luck “Bubba proofing” Augusta.

Bubba Watson has stated that he doesn’t understand a lick of golf lingo. It stems from the fact that he has never had a lesson in a sport that has professionals who hinge on every word that their pro teacher says to them (yes everyone look at Tiger). I can relate to Bubba in that aspect, not the being a professional part, but never having a lesson. I still think one of my biggest mistakes in the sport was finally observing my swing on tape and looking at all of the problems that I had. I bend over way too much at address, I bring the club too far back on my backswing (past parallel would be the golf term), I just swing too hard in general. It was after I observed all of these mistakes that I tried to fix them and you know what happened, I got worse. I later found out that I was making the right adjustments, but I was thinking too much about what to do right instead of just trusting my natural ability.

That’s the biggest problem with professional golfers, they shy away from what brought them to the dance and try to change their swing for sometimes no apparent reason (I know you thought I was going to say Tiger and he definitely applies, but let’s use Padraig Harrington for this example. Padraig changed his swing after becoming the only player besides Woods in 25 years to win three out of six majors when he won back-to-back British Opens in ’07 and ’08 and then the ’08 PGA Championship. The swing change was due to the added pressure of becoming a top player. Paddy you did something that only the third best player in the 600 year history of the game did, why the hell would you change that?) On Friday Tiger shot himself out of the tournament and in the foot with his 9 iron after kicking it on the 16th hole. He stated that he has Hank Haney’s swing thoughts on the way up and Sean Foley’s advice on the way down; my god how are you supposed to hit the ball when you’re thinking about TWO different swing opinions (that still doesn’t justify him kicking the club on 16. I’ve done it before and felt like a total assclown and that was at my local public course, you’re at Augusta National man show some respect).

When I found out that Bubba had never partaken in a lesson or cared to see his swing on tape it instantly made me want to see him win the tournament. Combine that with the fact that he uses a pink Ping driver to raise money for breast cancer awareness, he wears his emotions on his sleeve, he hits the golf ball as if it were a cue ball in pool (we’ll get to that reference in a bit), he just adopted a child, he bought the original general lee from The Dukes of Hazard, he seems like one of the nicest and most genuine guys you’ll ever meet, and my personal favorite he just plays “Bubba golf” (anytime a professional athlete can refer to themselves in third person and keep a straight face its fantastic.)

I think the best way to describe a Bubba Watson tee shot is by imagining a hammer and hitting a nail so hard that it goes into a 2X4 in one hit. I mean the guy just hammers the golf ball, but does so with such a unique swing that it just doesn’t seem possible. The power in the golf swing is usually generated by the lower half of the body, mostly in the waist area. On the downswing that power is then turned to the rest of the body at impact. Well Bubba is in that position well before the club makes contact with the ball. The combination of that and how high he gets his hands on his backswing allow him to just crush the ball (he averaged a best 304 yards per drive on Masters Sunday). The most curious thing about his swing however is where he aligns his club face to the ball. He rarely ever has it in the center of the club like most golfers are taught to. The ball is lined up almost on the hozel of the club (the meeting point of the shaft and club head), just take a look below.

On the miracle shot that Bubba hit out of the trees on the second playoff hole, he aligns the ball on the left side of the club face , thus putting a left to right movement on the ball (a hook for left handers). My dad explained it like this, “He must imagine the golf ball as a cue ball in pool. He’s able to use the grooves of the club to put English on the ball, thus he sees the game totally different than anyone else.” Bravo Dad, I would have never thought about it that way. He’s right I mean just take a look at this diagram of the miracle shot that Bubba hit.

An easy two putts later and Bubba wins his first major championship and joins an illustrious list of players who have conquered Augusta National, but none of those players did it the way Bubba did. No other Masters champion had to witness a double eagle on the 2nd hole, let alone play with the person.

I stand by the thought that you play up to the level of your playing partner or play down to their level when they’re struggling. Think about it Louis Oosthuizen was a stone cold killer with Tiger blood (not Tiger’s blood) on Sunday. Every driver that he hit was done so with a calm and collected swing. Every time Oosthuizen hit a bad shot he would recover with one that was just mind boggling (his up and down on 15 was Retief Goosen circa ’04 U.S. Open good). Playing with someone who was that locked in only pushed Bubba to focus on what was in front of him, sure his emotions kinda sorta got in the way (he was wayyyy to jacked up on the tee shot of the second playoff hole; I think he tried to drive the green with how hard he swung), but in the end it was his focus on just playing the game one shot at a time that propelled him to victory.

In the end that is really the key to success in golf. You have to just focus on what the course has given you and move ahead. Sometimes though the course can give you an opportunity that you can’t refuse, it’s like what the sale rack does to my Mom when she’s at the mall. It’s so easy to justify hitting a crazy shot when the course gives you an opportunity to do so. Bubba’s ball could have been anywhere in those trees on the second playoff hole. Instead of being under a tree like Phil’s ball was on four, the golf gods gave Bubba a great lie and a path to the hole that 99.9% of golfers would have never even thought about trying let alone have the skill set to pull off. Bubba Watson was that .1%, he stunned the golf gods on Sunday, just like he stunned everyone who was glued to their couches at home watching what was one of the most exciting Masters tournaments ever.

I’m sorry Phil there is a new lefty in town and he plays “Bubba golf”.

Follow me on twitter @scottdargis.

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