Slang keeps changing the dictionary, and with the addition of texting, exotic spellings speed up the turnover. Take the term “flake,” seldom used in today’s vernacular. For some, when applied to a person, it is considered pejorative but its actual meaning is somewhat less judgmental. A “flake” is someone whose direction can’t be accurately predicted from one moment to the next.
On the PGA Tour, one might be inclined to think of Bubba Watson as a “flake.” His name even adds to the profile. Since he crashed the party with his initial win at Travelers in 2010, Watson has always zigzagged through life on Tour. When the world at large discovered him after his Masters win in 2012, he almost instantly became a caricature of himself.
In a game where straight is a career pursuit, Bubba prefers sweeping arcs. Playing left-handed is almost too natural of a fit for his personality. If his pink driver wasn’t statement enough, this year he added clashing color golf balls to Bubba world. After his first Masters win, he bought the vintage General Lee Dodge Charger and later a hovercraft. Ahead of his time, he painted over the confederate flag on the car’s roof two years ago and put the car in storage to avoid offending people.
This year he decided to transform his body, shedding more than 20 pounds from his lanky frame between the first of the year and Masters week. His secret… “I just stopped eating everything that tastes good.”
This year also transformed his performance on Tour with his worst season since he debuted as a rookie in 2006. A few years back Watson said if he ever got to 10 career wins on Tour or #1 in the world he would retire. Down from a peak of fourth midway through a year ago, he now stands 49th in the OWGR. His ninth career win came 20 months ago at Riviera.
Against that backdrop, while the Dustin Johnson-Jordan Spieth spectacle at the Northern Trust in the first round of the FedExCup Playoffs held the golf world’s attention, I found Watson’s tournament-week comments to be the most interesting.
When you miss the cut a third of the time; when you crack the top 10 only four times; when you end the regular season 113th in FedExCup points, comfortably in for a week but with no guarantees beyond, there could be a bit of rationalizing. But Watson seemed more disenchanted than disappointed in New York.
“You know, it’s golf. My thing is just play until they tell me I can’t play anymore. You know, truthfully, when I’m done with the Playoffs, no matter where that is, I’m taking at least four and a half months off. I won’t play until next year.”
“So I’m looking forward to playing good golf, or I’m looking forward to going home for some vacation. Either way, I’m going to be a T-ball coach. So looking forward to that, being home with the family and just have a blast,” he said after an opening-round 67.
“I don’t know about you, but traveling every week, my kid started kindergarten. My family’s not going to be able to travel as much anymore. So I just want time off.”
“If I had to choose golf or family, I’m going family every day of the week. You understand that. Well, the sad thing is I’m ready to go home. You know, when I talk to the other pros, and I’m not going to mention any names, they were all hoping they could get four and a half months off, as well.”
When asked what he planned to do with those four-plus months off, the answer was simple. “Well, I’ve got two kids that are wild, and one wants to play T-ball, and one wants to not sleep. So hang out with the family. I’ve got a few other business interests that are going on. So it will be fun.”
In fairness to the whole Watson portrait, there is a facet that is steadfast and direct. Watson is a man of faith and a man of generosity. He’s been known to turn over paychecks to charities on the spur of the moment. When West Virginia experienced a year ago what Houston is going through now, Watson and his wife Angie were there as a force for recovery, not just writing a check but being hands on.
Last week, when presented with a $1 million check from a yearlong Tour promotion, he stunned his presenters by again designating the money for charity. He climbed 41 spots in the first playoff week and would have to take a step back to not advance after Boston. But as appealing as the long respite may look to Watson, it would not be surprising to see him take a detour to Texas to chip in. He’s just “flakey” that way.
Dan Reardon has covered golf for radio station KMOX in St. Louis for 33 years. In that time, he has covered more than 100 events, including majors and other PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments. During his broadcast career, Reardon conducted one-on-one interviews with three dozen members of the World Golf of Fame. He has contributed to many publications over the years and co-authored the book Golf’s Greatest Eighteen from Random House. Reardon served as Director of Media relations for LPGA events in both St. Louis and Chicago for 10 years.