FORT WORTH, Texas — Denny Hamlin and Masters champion Bubba Watson aren’t exactly birds of a feather, but the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver and the PGA Tour golfer have enough in common to form the basis of a fast friendship.
Hamlin and Watson met in Phoenix in 2010, when, by prearrangement, they played nine holes together after a Cup practice. Watson is a race fan, and both he and Hamlin are devotees of the TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Watson, in fact, bought one of the signature “General Lee” cars used in the filming of the show and was all set to drive a parade lap at Phoenix International Raceway in February — until track officials put a stop the plan because of the Confederate flag emblazoned on the roof of the car.
If Hamlin and Watson share an interest in racing and in golf, which Hamlin plays avidly, the differences between the two are striking. Hamlin is single and isn’t averse to a good time. He has talked openly about wagering sums of money that would dwarf a typical worker’s annual salary.
Watson, on the other hand, is a family man and a devout evangelical Christian, but the differences between the two men hasn’t stopped them from forming a bond that has only strengthened over the last two years.
Watson asked Hamlin to caddie for him during last week’s Par-3 Competition at Augusta National Golf Club. Hamlin obliged. Hamlin also procured a fire suit for Watson to use when he drives the General Lee — and has a matching helmet on the way.
“Basically, he expressed that he was looking for a fire suit and a helmet to match his car,” Hamlin said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “And I said ‘Well, I can work on that and get that done.’ So he went and got his measurements done and I sent that fire suit to him, and, obviously, he was very excited about that.
“He’s still waiting on his helmet. I think that’s coming. He said if he’s going to drive around the General Lee, he’s got to have the full outfit. He’s not going to do it halfway.”
Needless to say, Hamlin was rooting for his friend when Watson tied Louis Oosthuizen on the back nine at Augusta on Sunday and won The Masters on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.
“I was just generally nervous for him on Sunday,” Hamlin said. “It was just one of those days where you are proud to be someone’s friend. It’s no different than when I was watching J. (Jason) White in a truck race with two laps to go with a chance to win.
“I’m nervous because it’s my friend and you hope that the guy does well. It’s just a great feeling. I felt like I won it myself.”