Bubba Watson is a two-time Masters champion (2012, 2014) and also one of the PGA Tour’s most emotional and compassionate players.
He displayed his caring side by committing Tuesday to play in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, scheduled for Nov. 2 to 5 at TPC Summerlin.
Much of his decision to play in Las Vegas for the first time since 2007 was based on his desire to support the community in the wake of the mass shooting that occurred Oct. 1 at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival.
“Heartbreaking to hear about the Vegas shooting,” Watson wrote in a tweet the day after the festival. “My prayers go out to the victims, their families and the first responders #PrayForVegas.”
Watson wears his emotions on his sleeve and sobbed after winning for the first time on the PGA Tour at the 2010 Travelers Championship because his thoughts were with his father, Gerry, who was in the final stages of throat cancer. He was also very emotional after winning each Masters green jacket and cried following the United States victory at the 2016 Ryder Cup when he served as a vice captain.
Also, Watson and his wife, Angie, have adopted two children and true to form, he was overcome with emotion when each child joined their family.
Watson was one of several PGA Tour players who used social media to support the Las Vegas community in the days following the tragedy. He’s the first big-name player to decide to play in the Shriners because of it.
“I’ve been wanting to come back to Las Vegas for a while and I felt it was important to show support this year,” Watson said Tuesday. “It is a great tournament and I’m very happy to support the Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Las Vegas community.”
Shriners Open tournament director Patrick Lindsey said the event is “very proud and appreciative” of Watson’s commitment. “The reason he is coming is to support the community,” Lindsey said, “and that is a tremendous gesture from one of the top players in the world.”
Local players scheduled to join Watson in the field include Scott Piercy, Charley Hoffman, Kevin Na and Alex Cejka. Other commitments are Graeme McDowell, JB Holmes, Gary Woodland, Billy Horschel, Tony Finau and Bryson Dechambeau.
On Tuesday, Tiger Woods was given full medical clearance by his back surgeon to begin playing golf again, but the odds are against him appearing in Las Vegas. Woods won for the first time on the PGA Tour at the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational and has not announced a timetable for a return to competitive golf. He only recently began hitting his driver in practice sessions.
Watson, who will turn 39 on the Shriners Open’s final day, has played in Las Vegas twice before, finishing tied for 44th in 2006 and tied for 14th in 2007. He has nine career PGA Tour wins and ranked 75th in the 2017 FedEx Cup standings. He finished 21st in 2016 and fifth in 2015.
The TPC Summerlin course played during the Shriners can favor long hitters and Watson ranked 20th in driving distance in 2017 with a 305-yard average.
Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @LVGolfInsider.