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Bubba Watson talks, plays a good game

Long-hitting American would love to break U.S. drought in majors

By Teddy Greenstein, Tribune Newspapers

7:21 PM EDT, June 13, 2011

BETHESDA —

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Bubba Watson can't help himself. He knows only one way to answer questions, and that's to utter the first thing that pops into his head.

After he completed a morning practice round Monday at Congressional Country Club, he was asked if he had enjoyed seeing anything particular on the golf course.

"The clubhouse," he replied. "I'm gonna eat lunch."

Watson also didn't give the conventional answer to the question dogging American golfers: Why can't any of them win a major?

Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel all have won since a Yankee (Phil Mickelson, 2010 Masters) holed a putt to clinch a major championship. A fifth straight would be longest U.S. drought since the Masters began in 1934.

But Watson, 12th in golf's World Rankings, sees it differently.

"There are 11 guys ahead of me," he said. "I don't know what country they're from; I don't care what country they're from. I don't look at what flag they are flying."

Watson has won twice on the PGA Tour this season and is tops in hitting greens in regulation at 73.83 percent. But that's just part of why GolfWorld magazine, in a recent profile, called him "the most entertaining golfer in the world in the last 12 months."

Watson, 32, has long, flowing hair and a pink shaft in his left-handed driver, which he uses to hit massive cut shots that are shaped like bananas. He trails only J.B. Holmes in driving distance, at 310.8 yards.

Ken Venturi, who famously won the 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional, marveled Monday at the distances of the modern game.

"I was watching players at the 10th hole, playing 218 yards, and Bubba Watson just hit a 6-iron," Venturi said. "In my day, it was a good 4-wood."

This won't make Venturi feel any better.

"I actually hit 7-iron," Watson said. "It was downwind, though."

The 18th hole, though, is actually a bit long for Watson's liking. At 523 yards, it is the second-longest par-4 in U.S. Open history, just two yards shy of No. 7 at Bethpage in 2009. And the peninsula green at Congressional's 18th has a narrow run-up.

"I was hoping they'd move us up to the red tees," Watson said. "I (drove) it 300 and still had 210 to the front. There are some beasts out here into the wind."

Watson garnered attention last month for saying what so many other amateur and professional golfers think — that Tiger Woods, under swing instructor Sean Foley, is "going the wrong way."

Foley shot back that "Bubba loves the camera."

That he does, but Watson said last month — and reiterated Monday — that he is not looking to become "the face" of American golf.

"It's a lose-lose question," he said. "If I say yes, it means I'm not being humble.

"I'm just trying to enjoy the game, enjoy my life and hopefully influence some of these kids to get them to want to keep it going."

tgreenstein@tribune.com

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein