LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Las Vegas bookies are giving Bubba Watson the same odds of winning the PGA Championship as Tiger Woods.
One is the Masters champion. The other might not even be healthy enough to play.
“What are the odds?” Watson asked Tuesday.
Told that both were listed at 33-1, he replied: “I don’t gamble. But if I did, I would always pick Tiger Woods.”
Watson could get much better odds on annoying someone.
Not surprisingly, he managed to do that, too.
For the first time in 50 years, the PGA of America brought back its long drive contest to the PGA Championship. Jack Nicklaus still has a gold money clip from winning.
Watson, one of the longest hitters in golf, got nothing but grief.
He had said he had no interest in taking part in such a contest during his practice round for a major. Instead of letting it go at that, he made his own statement Tuesday morning when he reached the par-5 10th, the hole used for the competition. Watson hit a 3-iron.
“Longest 3-iron of the day,” Watson said. “I won that competition. Take that.”
He was joking, even if the joke was on him.
Watson wasn’t the only player who didn’t go along. He’s just the only one who hit an iron on a 590-yard hole and then climbed onto a soap box.
“My thoughts? I want to practice the game of golf. I want to learn this golf course,” Watson said. “I don’t see that we should have a competition like that while we’re playing a practice round and learning the golf course, trying to win a great championship. There’s no reason to make something up in the middle of the practice round like that. That’s just me. Like it or not, that’s just who I am. That’s just what I think.”
Who he is remains a mystery.
The guy who invented “Bubba golf” and won two green jackets, the guy who encouraged thousands of fans to keep screaming as he teed off in the Ryder Cup, can make the game look fun.
Bubba Watson the golfer? That can be a little more complicated.
This is the guy who once said he doesn’t like a lot of attention, and then he had Ping make him a driver with the head and shaft painted hot pink.
At the British Open this year, he said he doesn’t like watching golf on TV because of the negative tone. He makes an exception for the Masters, particularly the two years he won. And he said there has “not been one positive thing” written about him.
“I’m waiting on that one. Then I’ll start reading,” he said. “Well, I can’t read yet. But I’ll start.”
Bubba was goofing. He knows how to read. And he knows there have been great things written about his wondrous ability, starting with that gap wedge he hooked out of the trees in a playoff to win his first Masters.
The trick to Watson is not to take him too seriously.
And that’s what made Tuesday so peculiar. Watson effectively was criticized for taking himself too seriously. That might be a first.
“Yeah, that is surprising,” he said.
But then he did turn serious.
“No, there’s a couple things that just rubbed me the wrong way,” he said. “I just see it ... if it’s going to be a contest, make it where you could participate or not participate. Calling your name on a Tuesday of a practice round, it just seems funny to me, just seems hokey to me. So I just didn’t.”
He referenced the Par 3 Tournament at the Masters, which also is a time for fun. That’s on a Wednesday afternoon, when the main course is closed. No one notices who doesn’t play. Those players just don’t show up.
It was a fair point. Besides, what some see as fun, others see as a gimmick. And even though the long drive competition was harmless -- no one got hurt, anyway -- Watson was entitled to his opinion. He’ll get hammered for it, and that won’t be the first time. Remember that trip he made to France, when he raved about that big tower and a really famous museum that starts with an “L?”
He is serious about his golf. Watson won at Riviera and the Masters and was seemingly headed for a good year. But after losing a 54-hole lead at the Memorial, he missed the cut at the U.S. Open and British Open. Watson was asked he was disappointed in how his season has gone since he won the green jacket.
Not at all. He hasn’t played many tournaments. He feels his game is not far off. He said he was “looking good” for the FedEx Cup playoffs (No. 2 in the standings). And for the Ryder Cup (No. 1 in the standings). And for the Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda (for major champions only). And he’ll be at Maui next year (winners only).
He smiled and said, “Did I answer that question?”
And yes, he was serious.