Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Bubba Watson keen to play down rankings bid

Back in the swing: Bubba Watson will play in his first tournament since winning the Masters at Augusta last month

The grand tour is over, the Green Jacket back in the wardrobe, releasing Bubba Watson back into the golf community for the first time since his Masters victory at Augusta last month.

Watson is one of four golfers who might knock the injured Tiger Woods off his world rankings perch at The Players Championship in Sawgrass this week, though his record here offers little encouragement.

"My best finish is 37th. So unless 37th moves me to No 1, we probably don't need to worry about that," he said, revealing how seriously he is treating the prospect.

Watson did not hit a ball for a fortnight after Augusta, during which time he went on a family holiday before taking the Green Jacket on a tour of old Bagdad and spreading some Bubba love at the Florida schools that shaped him, or at least tried.

"We went to the Historical Society first. For them to honour me for being a Bagdadian, as we call it, was a big deal for me," he said.

Watson speaks as he plays, in a lexicon all his own. Without the aid of an interpreter, this presents the ear with a challenge unique in golf. Eventually a sense of what he means forms out of the jumble of words.

"Going back to the elementary school, and for me to actually want to do stuff at school, because I wasn't the smartest kid, for me to go back there to give a cheque for computers, or for different technologies that they see fit, was nice," he said.

"To sit there on stage and realise what I was doing, to be able to give back to a community, be able to give back to a school that gave so much to me.

"I might not have used my time wisely in school, but the teachers were giving their heart to each kid and to me. So I wanted to give back a little bit.

"So I did that at each school, Bagdad and then Hobbs Middle School and then Milton High School.

"The kids could not care less about me giving the school the cheque so I took a photo for all the kids and signed every single one, and then I bought pizza for the kids.

"The high school could not care less who Bubba Watson is or what he does. They're just like, free pizza? Yeah, perfect. We like that guy."

The Players rewards the deepest field in golf with the biggest cheque. The winner banks $1.7m (£1m).

Since Woods is not here to defend one of last year's five tournament wins, the incentive for Watson, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar includes the chance to assume the world No 1 ranking.

Lee Westwood is in the first group out, with Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy among the earlier starters.

Though Westwood won three weeks ago in Malaysia, he missed the cut at Wells Fargo last week and has yet to win on the PGA Tour since moving to Florida 18 months ago.

Donald and McIlroy have not triumphed in the States since 2012, though both have second-place finishes to their name this year.

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