Bubba Watson: His 2013 Might Look Better Than Tiger's

Jake Mann@@mjakemannContributor IIIOctober 26, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 14:  Tiger Woods of the USA looks dejected after hitting a tee shot during round four of the Australian Masters at The Victoria Golf Club on November 14, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

You'd have to be crazy to think that Tiger Woods isn't amid the all-time golfing greats.

At the ripe age of 36, the man has 74 PGA Tour wins under his belt, and 14 major championship victories.

While he has had his struggles since admitting various "indiscretions" in late 2009, Woods's game has almost returned to normalcy in 2012.

In the past four majors, Tiger has notched a T40 (Masters), T21 (U.S. Open), T3 (Open Championship), and a T11 (PGA Championship).

While most fans will argue that his only competition in 2013 will be from his own psyche and fellow golfer Rory McIlroy, there is a stable of Americans that can have a better year than Tiger, and one that stands out in particular.

Enter "Bubba Golf."

Bubba Watson has had quite a year in 2012, both on and off the course.

The Georgia bulldog won his first major championship at the Masters in April, playing his best golf on Sunday's back nine before beating Louis Oosthuizen in a sudden death playoff.

In the following four months after his victory in Augusta, Watson was forced to compete in only 20 rounds of professional golf while going through a lengthy adoption process.

Finally becoming an official "Dad" in August, Watson had an impressive showing at the PGA Championship, posting a final round of 68 at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort's Ocean Course to finish the event tied for 11th.


In his four tournaments since, Watson has beaten Woods twice, most notably at the TOUR Championship in late September.

In fact, each golfer has played a total of 19 events in 2012, with Watson holding the edge in major championships, driving distance (315.5 yards to Tiger's 297.4) and greens in regulation (69.9 percent to 67.6 percent).

Now, Tiger does have the edge in prize money by more than $1.5 million, but Watson can change that on next year's major circuit.

Three of the four courses selected to hold 2013's major championships favor the "bombers" so to speak, and let's not forget about Oak Hill's East Course, the site of next year's PGA.

Tiger had a horrific showing the last time he played this course in a high-pressure situation, and his recent statement of "having doubts" over his chance to surpass the Golden Bear's major mark does not inspire confidence. 

With the Masters as the next major on deck, Bubba clearly has the momentum in his corner.

Aside from beating Tiger at Augusta by a whopping 15 strokes this year, Watson did something that Woods surprisingly cannot do: win a major from behind. 


Another advantage that Watson has over his chief U.S. competitor can be seen on the range.

The man himself has described his swing as "home grown," which may be the last word ever used to describe Tiger Woods's swing.

Tiger is currently in the midst of his third swing change as a professional, and "cerebral" is never a good word to describe anyone's golf game.

When asked "how far Tiger has come" since 2010, his newest swing coach Sean Foley had this to say:

"The thing is people ask, is he back? You can't go back. There's no such thing as back. Every day is a new day. We evolve or we don't. We probably as people evolve or devolve. We all go through phases of evolving and then we devolve."

While Foley's response may be the most convoluted way to answer this question, it does shed some light on Tiger's philosophy going forward.

Essentially, it appears that his newest swing tweaks are to ensure that he can play injury-free for the next two decades, but if he wants to evolve, sacrifices have to be made.

Tiger's sacrifice may be performance for health.

In other words, we might be able to count on the man to play at least twenty tournaments a year, but should not expect a return to the "Tiger Slam" days.

With a fresh Masters win under his belt, it would not be surprising to see Bubba Watson outplay Woods at Augusta yet again, and if that were to happen, his position as the American "anti-Tiger" would be solidified.

It remains to be seen exactly how the Tiger vs. Bubba showdown will swing in 2013, but the latter may just be the favorite, due to his superior ball striking, stronger psyche, and recent outperformance under high-pressure situations.


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