As Fuzzy Zoeller regrettably and infamously reminded us when Tiger Woods won his first Green Jacket, Masters winners will always be judged by their culinary choices — one of Augusta’s many traditions includes the reigning Masters champion selecting the menu for the following year’s pre-tournament champions’ dinner. That is why we have to pay attention when Bubba Watson’s first thought after slipping on his second clover cloak on Sunday was “where’s the nearest Waffle House?” Bubba, the self-proclaimed and self-taught small-town hacker from Bagdad, FL (population 1,490 and hard-by Pensacola) who married his University of Georgia sweetheart is everything we say we want from a champion – except we really don’t.

 

Bubba from Bagdad is a complicated fella, a skinny kid who absolutely mashes his tee shots but is just as prone to break down in tears once he reaches the green. He is a master of making intentionally horrid music video parodies with his fellow golfers, but the video cameras have also caught him treating his caddy like Pete Townsend’s guitar.

 

One would think that Bubba’s obvious vulnerability and complexity would fully ingratiate him to the casual golf community, but the jury is still out on how we feel about Watson as the new warden of Augusta. At the end of the day, he’s just so…Bubba. Not especially gifted on any other course, not particularly memorable on any other weekend.

 

Golf has always struggled with the elitist vs. every-man dichotomy. The sport likes its humility, but only if it’s sprinkled with regality. Sure, a once-a-generation personality like John Daly can disrupt the golf cart every so often, but his embraceability is directly related to his disastrous ability to function as a human being. It’s not enough to fail – one has to fail spectacularly in order to truly be accepted by the golf community.

 

The sport, in truth, is built upon deification and unflinching reverence for its heroes. We can cuddle with Bubba for a few days, but we really want to save our biggest hugs for Phil Mickelson. While Phil has been known to take his Green Jacket to a Krispy Kreme drive-thru, the golf cognoscenti can rest comfortably knowing that his next stop is the tarmac of a private airport where he’ll fly on his perfect private jet with his perfect family to their perfect home in San Diego or Phoenix, or wherever else they want to live their perfect life. We took solace in branding Phil as the working man’s hero, even though he never had to work for his next paycheck. He was the hard-luck, aw-shucks loser who could never catch a break, until he started to fulfill his destiny as a multi-time Major champion and the ultimate fan-hero, all the while laughing his way to the bank.

 

In truth, Bubba is far more relatable than Phil or other faux-every-men like Fred Couples, yet we’re not really sure how to classify the grinders who happen to catch lightning in a bottle once or twice. The closest case study may have been Rocco Mediate going toe-to-toe with Tiger at the 2008 US Open, but our full appreciation for Rocco was only realized when he served as a foil to the biggest star on the planet. Rocco in a vacuum was simply a witty guy who made us chuckle but never made us tune in on Sundays.

 

That, of course, brings us back to Tiger and to coping with the gaping void left by his absence this season. In full disclosure, I had a head-start on jumping on the Tiger-worship wagon, as he was my downstairs neighbor at Stanford. It was there that he began to morph into the he’s-one-of-us-but-not-really persona that so often propels golfers to stardom.

 

We may have gotten a glimpse of the future with 20 year-old Jordan Spieth knocking on the door at Augusta, and doing so with incredible poise, charm and competitiveness. However, we still pine for Phil and Tiger, and our first Augusta Sunday without those protagonists in 20 years, yielded the lowest TV ratings in a decade, not to mention a back nine that was devoid of drama.

 

The 2014 PGA Tour season may wind up being a lot more Waffle House than Phil-et mignon, and I have to imagine it will leave us hungry for something more.

 

What are your thoughts on Bubba taking the title at the Masters? How does Tiger’s absence impact your interest in the sport? Let’s talk golf and pretend that golf weather is finally here to stay in the comments section below! You can always find me on Twitter @endbadly.