Bubba and Ted's Excellent Adventure
KAPALUA, Hawaii — Pray for Ted Scott. Because this coming week he is going to throw himself off a cliff. And he’s going to take his boss with him.
We know what you’re thinking. Finally, he has snapped. After 12 years serving as caddie for enigmatic Bubba Watson, the two-time Masters champion, Scott has had enough.
Ted Scott knows that’s what some people want to think. And that thought makes him angry.
But, indeed, he is going to jump off a cliff. He and Watson are going to find a spot somewhere in Honolulu and take a leap into the ocean. Watson decided on the spur of the moment just before he left Florida ahead of last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions that he was going to remain in Hawaii for the Sony Open, in which he had not played since he kicked off his 2010 season. Each brought his family to Kapalua in Maui, but they are going home, leaving Ted and Bubba alone together for a week.
They can’t wait.
“When I called him to tell him we’re going to Sony, he said, Great we’re going cliff jumping, and like a crazy person I said OK,” Watson said. “Haven’t been there in a while. Our families are going home, and we’ve been talking about that, just hanging out together, having fun.”
A three-time winner on the PGA Tour in 2018, Watson didn’t enjoy the Plantation Course, one of his favorite layouts, nearly as much as he had been anticipating. The lithe left-hander was first in strokes gained/off the tee but last in the 33-man field in strokes gained/putting, losing 11.484 strokes that explain his 31st-place finish at even-par 292.
“Not bad after about 12 three-putts,” Watson chirped, grinning, after a closing 69 on Sunday.
Tough walk. They survived it. In golf, the hard weeks always are going to outnumber the happy ones.
They survive everything. Watson and Scott are entering their 13th year together, one of the most prominent duos still intact. Among major winners, Lucas Glover and Don Cooper are believed to be the most enduring team, approaching 17 years, but their recognition level doesn’t approach Watson and Scott. Meanwhile, consider some of the high-profile pairings that have dissolved in recent years: Phil Mickelson and Jim (Bones) Mackay, Jason Day and Col Swatton and, most recently, Zach Johnson and Damon Green.
“You think of perfect teams, and Bubba and Teddy are like that. They are fabulous together,” said Paul Tesori, who has caddied for former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson for eight years.
Stan Badz/PGA Tour
Watson and Scott connected via Ben Crane. Watson was looking for a like-minded Christian, and Crane, one of Watson’s Bible-study companions, recommended Scott, who tried professional golf as a player briefly without success but who was a world champion in professional foosball.
“Teddy was a star long before he met me,” Watson says almost boastfully of his pal.
Their first golf tournament together was the 2007 Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, where Watson finished tied for 12th. The following week at the Canadian Open, he was T-14. Scott didn’t have to do much—just tote the sticks and bark out yardages.
“I gave him two things: Don’t talk about money and know that if I have a swing I have a shot,” said Watson, 40, who lives in Pensacola, Fla. “Very next week in Canada he came to me, and he said, ‘I know we’re not supposed to talk about money, but we haven’t talked about pay yet.’ Yeah, that was kind of important.”
Never mind that Scott was unsure of his value.
“I didn’t really feel like I was being a caddie at first, just carrying a bag,” Scott, 45, recalled. “But then I saw him play, the shots he would hit, some really wild shots, the curves were even bigger then, but it was enjoyable for me to watch a guy with that much talent, and I knew he had potential. Eventually, he got to asking me about certain shots or reading putts, and the thing is I had to see how he could play and then I could help him.”
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A native of Lafayette, La., Scott learned the game from his grandfather, Don, during summer visits to Texas. At home, his father, Ted, was his most consistent golf companion. A wild hitter with a great short game, Scott tried college at McNeese State, but it didn’t take, and before he could walk on at Louisiana-Lafayette, he contracted foosball fever and quit golf for three years. He won the world foosball doubles title in 1994 and finished second in singles. When he picked up golf again, he discovered that he had a better understanding of the swing and turned pro to become a teacher.
And then, the caddie profession came calling. On a whim, Scott went looking for a bag at the Louisiana Open, a Web.com Tour event in nearby Broussard, but before he could sign in with the caddie master to inquire about work, he bumped into Grant Waite, who hired him on the spot.
After a few years, he landed the gig with Watson and almost immediately discovered that he was entering a strange new universe—and yet one in which he became comfortable and confident quickly. Early on, Scott managed to discern in what capacity he best could assist the long-hitting southpaw.
“The part I help him with is getting him focused,” said Scott, who proudly proclaims that he once beat Watson—for one round, 66-69—in a 54-hole Florida mini-tour event run by a friend of Watson’s after the 2007 PGA Tour season. “The game is easy for him, but the game in front of people is not. You go out and play a round with Bubba when there’s nobody around. … We actually do that quite a bit, and you wonder how he doesn’t win on tour every single time. It’s about distraction. He sees everything and hears everything. He doesn’t have rabbit ears, he just gets distracted.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Scott explains his constant challenge this way: “When there’s nobody around, he’s just thinking about the shot. An artist on a canvas painting, and he can do anything he wants. [But] he sees someone eating a bag of chips on the way to the green, he’s saying to me, ‘Hey, is that Doritos or is that Cheetos?’ All of a sudden, the brain goes and you steer him back. It’s who he is. Just keep him in the here and now. I’m not telling him to do it or telling him how to do it, I just try to give him ideas for getting back to it.”
They have won 12 times together, including the Masters in 2012 and ’14, and as such there is a level of trust that few tandems share. “Absolutely,” Watson said. “We know we are always moving in the same direction. We can talk about shots in the same language.”
“Our personalities just gel,” Scott added. “We like a lot of the same stuff. We laugh at a lot of the same stuff. But, if we were talking to each other every day, we’d probably fight like brothers. I think one reason we work so well together is we have our time apart, too, where we don’t necessarily talk a lot when we’re at home. If I wasn’t caddieing for him, we’d probably [hang out with] each other a lot more because we wouldn’t have that time that we do now on the golf course.”
That’s not to say they have never fought like brothers.
Watson can be emotional and demonstrative, and more than a few times it appears that he is blaming Scott for this missed putt or that poor shot when he is merely trying to share his misery with his caddie. “A lot of times when I’m yelling Teddy! it’s not at him but to him to get his attention to say, basically, Can you believe that shot? Can you believe I did that?”
That hasn’t always been the case, however. Their low point came in the 2013 Travelers Championship, the tournament where Watson captured his first tour title three years earlier. Leading by a stroke with three holes to play, Watson hit a 9-iron in the water at the par-3 16th hole and then berated his caddie for the misplay. He went on to card a triple bogey and lose the tournament.
Scott blamed himself in the aftermath. Watson apologized for losing his cool, all of it caught on camera. Not only did he apologize, but he also gave Scott a raise. “I should have never reacted like that, but Teddy knows I love him, where my heart is,” Watson said. “It looked bad on TV, and I deserved the criticism.”
Chris Condon/PGA Tour
But not to the extent that ensued, Scott reasons. Particularly irksome was the #PrayForTedScott hashtag that began to make the rounds on Twitter.
“That whole thing just ticked me off, especially as it played out on the Internet,” Scott said. “Yeah, Hartford wasn’t a good scenario, and it hurt his public image, but if I had a camera that followed me around all the time to catch when I might be honking at someone on the road or having a bad day and say something I shouldn’t have, it doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. You shouldn’t judge someone by a moment like that. Unfortunate that it was on TV, but it bothered other people more than me, and people tried to use me to make him look bad and that wasn’t right.”
Watson, who underwent LASIK surgery recently, can’t envision a time when he would let his friend go, but insists, “If he ever fires me, someone would hire him in an instant, because he’s too good at his job and he’s too good of a person. He could quit me at any moment and not be out of work a day.”
Of course, that’s not going to happen.
“You know, professional golf is such a stressful environment. The tension is so high. So it’s important to be with a player that shares your outlook on things,” Scott said. “We share religious beliefs, and all, and that’s really important, but the big thing is we have fun. Honestly, we do. Could be golf, could be anything.”
Could be jumping off a cliff. Which they will do together. Pray for Ted Scott. And for Bubba Watson.