This week's Bob Hope Classic will be Bubba Watson's 173rd professional tournament on either the PGA or Nationwide tours. Total wins for Mr. Watson? As many as you and I have combined.
Bubba is 31 years old, but has as much fun as any 16-year-old, as evidenced from some of antics off the golf course. He films himself hitting shots in hot tubs at his house (and then jumps in the near-freezing pool as his victory lap). He responds to nearly every Twitter follower that wishes him luck. He even picks random people to play in scrambles for him, as he did with me last month.
His Friday 62 at the Hope was good enough to vault him in the lead after 36 holes, and was typical long-hitting Watson. Three-under on the par-5s. An eagle on the 335-yard par-4 5th hole, where he needed only a 10-footer for the deuce, and a lot of precision irons shots after ballistic tee shots off his "made exclusively for Bubba" driver.
Unlike most PGA Tour players, Bubba is a special breed. He told me when we played in the Birdies for the Brave scramble that he'd never had a beer in his entire life, admitting, "I'm crazy enough without alcohol." He says his wife, a former WNBA player, plays more golf than he does, in North Scottsdale, and he's in the forefront of the crazy belt trend that is taking over the golf world (when we teed it up, he had a green belt on made entirely of recycled products; he'd ordered it from overseas).
What he doesn't hoist is a trophy, and it has been a very, very long time since he's been able to hoist an individual award (he did team up with Camilo Villegas to win the CVS Caremark Charity Classic in '08). Bubba made it to one Nationwide playoff only to be on the losing end. He's been second on the Big Boys Tour three times in his four full years on the PGA, but his talent makes it nearly inevitable that he will eventually capture a crown.
There isn't a better spot for this to happen than at the Hope, where birdies are pars and eagles are birdies (which bodes well for Bubba, who lead the tour in eagles per hole in '09).
Maybe if he can claim victory this week, we can convince him to jump in the pond. It would only further define the kind of fun natured guy Bubba is. He'd probably respond, with a huge grin on his face, "Sure, why the heck not?"