Tour and News

Bubba Watson may not have paid, but has likely received advice

Photo: Robert Beck / SI

Bubba Watson won the 2012 Masters for his first career major title.

So Bubba Watson says that he has never taken a golf lesson. I admire Bubba's enormous talent, his desire to improve and his work ethic. And I was impressed by his Masters victory, but has he really never taken a golf lesson?

Most of us define a golf lesson as a period of time during which a pro meets with a student for the purpose of teaching said student the art of the playing the game. The student is provided with information that, hopefully, improves said student's ability to play. At the end the student will pay the teacher a fee.

By that definition I haven't taken a lesson in 20 years. But I have had many PGA professionals give me advice on how to improve my swing or my short game or even provide insight into how to play a certain hole or course when preparing for a tournament.

In fact, while covering tournaments, I've seen players give each other tips and advice dozens of times. I saw Seve Ballesteros advising  José María Olazábal on how best to play Augusta National, which must have been some good advice because Ollie won the Masters. Twice!

One of the mystifying elements of professional golf is a player's willingness to provide advice to a competitor. Can you imagine Tom Coughlin advising Bill Belichick on how to beat the Giants in the Super Bowl? I can't either. Yet in golf that happens every week. It must: Simply put, the game is too hard to figure out alone.

Now, back to Bubba. Is it outrageous to assume that the has sought advice about his game? He did play high school golf, in junior college at Faulkner State and then at Georgia. At each stop there were teammates and coaches. Watson played three years on the Nationwide tour before joining the PGA Tour, where he has been for seven years.

So maybe we shouldn't ask if he has ever had a lesson. Instead, we should ask if he has ever received advice on his game from another professional. I bet the answer is a loud Yes.

Becoming proficient at golf takes hours of practice and knowledgeable guidance -- from a father, friend, competitor or coach. As one of my math teachers taught me about the transitive property, if A = B and B = C, then A = C. In other words, if we can agree that advice is coaching and coaching is teaching, then we can assume that while he may never have paid, Bubba has certainly taken a golf lesson.

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