Bubba Watson can see his return to Augusta National Golf Club in a blur of orange topped by the Confederate flag speeding down Magnolia Lane.
Watson, the newly crowned champion of the Masters Tournament, owns the General Lee, the brightly painted 1969 Dodge Charger that was featured in the 1979-85 television show “The Dukes of Hazzard.” The car, with the colors of the Confederacy on its roof and racing number “01” on the doors -- was purchased at auction by Watson in January.
Along with a Ford Raptor pickup truck, it’s the main transportation for Watson, who said it would look great driving up to the club in Augusta, Georgia, where he won the golf season’s first major championship three days ago.
“I don’t know how much they would love it but I would love to,” Watson said in an interview today. “When you have the General Lee, you drive the General Lee.”
Watson is a shaggy haired, self-taught, left-handed golfer from Bagdad, Florida, who’s gained fans for his everyman persona and willingness to show his emotions on the course. He won his first major at the Masters on April 8 by beating Louis Oosthuizen in a sudden-death playoff, hooking an approach shot from out of the trees for what became a championship-winning par.
For the last two days, Watson has worn his Masters champion green jacket in a New York media tour that’s included at least a dozen television appearances and a half-dozen radio interviews.
The 33-year-old Watson paid $110,000 for the General Lee, and he might not need to shell out any money for his next vehicle. The self-professed car nut doesn’t count an automaker among his sponsors, and that is an endorsement opportunity his agent, Jens Beck, said he plans to explore.
“He’s bought more cars in the last five years than anybody I’ve ever represented,” Beck said in an interview. “Having a car-company sponsorship, that would be very easy for him.”
Beck said he’s fielded inquiries from “all over the spectrum” since Watson won. He said he is focused on servicing Watson’s current sponsors and then finding an appropriate fit for future endorsements, which won’t happen this week.
“It’s important that he gets to be that person with the brand that he is with us, that they accept that Bubba is Bubba,” Beck said. “We don’t want to script Bubba and we don’t want sponsors to script him.”
Watson’s sponsorships include golf clubs by Ping, a unit of Phoenix-based Karsten Manufacturing Corp.; Acushnet Co.’s Titleist golf balls and FootJoy golf shoes; Richard Mille watches; Motorola Mobility Inc. fitness device Motoactv; Travis Mathew clothing; and green-energy company Schuco International KG.
As with the General Lee, Watson isn’t afraid to flash a little color in his golf-club choice. He uses a pink Ping driver in support of cancer research, commemorating his father, Gerry, who died of lung cancer in October 2010. Ping announced yesterday that it would produce 5,000 of the drivers, giving 5 percent of proceeds to charity.
Adding an automaker to his sponsors list intrigues Watson.
“Any car would be great, but obviously, American made, because I’m American and I love the USA, that would be a big plus for me,” Watson said. “I’d love to be part of the process of building cars.”
Watson long will be remembered for the 150-yard Masters-winning approach shot he hit from trampled pine straw amid the course’s magnolia trees, sweeping the ball from left to right before it came to rest 10 feet from the hole on No. 10.
“For right-handers it would be a lot harder because it’s a slice,” Watson said. “To hit it that low and slice it would be tough. Phil (Mickelson) could hit the shot, Mike Weir, Steve Flesch. All the lefties that play could hit that shot.”
Watson and his wife, Angie, recently adopted a baby boy. They live in Arizona and rent a home in Orlando, Florida, where he’ll likely move, according to Beck. Perhaps after a road trip next year, the General Lee also will find itself among the Magnolia trees at Augusta National.
“The gauges don’t work so it has 86 miles on it,” Watson said of the car’s past use, which included stunts such as flying off ramps and over TV bad guys. “When it jumped, it broke some stuff.”