To those without a full time interest in golf, Watson is something of an exception in the golfing world. A left hander, he rejected golf lessons as a boy and has a style of play considered unconventional when compared to the top pros, who analyse every aspect of their game with mathematical precision.
The Green jacket is to golf what a World Series bracelet is to poker. Not all great players will ever win one, and certainly there are great players that haven’t. But like the winner’s bracelet in poker it will always be something others strive towards, and winning it ensures the respect of peers.
The similarities between golf and poker go further than just the rewards, and that the two pursuits boast similar aspects (those ‘unconventional styles’ and that ‘mathematical precision’ sounds eerily like poker-speak).
Each pursuit takes a lifetime to master; Watson started as a small boy and stories of poker champions playing penny poker on their grandmother’s knee are plentiful. Each game is played by millions around the world, while only a handful ever goes on to win the most sought after prizes.
On a professional level the similarities go even further.
Just as in poker tournaments, where the winner of one event may not even reach the money in the next, it’s often the case in golf, with the winner of one event sometimes hardly figuring in the next major tournament, or the opposite, coming out of knowehere to win a major title.
Darren Clarke came out of nowhere to win The Open Championship in 2011, but had won only one event in the eight years prior. Conversely, Robert Varkonyi won the World Series main event in 2002 but has yet to repeat that success on a big stage. Regardless, he is still considered to be among the best players in the game.
Just as Bubba Watson may not win his next event, neither may Raul Mestre after winning the IFP World Championship. It’s not a fault, just the nature of the game, and something golfers and poker players learn to live with.
As Celina Lin, a successful poker player, once said of their profession, after being eliminated from a major event; “we travel the world getting knocked out of tournaments.”
It’s all part of the job for players like Lin, just as it is for Watson, both of whom grow used to departing tournaments early while at the same time accumulating lucrative winnings.
In fact Watson himself could have been mistaken for a poker player speaking after his win. “As of less than two years ago, I didn’t have a win,” he said. “Now I’ve got four. My goal, my dream has always been to have ten wins. This is a step in the right direction.”