ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
SIEGEL: Here's one measure of the difference between golf as it's played by some great professional golfers and the game that ordinary people play with golf clubs and golf courses. Ordinary people swing the club and hope that they neither hook nor slice. That is, they hope they neither pull the ball sharply nor send it spinning away from them like a foul ball into the seats on the opposite of the field.
Great professional golfers, on the other hand, look at their lie and ask themselves, do I need to hook, slice, draw, fade, hit it straight? And then they do whatever is required.
Yesterday, on the second playoff hole of the Masters, Bubba Watson, who typically hits the ball over 300 yards with his driver - that's another measure of the difference - succumbed to momentary ordinariness when he hooked his drive into the woods. He then proceeded to hit a hook on purpose that landed almost perfectly near the hole.
Golf writer Jaime Diaz, the editor of Golf World, wrote a profile of Watson for Golf Digest in 2009 and he joins us now. Welcome to the program.
JAIME DIAZ: Thanks for having me. Thank you.
SIEGEL: And the question that all my non-golfing colleagues want to know is how did Bubba Watson make the ball go up between the trees and hang a right onto the green?
DIAZ: Well, Bubba is exceptional in his creativity and with his hand-eye coordination. He learned to play golf actually hitting wiffle balls around his house in Milton, Florida, plastic golf balls, basically, which he curved by extreme amounts. He doesn't play like an ordinary professional. He plays with more movement in the ball than anyone and the way he can do that is primarily through the club-head speed that he achieves. It's exceptional. He has a very big arc, a lot of speed, a body that produces a lot of fast twitch muscles and, at the same time, he's got great hand-eye coordination and he can, you know, sort of manipulate the ball at the bottom of his swing more than most professionals.
SIEGEL: This is a golfer who, as you wrote in your profile of him, has never taken a golf lesson in his life.
DIAZ: No. He's a throwback. He's much like Sam Snead or many of the great old players from the '20s and '30s. He's almost completely self-taught and I think golf for Bubba is a lot of fun. If he were playing a more regimented game, he probably wouldn't enjoy it as much and he probably wouldn't play as well.
SIEGEL: Professional golf has been hurting to some extent since Tiger Woods' dry spell began. He recently won a tournament, then he played disappointingly in the Masters and I guess every time somebody wins, the question arises: Could this golfer - in this case, could Bubba Watson bring the mix of talent, unusual play and personality, charisma that might actually help carry the game for a few months, if not a couple of years?
DIAZ: Well, I would sort of disagree a bit that golf's in trouble or – certainly it misses Tiger at the top of the game, but in his absence, you know, there's been a greater appreciation for the players that have filled the void. You know, Rory McIlroy, for one.
And I think Bubba has this sort of almost folk hero kind of aspect to his game because it is so big and unique. And I'm not saying Bubba's going to carry the game because I think he would have a hard time feeling that kind of obligation. At the same time, I do feel that people love him and he's going to have a lot of fans.
SIEGEL: So here's a guy who has now won a couple of tournaments on the PGA Tour and now he's won a major, as they say, the Masters Tournament. And he is this wonderfully spontaneous, creative - but, as a result, perhaps also inconsistent - golfer. What does your gut say? Does he have the stuff to repeat and to win another major tournament and keep on winning or is he someone who might be, you know, satisfied enough with where he is now and not have the same juices flowing? What do you think?
DIAZ: I think before, he would just get too emotional about the disappointment and sort of, you know, just keep it at arm's length. I think, though, this is going to convince him that I really am that good. I think the issue was he didn't know how good he was and I think now he does.
SIEGEL: Well, Jaime Diaz, thanks a lot for talking with us about Bubba Watson.
DIAZ: My pleasure. Thank you.
SIEGEL: Jaime Diaz is now the editor of Golf World. He wrote a profile of the new Masters champion for Golf Digest back in 2009.
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