News & ToursJuly 5, 2011

What Bubba shouldn't have done on his European vacation

They have always been sitting (at home) targets, especially these days when golf's very best players tend to be growing up somewhere other than "main street USA." Those so-called insular/pampered/cosseted/spoiled/over-compensated Yanks who can only rarely be bothered to travel anywhere not adjacent to a handy fast food emporium, cable television and the baseball scores, not forgetting valet parking, bag drops and golf carts.

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And there is plenty of evidence to support that view, with "Exhibit A" the eventful few days world No. 12 Bubba Watson spent at last week's Alstom Open de France. Displaying a quite breathtaking ignorance, the 32-year old from Bagdad, Fla., portrayed himself as the ultimate "ugly American abroad." In Bubba-world, the Eiffel Tower is apparently "the big tower;" the Arc de Triomphe is the "archway" where he "rode around in a circle;" and the Louvre is a building that "starts with an 'L.'"

I mean, really.

                There was more, too. After opening with a mediocre 74 (a score he would repeat en route to missing the cut), Watson was moaning and groaning about a supposed lack of on-course security.

"It's different for me, there's cameras, there's phones, there's everything," he whimpered. "I don't know which holes to walk through; there are no ropes. It's something I'm not used to, I'm not comfortable with."

And let's not even get into Bubba reportedly refusing to share a courtesy car with another player for the 10-minute ride from his luxury hotel to the golf course.

Not surprisingly, it didn't take long for criticism of Watson's blundering to appear. Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, agent Chubby Chandler got straight to the point.

"They don't get it do they, the Americans?" he asked rhetorically. "They don't get it because they have everything in America. Everything over there is easy for them. There's a lot of cash to play for. They don't see any reason why they should play outside America. And then they whine about the world rankings.

"For a grown man to talk like that was quite pathetic. There's a lot of Bubbas, too, because a lot of them don't travel. You can't say that about Tiger. And Phil started about five years ago. Rory (McIlroy) was in America last year and he felt the same way about going from New York to Boston to Chicago. He found it hard work, but he didn't whinge about it. Every week was the same. The Americans like that, though. It's just two different cultures. They think their tour is the be-all and end-all. They have no idea that in 10 year's time Asia will be bigger than America."

Still, while it is easy to make fun of Watson's National Lampoon-like view of the world there is a serious and more important, albeit hardly original, point to be made about his performance at a European Tour event where he was the only member of the world's top 20 in attendance. On the course that will host the 2018 Ryder Cup, Watson finished T-102 in a no-better-than-average field of 156. Thus, the growing notion that even leading Americans are adept at only a very narrow form of PGA Tour-style golf is further strengthened. Certainly, Jack Nicklaus is one who believes more of them need to break out their passports a bit more often.

"Too many American golfers know little beyond American golf," said the Golden Bear. "I believe a big reason Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and I became the players we were is because we travelled the globe -- and at a time when travel was a lot harder than it is now. If you want to be an international star then you have to go and play internationally. If you don't you only have yourself to blame."

Hard but fair, I'd say.

-- John Huggan

(Photo by Getty Images)

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