Updated: April 24, 2012, 10:49 AM ET

Bubba Watson takes center stage

Harig By Bob Harig
Archive

Good luck keeping up with the schedule Bubba Watson has endured since winning the Masters. It is dizzying, inducing the sort of awe that one of his towering tee shots elicits.

Watson has been on a whirlwind media blitz/celebratory run that included, in no particular order, appearances on "Piers Morgan," "Late Night with David Letterman," "Morning Joe," "Charlie Rose" and "Morning Drive." He did radio shows with Scott Van Pelt and Dan Patrick. He played in a Tim Tebow charity golf outing at the TPC Sawgrass. He tweeted President Obama.

Somewhere in there, Watson said he took a call from Justin Bieber; spent time with his newly adopted son, Caleb; organized a charity function that will take place during the Memorial Tournament; and left the golf world wondering just how he hits some of his amazing shots.

Now it is time to get back to work, and it will be amazing to see how Watson proceeds from here.

He will defend his title at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, where a year ago he defeated Webb Simpson in a sudden-death playoff. It was Watson's third PGA Tour victory in nine months and clearly stamped him as one of the top American players. During that stretch, he had also lost in a playoff to Martin Kaymer at the PGA Championship.

But as hard as it might be to believe, Watson posted just one top-20 finish the rest of the year after the 2011 Zurich Classic: a tie for 16th at The Barclays. That means he was never in contention after his New Orleans win until the calendar turned to 2012. He did have a successful Presidents Cup, where he went 3-2, and then showed some spark earlier this year with a tie for fifth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and a second at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

His rather lackluster performance after April of last year pretty much went without scrutiny.

That will change as a major championship winner, and how Watson handles it will be fascinating to watch.

Watson has been terrific in the aftermath of his Masters win, but that has mostly been in celebratory mode. How he reacts after a poor round or a poor tournament remains to be seen.

That's because Watson has had a sometimes awkward relationship with the golf media. He runs hot and cold, some of it due to his admitted aversion to the limelight. Good luck with that now. It was interesting how during the course of his Masters news conference after defeating Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff, he said he would soon be old news.

"Tomorrow, there's going to be a new tournament and y'all are going to write about other people," he said. "Y'all are going to forget about me tomorrow, you know what I'm saying? I'm going to have to keep living my life and do everything … then get back to real life."

Perhaps Bubba was caught up in the moment. Surely he knows things are going to be different now.

Nobody is going to forget about Watson, such a unique player with enormous appeal who is now a major champion.

But with that goes more scrutiny, fair or not. His performances will be evaluated and dissected. Watson is the fourth-ranked player in the world, the No. 1 American. Not only will he not be forgotten, he might get tired of all the attention.

And that might prove more problematic than hitting fairways and greens and holing putts.

Westwood's win

Safe to say, Lee Westwood's 38th career worldwide victory Sunday at the Indonesian Masters won't go down among his most coveted. In defending his title, Westwood -- who just turned 39 and is ranked third in the world -- beat exactly nobody who was ranked in the top 100. In fact, the highest-ranked player in the field other than Westwood was Siddikur Rahman, ranked 153rd.

And this has been cause for plenty of discussion.

Westwood skipped the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open and the European Tour's Volvo China Open to play the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters, an Asian Tour event in Jakarta. No offense to anyone on the Asian Tour circuit, but it is likely not on par with the Nationwide Tour. It falls below the Japan Tour in terms of quality of play.

The Englishman earned $118,000 for the victory from a paltry purse by his standards, but obviously traveled that far to play in an obscure event because he was being offered plenty of appearance money to do so.

By winning, he earned 20 world ranking points -- almost exclusively because he was in the field. That is one of the issues with the Official World Golf Ranking. It doesn't so much reward depth of fields as it does having top-ranked players. (It also gives more points to tournaments that are designated as signature events on their respective tours.) Westwood earned more points than the second-place finishers at the Valero Texas Open, who got the same as No. 2 in Indonesia.

But before you go knocking Westwood, it's no easy feat to show up and win against any professional field. No doubt, he was by far the most accomplished player competing. But that doesn't mean he was guaranteed victory. There were plenty of golfers who have won in various places around the world. Rahman has played most of the last two years in Asia, but did qualify for the WGC-HSBC Champions in China last year and has played in other European Tour events.

Or put it another way. Do you think Rory McIlroy would be a lock to win an event on the Nationwide Tour right now? Tiger Woods? Their competitive skill sets and experience suggest they should win -- they would face a similar rankings disparity to the one Westwood faced -- but golf doesn't always work that way. McIlroy played in a Challenge Tour event a few years ago and failed to win. You still have to shoot the scores -- which Westwood did.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?