Lefty named “Bubba” steals show at Farmers Insurance Open

Posted: 01/30/2011 in golf
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Hard not to like a guy named Bubba being branded a winner.

Sure beats a Tiger cashing the winning check at the Farmers Insurance Open.

The hometown gallery at Torrey Pines would have preferred that a different lefty – Phil Mickelson – prevailed. But there’s nothing wrong with left-hander Bubba Watson having his name forever stenciled into the record books as the winner of the PGA Tour’s 2011 stop in San Diego.

Watson made his clutch birdie putt on 18 to wrap up a 5-under-par 67 final round and walk away with a check worth more than $1 million for his second career victory.

Good ol’ Bubba has a reputation as a likable player and I saw glimpses of that when I covered the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. As he walked down the fairway on the picturesque course, people were repeatedly yelling to him. He seemed to have a lot of fans for someone who had never won a tournament and would miss the cut of the prestigious tournament.

Or perhaps people just find it fun to yell ‘Hey, Bubba!”

Bubba got that elusive first career win last year so he’s becoming a real pro now at walking off with the winner’s check.

Perhaps that’s why he didn’t turn it into a boring golf answer when a scribe asked him if he looks at himself any differently now.

“Oh, I’ve lost some weight,” Bubba said before laughing. “I thought you were talking about me. Do I look any different? Do I look any different at what?”

Now that’s exactly the type of answer you expect from a 32-year-old man who goes by the name of Bubba.

And he was just getting the comedy show warmed up. And, no, he doesn’t look at himself any differently as a player since getting that first career win.

“No, I still think I’m goofy Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Florida that hits a ball every once in a while with a pink shaft real far,” Watson said. “I don’t see myself as a rock star or fan favorite. I see myself as Bubba Watson from Bagdad that loves to play the game of golf.”

And that’s why Bubba is popular on the golf course. He’s a regular guy, not a prima donna like Tiger Woods. He’s a guy people can relate to and compare themselves with.

Bubba may be hitting golf balls around the course for four days but he also spends a lot of time doing what your average person in a golf gallery does too.

“I’m looking at people flying around in kites,” said Watson, referring to the hang gliders departing the nearby Torrey Pines Gliderport. “I’m looking at how beautiful the water is. I’m scared of heights so I’m looking at the cliffs. So I’m looking at stuff I shouldn’t be looking at while I’m trying to play golf.”

Yeah, there’s nothing corporate about this down-home Bubba.

Watson was a one-shot winner over Mickelson with Jhonattan Vegas and Dustin Johnson tying for third. Mickelson was the favorite on the course he used to play on as a kid and the hometown vibe grew a few octaves with his wife, Amy, attending the tournament. Amy Mickelson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and has endured a rough stretch over the last 18 months.

Woods, meanwhile, finished 15 shots off the lead in a tie for 44th place. This after a week’s worth of hype that Torrey Pines could re-start Woods’ sagging career.

Instead, Woods left the shores of La Jolla on another down note. To add insult to poor play, an amateur named Anthony Paolucci from nearby La Jolla Country Day School beat Woods by two shots.

But overall the week will be known for this – the time when a Bubba upstaged a Tiger.

Nothing wrong with that.

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