From out of the fog

Lefty Watson, Molinari tied for lead

play suspended

August 13, 2010|By Teddy Greenstein, Tribune reporter

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Bubba Watson prepared for the PGA Championship by shooting videos for Twitter, playing basketball with fellow PGA Tour pro Rickie Fowler, riding on scooters with neighborhood kids and eating ice cream.

To say he's the anti-pro would be a bit of an understatement.

The left-hander rarely practices and never has taken a lesson, purposely hits hooks and slices, welcomes probing questions from reporters ("We can talk all day if y'all want," he offered) and seeks advice from only God and his wife.

"Because she's the boss," he said.

Watson shot a 4-under-par 68 Thursday to take the early lead during a fog-impaired first round of the season's final major. That score was matched by Italy's Francesco Molinari, and Ernie Els, Matt Kuchar and Nick Watney also were 4 under, though none completed his round.

Play was suspended because of darkness with Watney on No. 12, Els on No. 15 and Kuchar playing his 15th hole. They're among the 78 players who will complete their first rounds Friday morning.

Watson's morning tee time was pushed back 3 hours, 10 minutes because of nagging fog that made it nearly impossible to see Lake Michigan. He killed time by playing a video game on his iPhone called Angry Birds.

"I also threw stuff at Rickie Fowler while he was trying to sleep (in the locker room)," he said.

Watson turned serious, though, when talking about wife Angie, whom he met at the University of Georgia. He was a golfer who refused to take lessons from his coach; she was a basketball player.

Around Christmas last year, Angie was getting headaches, and an initial diagnosis indicated she had a tumor behind her temple. A second opinion from a Duke University neurosurgeon brought an enormous relief: She merely had an enlarged pituitary gland, not uncommon for a woman who stands 6-foot-4.

"Hopefully you all don't think I'm a sissy," Watson said through a mixture of tears and laughter. "You know I do hit the ball a long way."

How long? On the downwind, 587-yard fifth hole, Watson cut off so much of the dogleg with his drive, he left himself only 142 yards. A sand wedge. And a two-putt birdie.

In eight previous PGA Championship rounds, the 31-year-old Floridian never had broken 73.

Four-time PGA champion Tiger Woods, meanwhile, birdied three of his first four holes, including the 621-yard 11th after a drive of 357 yards.

He putted much better during his 1-under 71 but also drove it so wildly on No. 5, he released the club to the turf after his wayward hook.

Phil Mickelson completed 11 holes, recording birdies on his final two to hit the dinner table at 1 under.

The day, though, belonged to Watson, who's both entertaining and unconventional when holding a driver or microphone.

So, Bubba, when you look at the leaderboard …

"I never look at it," Watson replied.

tgreenstein@tribune.com

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