Bubba hosting Wounded Warrior at Barclays, and having fun doing itAugust 21, 2012
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- The doctors told Nick Bradley he would never walk again.
Well, not only is he walking, but on Wednesday -- exactly four years and 19 days after the vehicle he was driving in Afghanistan was struck by a 20-ton anti-tank IED -- Bradley will caddy for Rickie Fowler in the pro-am at The Barclays.
Bradley calls Aug. 3, 2008 his "alive date." But no one was quite sure what kind of life the Air Force staff sergeant was facing after the Taliban attack. Every bone in his face and right arm was crushed, his hip and knee were broken, and his right foot, also pulverized, remains partially paralyzed. He has six screws in his face, 51 more in his arm and 11 in his right hand, as well one six inches long in his right hip.
"But I have 20-20 vision and all my teeth," Bradley said good-naturedly. "Kind of funny, isn't it?"
As he talks, Bradley takes his phone out of his pocket and scrolls to a photo of mangled metal that was the vehicle he was driving that day. He's had 16 different surgeries and spent countless hours in physical and occupational therapy since the attack.
And this week at The Barclays, Bradley has been able to get up-close-and-personal with the game he loves. Not only is he toting Fowler's bag on Wednesday, but one of the young pro's best buddies, Bubba Watson, is bunking with Bradley, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Rutkowski and Russ Holden this week at a lakeside home near Bethpage State Park.
Holden, who is the founder and CEO of Caddy for a Cure, contacted Watson and asked if he'd like to stay with the group. Watson's reaction? "A free house? Yeah, I want to stay there," the reigning Masters champ said with a grin. So Watson, his wife Angie, the couple's son Caleb and caddy Ted Scott arrived Monday night and were immediately treated to steaks on the grill.
"We just talked and asked them about the Wounded Warrior, asked them about what happened, and he showed me a picture of the car that blew up and all the things," Watson said. "... I'm in awe of them, they're in awe of me, but I'm really just watching them and learning from them about how much they fight for our freedoms not knowing who we are, not knowing anything about us.
"They're out there taking bullets and dodging bullets for us to give us freedom to do what we do. It was an honor for me to stay with them and be a part of just communicating with them and talking with them and hopefully cheering them up a little bit when they get a little down."
Bradley said Watson, whose father was a Green Beret, is a "pretty laid back guy, just like I am." He calls the four-time PGA TOUR champ a "comedian," as well as a "sweet, humble guy."
"We were up pretty late sharing stories," Bradley said.
"When we told our stories about being in combat, he was all ears," added Rutkowski, who is stationed at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. "And we were all ears when he was talking about golf."
The three were also party to Watson's latest videos shared on his Twitter account. The people who own the house had asked if Watson could take a picture in front of the house so they could show their friends he had stayed there. So Watson talked with Holden and suggested the video.
"I just said, why don't we just hit balls off the deck into the lake? I can do it," Watson reported. "He goes, you don't have that much room. I said, I can do it."
So Watson got his 4-wood, put the ball on a throw pillow, unleashed that powerful swing of his and sent the ball rocketing toward the water. Then the man whose trick-shot videos landed him on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" decided to up the ante.
"I said, 'let's move this indoors,'" Watson recalled. "So I moved it indoors and hit off the rug. ... The little railing (on the deck) is about five feet high, four feet high, so hitting 4-wood off the tight carpet was a little tight, but I just got it up and made it out of the house."
• Video: Watch Bubba hit a ball indoors
No lamps were broken. No windows were shattered.
"I'm all right at golf sometimes," Watson said with a grin, joking that he tried to kick the carpet so any divots wouldn't show.
"He cut it out into the water," Bradley marveled. "It was pretty sweet. For sure I would have broken something if I'd tried something like that."
Watson's living arrangements for the first week of the FedExCup Playoffs were spontaneously revealed when someone asked him about playing in the Ryder Cup. Bradley, Rutkoswki and Holden were standing at the back of the interview room near the TV cameras, quietly taking it all in.
"For me to put the red, white and blue stripes on and wear that badge proudly, it's the only time I get to be somewhat close to military," Watson said. "I'm not as tough as those guys, but somewhat to have a flag on, so it's just representing our country.
"That's our Olympics right now, to represent our country, trying to be the best I can be for our country, win, lose or draw, you still want to represent your country well, so it's an honor to put the red, white and blue stripes on and play for the USA."