Watson learns new perspective
Bubba Watson is ranked No. 5 in the OWGR (Official World Golf Ranking), but No. 1 in the OWCR (Official World Crying Ranking). He ought to be sponsored by Kleenex.
Never, ever invite him to watch "Titanic" or "Old Yeller." And in an office pool matchup between Bubba and North Carolina weeper Roy Williams, always take Bubba.
But something un-Watson-ish is happening these days. Our little Bubba is growing up. Sort of.
He still cries; that's never going to change. You could have irrigated a sod farm with the tears Watson shed as he hugged his mother Molly after winning the Masters in April.
And you should have seen him the week before that, when he and his wife Angie took custody of the infant son they're in the process of adopting. Your heart hurts just thinking about it.
"We were in a lawyer's office and the mom is there," Watson said in a recent interview at Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Windemere, Fla., where the family has relocated. "You know she's in a different room because she's saying goodbye. You know she's going through an emotional time too. Just like we are.
"We met her. She's a great girl. Her circumstances were tough on her. And so when she passed him over to Angie, we were just, we were all crying. The lawyer's crying, everybody's just crying because it's an emotional time. The birth mom -- I can't even imagine what she was going through. We really didn't say many words. Just a crazy, emotional day."
So you'll forgive Watson if he doesn't treat this week's U.S. Open as if it's the most important thing in his life. Because it isn't. Not even close.
"It is no longer all about Bubba and Angie," said Jens Beck, Watson's agent. "Everything now naturally centers around Caleb and making sure he is comfortable. I think being a father helps Bubba put everything in perspective and it helps him remain grounded."
Watson wants to win, but he doesn't need to win. It doesn't consume him. Fatherhood does, though. He melts like margarine when discussing The Bubba Watson New Daddy Manual.
Chapter One: "Don't worry about what else is going on. Don't worry about your job. Make sure you take care of your child first."
Chapter Two: "Uh, do everything your wife says. And don't forget what she says."
For years, Watson has been the overgrown kid of golf. He had a temper. He pouted. He didn't do his homework. He just wanted to go outside and play.
But then his caddie threatened to dump him if Watson didn't clean up his act. And Bubba's Green Beret dad, Gerry, was stricken with throat cancer and died in 2010 -- but not before father and son had a relationship breakthrough. And now comes the arrival of Caleb.
"I think that it's a weird cycle that our life goes through," Watson said. "We need somebody at a young age to help us and then you think we don't need anybody anymore. Then you realize your parents are great later in life. Then when your parents pass away, then it's your turn to show the love that your parents showed you. And you learn. You're always learning. And I think that Caleb is teaching us as much as we're teaching him."
Bubba Watson -- philospher?
He can still be a goofball. I mean, how many photos can you take of your kid at Waffle House? And remember the post-Masters victory tour appearance on Letterman?
Dave: "How would you describe your personal style of play, your personal approach to golf?"
Bubba: "Pfff -- awesome."
Mr. Awesomeness changes diapers now. Even the worst poop bombs don't gross him out. He does baby noises with Caleb. And each night he and Angie have a new favorite ritual.
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"We go in there together and we just say a prayer with him," said Watson, his lips quivering. "We just let him hear our voices and understand that we love him."
Watson skipped a handful of tournaments, including The Players Championship in May, to spend time with little Caleb. His decision was questioned, even ripped by some. Really?
First of all, it was The Players, not the Helsinki Accords. Watson's absence didn't alter the golf universe. Shrimp cocktail was served to corporate sponsors in the clubhouse. Balls still drowned around the par-3 17th island green. Life went on.
Second, the Watsons aren't 100 percent sure they'll get to keep Caleb. They think they will, as do their lawyers. But until the adoption process is complete -- and it could still take months -- there's that tiny chance of the worst-case scenario.
"Legally we can take care of him, make all his decisions," Watson said. "So we have the parents' rights. But to get it finalized where it's legally -- I guess we're the parents -- there's a way they can still take the baby away from us. That's the low point. Making those phone calls, hearing those phone calls from the lawyer, that's when you get nervous. We put in all this time, energy, effort, tears, joy -- and it can be taken away from us. That's the scary part."
Since winning the Masters, Beck said the number and scope of media requests for Watson has increased significantly. So have the endorsement opportunities, especially with non-golf businesses.
"We are now entertaining serious discussions with large global brands," Beck said.
But money can buy only so much. What it can't buy is a moment like the one when Watson buddy Rickie Fowler attended a baby shower for Caleb. Fowler even brought Caleb a tiny pair of overalls (a shirtless and shoeless Bubba wore overalls in the infamous "Golf Boys" video) and a pink plastic golf club, sort of like Watson's universally recognized pink driver.
Instead of "Exclusively Made For Bubba," Fowler wrote, "Exclusively Made For Caleb." And on the plastic club shaft, Fowler substituted "Caleb Long" for "Bubba Long."
And money can't buy perspective. Fatherhood, said Watson, "slows the world down.
"Every missed cut, every won tournament doesn't mean anything. But having your boy smile at you while you're holding him. "
Watson would love to hold a U.S. Open trophy at the end of the week. He's part of the A-list grouping on Thursday and Friday (Bubba, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods) and he has the game to be in the final twosome on Sunday.
If it happens, if Watson somehow goes 2-for-2 in 2012 majors -- and does it on his first Father's Day -- you know what will happen next. He'll cry like a baby.
Like father, like son.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.
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Topics: The U.S. Open