Ryder Cup spot the real prize for Bubba

Bubbba Watson during the final round of the PGA Championship.

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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – For a moment that had seemingly delivered crushing news, Bubba Watson sure didn’t look the part. Nor did those who would be considered teammates.

Heck, they almost looked and sounded as if things had gone their way. Only they hadn’t, so why so many smiles and good cheer?

Because, even though they’d technically lost, they’d actually won, and if you have trouble following that, perhaps you’re color blind and can’t distinguish the red, white, and blue splashed all over Watson’s world.

“I made the Ryder Cup,” Watson said. “That’s all I care about.”

For years, American players have heard fans scream that they don’t give a damn about the Ryder Cup. Now that we had proof that some do, what was going through our minds at the end of the 92nd PGA Championship? We wondered why Watson & Co. cared so much about the Ryder Cup.

Sometimes you just can’t win.

But then there are those rare exceptions when you can’t help but win, even if you lose, and to understand that, consider a slice of the Watson story that was played out miles from Whistling Straits.

Ted Scott is a large part of Watson’s success. A caddie, yes, but so, too, is he also a friend and sports shrink, because when he felt like Watson needed an attitude adjustment last year, he said so. It worked, too, which is why Scott’s phone kept ringing Sunday.

“All my friends said, ‘It must be killing you not to be there,’ ” Scott said. “But it wasn’t. I was at home, watching the golf with my brand new son asleep on my chest. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Just as Watson viewed his PGA Championship playoff loss to Martin Kaymer as a victory, because it earned him a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, Scott harbored no resentment, because he was overcome with joy for his hand-picked replacement.

Mark Carens would not have worked last week, because his player, James Driscoll, had not qualified. Knowing he was going to be home in Louisiana with his wife, Melanie, for the birth of their child, Scott arranged for Carens to handle Watson’s bag.

“Mark and (wife) Amanda are two of my closest friends, very dear to our family, and Bubba, of course, is dear to my heart,” Scott said. “Mark is a good guy, a very good person, and it would give him a chance to make some money, because Bubba’s been playing so well.”

Carens was overwhelmed.

“I told him I wanted to pay him half my salary. But he said, ‘No way, man.’ I can’t believe how it worked out.”

Holding young Elijah Brannon to his chest, watching his friend walk in his shoes, cheering on his man Bubba . . . “it was a win-win for me, Mark, and Bubba,” Scott said. “The better he played, the better all of us would do.”

Walking every step of the way for 75 holes over the most grueling and ludicrous terrain in our galaxy of golf courses, Angie Watson supplied the same sort of perspective that came from Scott’s couch.

She did not mourn her husband’s 6-iron on the third and final playoff hole that came to rest in a watery grave. Instead, she celebrated his Ryder Cup achievement and shared in the bigger picture that too often gets lost in our narrow-sighted world.

“You can’t dream this,” she said. “Making the Ryder Cup was his No. 1 goal of the year. He embraces life for what it is. He considers himself blessed to be able to play golf for a living.”

Seven weeks ago, Watson cried when he earned his first PGA Tour win at the Travelers Championship. Thursday, he had broken down in tears after opening the PGA with a 68, which led him to talk about his father’s battle with cancer and Angie’s medical scare that turned out to be an enlarged pituitary gland.

“Hopefully,” Watson said as he choked back tears, “you all don’t think I’m a sissy.”

Angie will never forget the first time she saw that side of him.

“I knew he was emotional when on one of our first dates I told him something very personal, that I couldn’t have children, that I’d have to adopt,” Angie said. “He was pretty emotional about that. (It was) our third or fourth date, but it’s when I realized (our relationship) had the potential to be something serious.”

Bubba Watson cried that night, which said a lot to Angie. He did not cry Sunday when he lost a playoff for the PGA Championship, which said much about his makeup.

He lost a golf tournament, but get over it. He has.

After all, he’s got a Ryder Cup to prepare for.

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