Under fire Bubba Watson is hoping to win back the hearts of European fans with a little help from Graeme McDowell.
The American left-hander was dubbed “Blubba Watson” after the moaned his way through the French Open in Paris two weeks ago, then vowed never to return to Europe.
But he’s convinced that after apologising for his bad behaviour in France he will move on this week, learn all about links golf alongside McDowell and possibly challenge for the first time in an Open Championship.
Drawn with the Ulsterman and in-form Aussie Jason Day for the first two rounds of the Open, Bubba said: “Graeme grew up around links and it’s something I need to learn.
“I’d better watch him and see if I can make a cut because I’ve played in two Opens and I haven’t made the cut yet. I just haven’t learned the touch around the greens.
“I played links golf for the first time when I went to Ireland with my High School buddies when I was 18 and played six courses in about 13 days.
“I’ve played Ballybunion, down south Waterville, Lahinch twice, the par three where you hit over the rock. Royal County Down, Portrush, Portmarnock. We landed in Dublin and went around the coast. We got a hotel, played golf, got a hotel room, played more golf.
“Lahinch was the first links I ever played. We arrived at three in the afternoon, I remember I hit the green on the first and the fairway. Then on the second I missed it behind the bunker and I said to the caddie I was going to flop it.
“And the caddie said, you can’t do that. But I played it anyway and it went straight off the green. We played lahinch twice and played it the next morning and then went to the next course.
Watson made friends in Ireland but enemies in France when he called the Eiffel Tower as “that big tower” and dubbed the Arc de Triomphe as “this arch I drove round in a circle.”
He became a laughing stock when he described the Louvre as “a building starting with L”, then rapped French organisers for mobile phone chaos and lack of security before vowing never to return to play in Europe apart from the Open.
He was also accused to refusing to share a courtesy car in Paris with India ace SSP Chowrasia. But he denies that ever happened.
He said: “You are always going to have some bad press, words are going to come out the wrong way and I apologised to them for what I said.
“I didn’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings. I love it over here. It’s fun and hopefully I can improve and hopefully people can forgive me.”
As for refusing to share a courtesy car with Chowrasia, Watson said: “I would never do that. I had five people who went with me everywhere.
“Obviously I am not going to hop in a car and leave my wife. Most of the time it was me, my wife, my caddie, my manager and my trainer. So if I car has one free seat, I can’t just hop in.
“I shared with others players during the week. I don’t know all the guys but Francesco Molinari was one. I know him from our tour and he beat us in the Ryder Cup.”
Watson said he planned to do some sightseeing this week and hoped to see “a few castles near here.”
As for his promise never to play in Europe again apart from the Open, he’s changed his tune and will earn a tasty appearance fee for teeing it up in the Nordea Masters in Sweden next week.
Watson missed the cut at Turnberry two years ago and at St Andrews last year and blames his lack of subtlety around the greens.
He said: “The short game part, it’s so different to what we are used to. We’re used to just flopping it on the green but here you don’t sixty it like we do. I haven’t got the the touch are the greens yet to perform here.
“I can see [the shot] but I just can’t do it yet. Hopefully this year or hopefully in the near future I will start playing some good golf around here. Maybe watching Graeme and these guys will help me, especially guys that have performed pretty well in the last couple of majors.”