Paul Newberry: Bubba Watson really loves France!
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Bubba Watson — or “Boo-ba,” as he is known in these parts — is trying hard to shed his image as the Ugly American.
He doesn’t just like France.
He LOVES France!
The museums. The culture. The food.
All of it.
You almost expected him to start speaking French (with a bit of a Southern drawl, perhaps) during his news conference Wednesday, two days before the start of the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in the rather nondescript suburbs outside Paris.
“Gosh, I love it. This is a beautiful place,” Watson gushed. “I mean, it’s high fashion. It’s fashion week. I don’t look like I dress — I wear T-shirts all the time — but I have some high fashion in my closet. I just don’t ever bust it out.”
Hmm, that sounds a bit different from his assessment back in 2011, when Booba seemed none too impressed with the land of fromage and champagne.
After missing the cut at the same course where he’s playing this week, Watson griped about a dearth of security, the lack of ropes to guide him to the next hole, the constant snapping of pictures by the spectators (which seems downright quaint these days, huh?).
Then he pretty much dissed the entire country.
During a tour of Paris, Watson recounted seeing “the big tower” (that would be the Eiffel Tower), as well “an arch, whatever I rode around in a circle” (we’re assuming he meant the Arc de Triomphe). He even popped into a museum that “starts with an L.” The Louvre? Yep, “one of those,” Watson said dismissively.
Of course, he would have us believe now it was all a joke, taken the wrong way by one of those pesky journalists with their notepads and tape recorders that document exact words.
“It was sad that people wrote or took my comments or whatever I did — because I don’t really remember, it’s so long ago — but it was sad that they did that because I loved it. I’ve always loved it,” Watson insisted, pretty much revising everything you might have believed about him. “I love traveling. I mean, that’s why I have played around the world, I love traveling and I love cultures.”
Outside the media center, the stirring melody of Edith Piaf’s “Non, je ne regrette rien” drifted over the grounds.
In English, “No regrets.”
Watson curiously mentioned Richard Mille pays him to sponsor his luxury brand of watches. That make him Booba’s French friend … so, well, there you go.
“Obviously Richard Mille respects me enough to sign me to wear his watches,” Watson said. “He has a lot of love for me. He understands that sometimes the media takes it a different way than it was meant to be.”
Then, in the closest thing to a mea culpa, Watson acknowledged those words he barely remembers did have the profound effect of making him a better man.
“It was sad, but I learned from it,” he went on. “It made me mature as a person and understand that I’ve got to be more mature and more careful how I word things.
“Hopefully,” he added with a smile, “I worded all that right.”
Watson wants it all to go away, but there’s no escaping what he said seven years ago.
Chances are, he’ll be a convenient target for the French patrons all weekend.
A well-coiffed group that watched him practice Wednesday made it clear they’ll be doling out the Gallic version of the Bronx cheer any time Watson shows his face. They weren’t interested in his apologies or excuses. Speaking among themselves in French, they called him a despicable person whose assessment of their glorious country was unforgivable.
Viva Le France!
But Webb Simpson, who traditionally plays with Watson at these team events, doesn’t expect any major issues if they’re paired together again.
“Over here, he’s ‘Booba,’ so we’ve been calling him ‘Booba,’ ” Simpson said. “The fans over here are great. They are very respectful and understand the game. I know it heightens it a little bit, the Ryder Cup, and I plan on hearing things that I might not like, but it’s the Ryder Cup.”
Simpson was asked if Watson’s knowledge of France and its people had improved at all over the last seven years.
“It has,” Simpson replied. “He just gets the terms confused every now and then.”