Bubba Watson should have no problem hitting just the right spot on the sloping 11th green at Bethpage Black this week, considering he feathered a 4-wood shot into the water off Lloyd Harbor through a doorway, over a railing from the Haug family's living room.
"No, I didn't break anything," the current Masters champion said. "I'm all right at golf sometimes."
No argument from anyone who saw him hit a 40-yard bender from the trees to win a playoff at Augusta this past April. Back then, he was performing for a title. This time, he executed a shot for friendship and country, which mean about as much to Watson as major titles.
He eschewed a practice round on the Black Course until Wednesday, when he plays a pro-am (alongside Nets point guard Deron Williams) in preparation for the first round of the Barclays Thursday. Watson did come to Bethpage to practice and for a news conference. But in the meantime, he agreed to set up a video for Rebecca and Albert Haug, who offered their home for the week.
Watson first hit a shot from the deck, off a chair cushion. That went fine. "Then I said, 'Let's move this indoors,' " the golfer said. That was meant as entertainment for his fellow house guests from the Wounded Warriors project that the Haugs support, retired Staff Sgt. Nick Bradley of Dallas and active duty Lt. Col. Michael Rutkowski, who serves in Huntsville, Ala.
Bradley has seen his share of amazing things, including the wreckage of a vehicle he was driving after it struck a 20-pound bomb. Even he was impressed by Watson's feat.
"There was the carpet, and out there, there was a fence about this high," Bradley said, holding his hand about 4 feet off the ground. "He took it from the carpet over that fence and put it out into the water. It was sweet, it really was."
The Masters champion considered it the least he could do. He had been approached about staying in the Lloyd Harbor home by Russ Holden of the Caddie for a Cure charity, which supports the Wounded Warriors Project (the Haugs' son Stephen is a board member of the charity). "I said, 'A free house? Yeah, I want to stay there,' " Watson said.
More than anything, he wanted to spend the week talking with soldiers who have been in combat. Watson's late father, Gerry, was a Green Beret.
So Monday night, the Watsons and the soldiers sat around eating steaks (the Army officers cooked) and talked. "I'm really learning from them," Watson said. "It was an honor for me to stay with them and be a part of just communicating with them."
He was moved when he saw the photo of Bradley's vehicle, and how the soldier has recovered from massive injuries. Watson heard of how Bradley was told he never would walk again, and of how Bradley not only walks but will caddie for Rickie Fowler on Wednesday.
Bradley said of his famous housemate: "We had a good time. He's laid back and I'm very laid back. Nice guy. He loves the military, so we were able to relate to that. Maybe it gives him a little break from that, I don't know."
In his last trip to New York, Watson had a great time with the Mets at Citi Field. But he is not going back this week. The golfer said, "I'm going to be talking military stuff, acting like I'm tough."