I liked Bubba Watson before I knew much of anything about him. Don’t even know why. That’s the way it is in these individual sports. You watch and jump to some kind of conclusion — positive or negative or, worst of all, neutral — about a competitor off bits and pieces of information.
Maybe I liked the fact that Watson has no swing coach, let alone a personal army of them at his side. Maybe it was his seemingly easy manner on the course. Maybe it was his shot making. Maybe it was that he bought and now owns the original General Lee, the Dodge from the old TV show “Dukes of Hazzard.” Maybe I just enjoyed the way he played golf and, when it comes down to it, how can anybody not like a golfer named Bubba?
But after seeing Watson become the Masters champion on Sunday, making three straight birdies on the back nine, coming back from a five-stroke final-round deficit, surviving a playoff in which he hit that already infamous shot out of the deep woods, off the pine straw, hooking the ball 40 yards to his right and straight onto the green, I like the man even more.
And maybe the best thing of all about the lefty was the way he celebrated the win. He broke down on that green and cried in the arms of his caddie, his mother, his friends, all as he thought about the greatness of the achievement — his first victory in a major — and his wife and his newly adopted baby.
Bubba blubbered, and we all loved it.
I’ve always said the greatest moments in all of sports are those seconds right after something big has been accomplished, a championship earned, a title taken, a major won. It’s the only pure thing left.
And watching Watson’s genuine and warm and human reaction to his win at Augusta was fun and heartening, even. He doesn’t play golf like any kind of automaton, and he didn’t celebrate like one, either.
I still don’t know all that much about Bubba, but I know this: I liked what I saw. And I’d watch him play golf again. And with Tiger nowhere in sight, if the game has a player like that elevating his play and profile, even at the age of 33, it’s good news for the game and for everybody who wants a compelling reason to watch it.
GORDON MONSON hosts the “Gordon Monson Show” weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.