Watching golf these days is as much fun as it's ever been. Granted, I may have low standards in this area. I still enjoy watching McCord hitting fat 4-irons on the range, and the occasional stone-cold top off the tee from Sir Ian Ball-Acher Flinch (to which he was occasionally prone even during the height of his great career), but holy crap, we have some interesting stuff to watch now, with some of the players who grew up with Tiger Woods as their hero hitting their prime, and a few of the older ones getting over their initial shock and awe over the freakishness of TW's domination.
In CBS's opening event at Torrey Pines, we had Philbert Mickelperson and Bubba Watson going at it (No need to mess with Bubba's name. I mean, it's Bubba...) to the bitter and twisted end, with Bones tending the 72nd flag from 75 yards. It was great stuff, and this writer has had a changed perception of Watson, B. since his win at Hartford last year. Like many others in the media, I had thought that Bubba was a little disturbed, maybe some kind of concussed human squirrel looking for an imaginary nutsack. On the course he was jumpier than a bag of toads, and liable to snap at cameramen, course reporters (though never at me - I always took the precaution of staying at least 100 yards away from him and making stuff up) or other nearby people for having an irregular heartbeat, possession of a yellow shirt, or just being there. What was wrong with the boy was unclear, but from personal experience I knew that inside his head there was a mental movie that only he could see.
Now we know about Bubba Watson's father, and the long battle with cancer the Green Beret fought with predictable valor while his son was trying to play the Tour and keep his sleeve-worn heart from breaking in public. Bubba lost that battle, too, in the arms of his wife, Angie, on the 16th green after his playoff win over Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank. Bubba's dad saw his son win, though, and before he left us would see him wear the American flag in a Ryder Cup. I know I speak for a lot of us on this side of both camera and page when I say that I hope Bubba Watson's sorrow is turning quickly to happy memories of a great man, and I apologize for not understanding him sooner. Occasionally Bubba might still seem like a basket case, but he is always good TV.
Now we have a bunch of these guys who blow what's left of my mind with what they do with club and ball. I remember Matt Kuchar when I stayed 100 yards away from him as well, in case he shanked one into the Y of my Fronts, or one of his prepubescent zits exploded and I got some of it on me. Now look at him - he can hardly finish out of the top 10 or miss from ten feet, and he has better skin than Jessica Simpson.
Speaking of fresh faces, Rickie Fowler is following in the Camilo Villegas tradition of, "Yes, I am that pretty, and I can play, too," and he's just been joined by a guy called Jhonny (and no, that's not a typo) Vegas? Seriously, what are the chances that someone called Jhonny Vegas doesn't have a criminal record? Yet the closest thing to a crime this young Venezuelan has committed is not returning Hugo Chavez's phone calls. (Frankly, I think he should be paid extra for this.)
Dustin Johnson was my player of the year last season. A tall, windswept kid with a handsome, crooked smile who pulverizes golf courses into submission off the tee, he walks with the athletic grace of a western gunslinger and makes old folks like me want to blow chunks. Of course, in the last round of the U.S. Open he shot himself in the foot, invoking inevitable predictions of his mental demise, and then had the PGA Championship stolen from him in the most horrifying circumstances, compounded by the unimaginable trauma of being dragged naked out of the shower by me for an interview only minutes afterwards! After this unrighteous hosing, not only was he honest and gracious, Dustin was lean, muscular, and he smelled good. Out of journalistic integrity I'd also gotten naked for the interview, and that didn't even bother him! Toss in the way he finished the year and my friend, if you're still not a Dustin Johnson fan, you're probably Taliban. Do not have a nice day.
I don't have enough words left to go through all the players who are worth a mention here, but professional golf is in great shape. Now, I hope they all learn something from Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, who, like Fuzzy Zoeller and Craig Stadler before them, show us who the hell they are. Because it's not just about great shots - great people make golf fun to watch. I know you've heard it before, but these guys are good!