Bubba Watson driving toward 4th win
DORAL, Fla. -- For the last two days, Bubba Watson has more or less had his way with a Doral course rendered all but obsolete by today's professional golf standards.
He has bombed himself onto par-5s, gouged wedge after wedge onto par-4s and made a pink-headed driver look more than manly. He has gone 15 under par over the last 36 holes and made a once-vaunted course look like a pitch-and-putt.
Watson has so thoroughly dominated through three rounds of the WGC-Cadillac Championship that early runs Saturday by Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were all but rendered meaningless, as they sit a whopping eight strokes behind heading into the final round.
Watson has referred to the TPC Doral Blue Monster course as "a golf course that doesn't really suit me,'' and has said, "if you go back in the history of me playing this tournament, it's not very good.''
As for the perfect course for him, Watson said it's about being able to "find the fairways real easy. Desert courses, you see desert and grass. It's easy for me to find it in my mind. I have to be able to see it, because I'm everywhere.''
Bubba has famously never employed a swing coach and, based on his all-over-the-map comments, could probably be served well by a sports psychologist. He doesn't see that working, either.
"Nobody will take the time to help me,'' he said, joking. "That's a lot of work.''
And yet, there is a good bit of truth in that statement.
Watson, who has three career PGA Tour victories and lost the 2010 PGA Championship in a playoff, is as well known for his bizarre take on things as his long drives.
For example, the swing coach deal. He's never had one, never wants one. Said he'd quit the game before going that route. Watson, 33, said his late father, Gerry, got him started when he was about 10 -- Bubba, a lefty, stood facing his right-handed dad -- and that's been it.
"I like a challenge,'' he said. "I like playing and learning it myself. I'm stubborn. I like doing it myself. I love applauding myself. Why would I want to go say thanks to somebody else? I want to do it on my own. I want to play better for me and I want to win because of me and I want to play good because of me.
"And no, I've never seeked out advice of a coach or anything on my swing. I just swing funny and somehow it works.''
There's something refreshing about that attitude, even though it is almost universally damned by those who do this for a living. Nearly everyone who plays golf at this level has had some sort of instruction, and continues to seek it. Jack Nicklaus did. Woods famously has made changes in coaches despite 14 major championships.
"Some of the shots he hits are pretty unbelievable,'' said Bradley, the PGA champion who will be in the final pairing with Watson. "And you just have to kind of watch him and enjoy watching it. It is fun to watch.''
Watson was asked if he even consults his caddie, Ted Scott, on occasion. After all, they spend the most time together. Scott sees him hit shots on the range, on the course. Does he ever spot anything? Offer a tiny tidbit?
"He's not very good,'' Watson said, laughing. "That's why he's a caddie.''
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In fact, Watson has long maintained that if you can't beat him at golf, you shouldn't be coaching him. And since he is ranked 23rd in the world, that would make for a pretty short list.
"I don't want a team of people behind me showing me how to swing on computers,'' he said. "That's just not me. That's not my personality. I'm just trying to do it on my own. I like to figure it out on my own. It's just like a math problem -- except I probably wouldn't get the math problem right.''
Bubba might not get it right on the golf course on Sunday, either.
Despite his amazing length, that swing can go awry and that golf ball can fly to some unlikely places.
And that's why Bubba is no lock on Sunday. This has been a year of blown 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour. Four times players have come back from six strokes behind or more to win. There are six players within seven shots of the lead heading into the final round.
Not even his three previous tour victories at the Travelers Championship, Farmers Insurance Open and Zurich Classic of New Orleans make him feel much better. In other words, those wins, playing on Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, doesn't make him any more comfortable.
"Not at all,'' he said. "That's the challenge. That's the beauty of it. I play this game because I love the challenge and I love trying to get better and better.
"If anybody says they are not nervous going into Sunday who is around the lead or close to the lead or has a chance to win, they are just lying to you. Or their psychologist is telling them to lie to themselves.''
Bubba's got a 3-shot lead at one of the year's biggest tournaments, but not even Bubba feels good about it. And that ought to make Sunday a pretty interesting day at Doral.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.