Bubba's win gets me blubbing as well

HEART ON SLEEVE: Bubba Watson wells up as he leaves the 18th green after winning the Masters.
HEART ON SLEEVE: Bubba Watson wells up as he leaves the 18th green after winning the Masters.

In the end, it was as predictable as his play was unconventional.

"The Bubba blubber" it was being called, for the second time in three years, within a couple of hours of Bubba Watson's second victory in golf's Masters tournament on Monday morning.

In some senses, I take exception to that, because I appreciate his ability to wear his emotions on his sleeve.

I mean, if you can't cry tears of joy when you've achieved one of the greatest feats in your field of endeavour, controlled the emotions that must have been threatening to run wild, as you focused on your objective, taking one measured step at a time towards it, then when can you?

Which is not to say I think everyone who achieves something spectacular should cry about it, but I appreciate those who feel comfortable enough to show that emotion.

It's probably not the Kiwi way, I should observe, without wanting to sound critical.

"We're more English than the English," a colleague once suggested to me. Is that true? I don't know, but I thought I detected a small element of criticism in the tone of the responses to Bubba's tears.

I loved it, just like I loved watching towering Australian lock Nathan Sharpe tear up when the national anthems were sung before the 2003 Rugby World Cup final in Australia. Whatever anyone else thinks, there's an element of vulnerability about that scenario that I really appreciate.

That may be because it's how I've always felt I would respond in a situation like that. Plainly, I've never won the Masters, or played international rugby, let alone in a World Cup final, but I've always thought that's how I would have responded if I had, particularly if I'd been lining up to represent my country.

I wasn't pulling for Bubba Watson in either of his Masters victories, to be honest.

In the first one, in 2012, he was up against South African Louis Oosthuizen, winner of the 2010 Open Championship, in a playoff, and naturally my allegiance was with the latter.

Returning from spending the Easter Weekend in Central Otago, I was following updates of a closely-fought playoff on my phone. I think it was Cromwell where I discovered Watson had prevailed.

This year, again, I naturally hoped one of the seven South Africans in the 97-strong field - there were no Kiwis - might produce something, but as it became clear that wasn't to happen, I settled on one of the game's great gentlemen, Matt Kuchar.

"Kooch" had finished in the top 10 for the last two years, and when he finished the third round one off Watson and Jordan Spieth's pace, it looked like this might finally be his year, a feeling that grew when he chipped in at the third hole for a share of the final round lead.

But that was as good as it got for Kuchar, who at least has another Masters top 10 on his CV to console him.

I say I hadn't pulled for Watson, but I found myself celebrating his victory nonetheless as I watched the finish - I'd had to go out briefly and recorded the last 20-odd minutes - tears running down my own cheeks.

Call me a sook if you like, but that's how I responded.

There was something in the way Watson put his hands on his knees to steady himself as the last short putt dropped that reminded me of one of the most emotional Masters victories I've seen, by Ben Crenshaw, who won his second title just after the death of his long- time coach and mentor, Harvey Penick.

The tears that flowed then were an indication of just how close to the emotional edge he'd been, his determination to honour Penick somehow winning out over the instinct to grieve him, until the final putt had dropped.

It wasn't just Bubba's tears that made me emotional, and delighted about his victory; it was also the sight of his 2-year-old son, Caleb, wandering out to greet him after the win, clearly unaware of what was going on, but in a hurry to catch up with his Dad.

It reprised a few moments for me with my own children, particularly one when I arrived back in Johannesburg after the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

As I emerged into the arrivals hall, bright lights meant I couldn't make out any of the people waiting there, but I distinctly heard a cry of "Daddy!" and then looked down to see my 3-year-old daughter running, barefoot, towards me.

Special moments, ones that never leave us, in spite of everything.

When I was a teenager, I remember my young nephew hurting himself somehow, and shedding a tear or two.

"Come on champ, cowboys don't cry," one of my two older brothers, his uncle, told him. Especially in front of their horses," chimed in his son, the slightly older cousin of the injured party.

Wonderful stuff, but this week, I was reminded how much I appreciate it when some of the biggest gunslingers in the West do cry. For me, it's an indication they understand how special their achievements are, and I'll never be critical of that.

The Timaru Herald