NOT since Steve McClaren, the then England manager, stood on the touchline at Wembley sheltering from the rain has a sportsman been such a “Wally with the Brolly”, writes Martin Dempster.
In his second round in the 96th US PGA Championship, Bubba Watson made himself look like a complete and utter prat by refusing to get wet and letting his caddie, Ted Scott, tee up a ball for him at one hole.
Astonishing but, sadly, not exactly out of character as, during the four months between winning a second Masters and arriving at the season’s final major, Watson has turned into a ticking timebomb.
He was tetchy at last month’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, complaining about the number of people following his group inside the ropes. “There’s just a thousand people in this fairway, all I want to do is play golf, that’s all I want to do,” he muttered.
Then, on the eve of this event, he refused to take part in a long-drive contest, which had been revived after a 30-year absence and involved players pulling out their driver and giving it everything they’ve got on the tenth hole at Valhalla.
Just an ordinary tee shot for Bubba then. Heck, his drive over the corner at the 13th hole en route to claiming a second green jacket in April went further than some people go on their holidays.
Yet, lo and behold, Watson wanted nothing to do with it. “I’m here to play golf, not to hit it far,” he said. “Just kind of weird to me. I’m here to win a championship, I’m not here to goof around.” To prove a point, he hit an iron off the tee as South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, out-gunned the game’s big-hitters with a 340-yard effort.
If further proof was needed that Bubba is a volcano waiting to erupt, it came in Friday’s second circuit outside Louisville, where the brolly episode wasn’t the only one that drew attention his way.
After missing the green at the 16th – his seventh hole – Watson turned to the aforementioned Scott and moaned: “I can’t play golf man. I got nothing.” Then, after pulling his tee shot into the water at the 18th, the devout Christian dropped an ‘f-bomb’. “It doesn’t matter what I do man,” he groaned on this occasion. “It doesn’t matter. It’s f*cking horseshit.” It was the first time anyone had ever heard him swear.
But not the first time he has been an idiot. Three years ago, during a French Open appearance, his behaviour was abysmal and his ignorance astonishing.
“I don’t know the names of all the things,” he said, “the big tower, Eiffel Tower, an arch, whatever I rode around in a circle [the Arc de Triomphe]. And then what’s that… it starts with an ‘L’ … Louvre, something like that, one of those.”
While he was probably just being diplomatic, Rory McIlroy, one of Watson’s playing partners on Friday, said he had been unaware of any histrionics. “No, look, I’ve complained after a lot of shots before and everyone out here moans about something,” said the halfway leader. “It’s just part of it… I’ve been guilty of it before, and a lot of players on Tour have done the same thing. But it didn’t affect me today, no.”
It was noticed, however, by fans, with some taking to Twitter to indicate they are growing tired of a man who has so much natural talent but is in danger of shooting himself in the foot, if he is not careful. “Needs to grow up,” was one comment through social media. “Showing his true colours – dude is a fraud,” was another.
Those comments paint a different picture to the one the player himself believes is the case when it comes to his relationship with the paying public. “I think the fans just see me as a small-town guy that’s worked hard to get where he is,” said Watson on the eve of this event. “I think they see me as a guy who is out here having fun with the game of golf. I’m going to get mad when I hit a bad shot and I’m going to be happy when I hit a great shot.”
Whatever is happening in Watson’s head has got to be a concern for his namesake, Tom. Bubba, after all, leads the points standings for the US Ryder Cup team and will be one of their key men at Gleneagles. If he didn’t like playing in the rain in Kentucky, then heaven help him if there are similar conditions in Perthshire in late September.
At least Bubba seems aware that he needs to give himself a shake. “Sorry for my actions today!” he wrote on Twitter after coming out from beneath his brolly. Using the hashtag #YallDontGiveUpOnMe, he added: “Trying to get better as person. Thanks to all who support me.”