Monday, January 31

The High School Golf Swing of Bubba Watson

A Bubba Watson original at the season opener in Hawaii.

CBS’S PETER KOSTIS DOES A good job on swing analyses. Whereas other golf talking heads sound like they’re blowing smoke, Kostis, as I’ve written, hypnotizes me. He just sounds believable.

But, as I learned yesterday watching the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open, even Kostis struggles to put Bubba Watson’s swing into words. I sympathize. Bubba’s action defies explanation. It just works. Watson had all the shots in his bag this past weekend as he cruised to his second career victory at Torrey Pines.

Not long before Kostis and crew took a slo-mo look at Bubba, Kostis analyzed the swing of Bob Hope Classic winner Jhonattan Vegas. Vegas contended to the very end on Sunday before dumping his second shot into the pond that fronts the 18th green. Vegas’ swing looks like it’s out of a golf instruction book. Kostis drew two lines and a triangle, explaining how Vegas was on plane and returned the club to the same position and angle as at address. Or something like that. The point is, Johnny’s swing is near perfection. Kostis was like a college anatomy professor explaining how and why it works.

After Bubba launched a 363-yard drive on the par-5 13th, Kostis took a swing-vision gander at the lefty from Bagdad, Florida. I can’t remember much of what he said. I just remember thinking he was at a loss for words. Bubba is unconventional, to say the least. It’s fairly easy to see at full speed. He has an open stance and a big loopy swing with a follow through that always has me wondering where the ball is going. In slow motion, it’s crazy. On the backswing—dare I say the longest backswing on tour?—the clubhead is pointing at the ground. And on the downswing, just before impact, Bubba is up on the toes of both feet!

I think I figured out why Bubba can’t be explained with lines and triangles and such. He has a high school golf swing. It’s not a knock. It means he’s untouched, intuitive and creative. He’s never had a lesson or a swing coach. He says he never will.

A high school golf swing is long, natural, athletic. I saw lots of them when I played for Palmdale High in California. They’re raw, loopy, wristy and powerful. High school golfers who advance in the game usually shorten and refine their swings as they grow and mature. They adopt “positions” and shed the untamed golf swings of their youth. (I used to have a backswing as long as John Daly—when I was 14. Now I can’t turn past parallel.)

Bubba is self taught, unchanged. He’s refined a one-of-a-kind swing that busts 350-yard drives and curves shots 30 yards to the left or right.

“I’ll never change from that,” he told SI’s Farrell Evans last year. “I’ll keep playing golf the way I know how to play it and hopefully that will keep me on tour.”

I think Bubba is going to be around for a while.

−The Armchair Golfer


Dutch said...

“I’ll never change from that"

That's a very good approach to have.Good on Bubba...And I don't think I have seen anyone on tour able to shape the ball as much as Bubba does.He does not always get the results he is going for but my goodness his ability to fade it or draw it is tremendous.

Now,I have often wondered,if Tiger had stuck with his Butch Harmon swing,how far along would he have been.Almost all of Tiger's errant tee-shots at the Farmers were his previous approach creeping into his new approach to hitting.Old habits die hard folks.

Cynthia Cronk said...

Gotta love it. Bubba is awesome. I was so rooting for him on Sunday. He is just so humble, such an "everyman" kind of golfer. I think he may be my new tour favorite...slightly surpassing my long time fav, Phil.

The Armchair Golfer said...

It's pretty hard not to like Bubba. He's authentic, and that's appealing.

Alex Whittet said...

The great thing about Bubba is that he never questions his swing. If he hits a bad shot he simply "didn't pull it off" or "wasn't focused enough", which is such a refreshing attitude. I doubt there's anyone else on tour who can pull that shot off.