Bubba’s story is that of the classic underdog: A self-taught, slightly reckless player whose game has traditionally leaned toward the good-but-not-great variety comes in at the last minute and takes the title, leaving more than a couple stunned opponents and betters in the dirt. Leave it to a Southerner to know how to put on a good show.
Here, Bubba tells us about his approach to the game, becoming a dad, and what it means to be a ‘New-Age Redneck.’
When did you start golfing?
When I was 6 with my dad. I loved it from the beginning and I was good at it. My parents were both athletes. I tried other sports, but golf was what I was really good at.
How did you get your nickname?
When I was born, my parents said I looked like a football player because I had really chubby cheeks. Bubba Smith was really popular back then.
Who is your golf hero?
Payne Stewart. He had so much enthusiasm for the game, and won 11 PGA Tour events and three major championships during his career. Unfortunately, he died too young—in a plane crash when he was 42.
You’ve referred to yourself as a “New-Age Redneck.” What did you mean by that?
I’ve never been hunting. I fish off the dock in my lake house, but I don’t like touching the fish. I don’t listen to country. I don’t dip or wear boots. I don’t do a lot of the things people stereotype with country living, but I sound country and my name is Bubba.”
What is your most prized possession?
General Lee, the car from The Dukes of Hazzard. It’s the first one that jumped on the show, and I got it in mint condition.
Golf is such a calculated sport, but you come across as being more laid-back. What is your approach toward the sport?
My dad said you should always have fun with it. You have to enjoy the game. Of course you’re going to have good and bad days, but you just have to appreciate it all and have fun with it. I’ve never had a lesson. I don’t practice much on the range. I learned to play like a country boy, so I bring a different style to the table.
What is your favorite course to play on?
Augusta is very special because not a lot of people get to play on it. And so is St. Andrews [Links Trust] in Scotland. But I have a soft spot for Stonebrook Golf Club in Pace, Florida, where I learned how to play.
How do you unwind when you are on the PGA Tour?
My wife and I adopted a baby last year. When I’m with him, I forget all about golf.
What are you thinking as you go into this year’s Masters as a defending champ?
It doesn’t matter what I do. I just want to represent my family and friends. I just have to do whatever I can. No matter what the outcome is, I just have to do what I can. I’ve played there before, so I just need to try to recreate that.
Seriously y’all, Bubba might be the most interesting guy in golf. Have you heard about his hovercraft golf cart?
And what about his charity hip-hop group, the Golf Boys? The latest song, “2.Oh” was written by Mat Kearney. It’s actually really catchy and hilarious. We’re crushing hard.