Yeah, Bubba Watson was in a pissy mood last week at the PGA Championship. He pouted because he had to partake in a long-drive contest, which he probably would have won. He tanked it by tapping a 3 iron down the fairway and walking off. He took heat for that at his press conference that day (see video) because the contest was entertaining, and it was for charity. But I loved it.
Later, in the second round of a rain-soaked PGA, he flipped a club after a bad shot and complained that he couldn't possibly play his game when wet-face clubs wouldn't grip the ball the way he wanted. He took heat for throwing his club and whining about the weather, but I loved it.
Professional golf is a hugely profitable worldwide corporation full of corporate types who, like many corporate types, are talented, bright and rich. They have learned to say the right things and hide the angry, pissy portion of their humanity, the part that makes them real but doesn't necessarily make them proud. That's golf’s loss, and ours.
Football is the most watched sport in the United States, in part because talented, bright and rich players (e.g., Richard Sherman) show their full humanity in the joy of a touchdown dance or in the fury of a knock-you-into-next-week hit. We may not like what we see and hear all the time, but we watch it. Hell, we sometimes envy honest emotions that they're allowed to show but we are not. For those who feel they live a safe-but-stifled life, this has appeal. W. R. Alger wrote: “Men often make up in wrath what they want in reason.”
"Golf seems to sanitize itself.”
Golf seems to sanitize itself in order to savor reason and order. It doesn't have the violent lure of football, of course, but it’s full of confrontation, personal and professional. Players must confront their demons under pressure in order to improve and win. And they must constantly confront rivals, heroes and brash up-and-comers. It's in this confrontation that we see what they’re made of — which is the same stuff we’re made of, good and bad.
So let's see it. We see way too much of golf’s well-coached, relentless optimists. They deny their anger because anger usually doesn't help in golf. “Anger,” wrote Francis Bacon, "makes dull men witty, but it keeps them poor.” In the highly competitive world of pro golf, anger is suspect and surviving seems to boil down to this: Be dull, be up and be rich.
"Dull is deceitful."
But dull is deceitful. People get angry and ornery playing golf. It happens. So don't bad-mouth Bubba for not wanting to do what he doesn't want to do or for showing his frustration after a bad shot. Been there, done that, right? BTW, Watson hasn't let his anger hold him back from winning two Masters and being the third leading money winner on the PGA Tour this season.
Watson seems honest, human and willing to show both sides now. His range includes being the contest sourpuss to letting tears soak his mama’s hair after winning his first Masters. And then there was the thrilling scene when he flipped off tradition and didn't shush his fans before teeing off at the last Ryder’s Cup; no, he encouraged them to do what they paid to do, cheer throughout his entire swing (see video).
That breath of fresh air — when it's good and when it's bad — serves golf and us much better than an endless parade of winners and losers spewing the same old safe, clean, boring bits of blah blah.