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Bubba Carries a Big Heart & Big Stick into Medinah
The self-taught left-handed savant who wields a pink-shafted driver pretty much hits the ball where he wants and how he wants; and he pretty much says what he wants and how he wants. In the Welsh countryside at the 2010 Ryder Cup, Bubba Watson and partner Jeff Overton did a lot of fist-pumping and rah-rahing on the fairways of Celtic Manor. And Bubba makes no apologies for it, saying he was just trying to turn the tide on what he felt (ultimately, correctly) was a losing day.
That was Watson's first Ryder Cup experience. On foreign soil. Before he was a Masters champion. Before he became a folk hero when he snapped-hooked a pitching wedge out of the trees on the first playoff hole at Augusta National to within a kick-in birdie for his first major title.
Now, when Bubba talks, people listen. And Bubba usually talks with his driver.
With his record in the 2010 Cup at 1-3, he'll be looking to improve this year, on home soil, in front of U.S. fans.
A day before the first tee shots in the 2012 Ryder Cup, Bubba sat down with the media and talked about ping-pong, the desire to win the Cup, and his upcoming duel with the world's other big hitter, Nicolas Colsaerts of Team Europe.
MODERATOR: 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson joining us at the 39th Ryder Cup at the Medinah Country Club. Been quite a year, Masters victory in April, adopted a baby, now the chance to represent your country in the Ryder Cup at home for the first time. Would be nice, I'm sure, to come away with the Ryder Cup trophy itself on Sunday evening.
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, it would. It's been a great year. Adopting a son was the best thing this year. Looking forward to the Ryder Cup. Any time you can play in the Ryder Cup and put the red, white and blue on your sleeve and represent your country is an honor, it's a privilege, and hopefully win, lose or draw we represent our country well.
Q. How has it been different for you this week at home getting ready for this as opposed to Wales two years ago.
BUBBA WATSON: Obviously this is my first team event in the U.S. Looking forward to it. The crowd has been amazing. They're really pumped about it, our team is pumped about it being here in the U.S. Wales was different obviously because the crowd was more for them than for us, but they respected our golf, they respected good shots. So I'm hoping that our crowd does the same thing, they respect good shots from the other team, as well, and looking forward to getting started. It seems like we've been here for a few days now and we're just ready to play golf.
Q. How do you work up a healthy dislike for these European players that you spend so much time with on the Tour?
BUBBA WATSON: You know, it's not really a dislike. It's funny, it's we're friends with all of them. We've played golf with all of them for years. We know them all. We know their families. It's just that trophy. It's funny, it's just that little trophy we want to win so bad. So it's really not a dislike for the other team. It's just a dislike for any opponent, no matter who the opponent is. It's a dislike for us, we just want to win. It's just like the FedEx. We were mad at Snedeker because he won, and I wanted to win it. But now I'm pulling for that guy. It's funny. It'll really that little trophy. You just want to win. I mean, we are in the sport to win. We don't look who it is we're trying to beat; we just want to win it.
Q. No.15, what yardage do you hope it plays at? Can you hit 3 wood there, and do you have to start it over the water?
BUBBA WATSON: I want that yardage to play whatever it takes for me to make birdie. If I make birdie, I don't care what the yardage is. For me, it's a tough hole from way up to reach it because the way I like to cut the ball. My 4 wood, depending on wind conditions, I can get there.
Depending on format, whatever format I'm in, it's going to be a tough situation. If it was alternate shot and it's my turn, I might want to just lay up and let my guy wedge it in there or whatever. There's a lot of factors that go on with that, wind condition, pin location, how you're hitting your ball that day; if we made it that far in our match. There's a lot of things that are going to determine what goes on at that moment.
Q. Representing your country in this atmosphere, how much different and challenging will it be to harness your emotions tomorrow?
BUBBA WATSON: You know, it's going to be challenging because we want to win so bad. This is our first time - or my first time - in the U.S. with the crowd behind me, so I'll probably get really excited. So I will probably need to just slow down, walk slower, do a lot of things slower, just so I can get back to some kind of normalcy.
Q. You're an emotional guy as you showed at Augusta, and your captain was saying yesterday that both of you had cried at a captain's dinner on Tuesday night and would doubtless cry some more this week. Can you say how the emotion of this event is getting to you?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, it's the United States flag. You know, the military, the military that wears our flag everywhere they go, they give us freedom to play golf, to play the Ryder Cup. So for me, I haven't been in the military yet, unless there's a draft I'm probably not going to be in the military. So for me it's the one chance I get to represent our country and hopefully represent our country well. So the passion just comes from that; all the people that pull for me, cheer for me; even if people that don't like me in the U.S., now they cheer for me in this one event.
Q. Can you talk a little more about the parallels of playing for your country, as opposed to a military side of things? Are there any sort of links between working as a team, the two sides of it?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, there's really not any links because they're doing something that really means something. We're playing golf. We're helping raise the game of golf; helping raise some charity dollars and stuff like that to teach this game of golf to some young people. But the military does a lot more than we do, so there's no similarities except we have the United States flag on us; that's it. I mean, we couldn't even compare. There's no way to compare us to the military. It's just the one chance I get to represent our country, and hopefully I represent it well.
Q. Just to follow up on that subject of passion, we've seen in previous Ryder Cups certain unsavory incidents from players and fast; we have seen a few intemperate comments this week on both sides. Do you think there's a point at which sort of passion and the patriotism and the fervor of the whole thing can go a little bit over the top, or is any sort of tactic justified in getting the win?
BUBBA WATSON: You know, over the top, when it comes to a sport, whatever the sport is, you get emotional. Sometimes you get really excited, and I don't think it's over the top, unless you go in their face, I guess. But at Wales everybody makes fun of what me and Jeff Overton did at Wales. Our team was losing. I think every part of our team was losing. The other groups were losing. There was a hole next to us, so I cheered, trying to get the people next to us, my teammates next to us the hole over, to get excited. To see that we did something good. And I was trying to pump up my teammate. We were losing that match when he holed out and we started cheering. It wasn't trying to show off. We were losing every match; it wasn't about showing the other team up. It was just about trying to get everyone excited about the U.S. Obviously it didn't work, because we lost. But that was my attempt to try to help.
Q. Last year you played under Fred Couples in the Presidents Cup. This week he is an assistant captain. I'm wondering if you could compare or contrast his approach this week as sort of being a little more of an assistant than the actual guy in charge.
BUBBA WATSON: Fred Couples is about the same. He didn't really say much then, and he hasn't really said much now. He just let me we're all great golfers. If we're here at the Ryder Cup, we've done something well. So these guys are just letting us play golf, letting us practice on our own, letting us do our things. They're picking out our outfits helping us with the food. Fred Couples - we all know him and we love him. Hall of Famer now. He's just laid back and just lets us do our thing.
Q. Ian Poulter has established himself as a great Ryder Cup competitor. He was in here yesterday and he said he attributed that to just his sheer passion for the event. And then I asked him about the proximity that a lot of the European players have with the Americans and has it taken the edge off a little bit and he said no, absolutely not, as much as you guys can be mates and friends and see each other on a regular basis, he said when it comes to Ryder Cup, we want to, quote, unquote, kill them. Can you relate to that passion, that motivation?
BUBBA WATSON: You've got to first look at it as a fan of golf, as a spectator of golf. I love golf. It's brought me here. It's got me a lot of things in my life. And as a fan of golf, Ian Poulter is an amazing story. Love Ian Poulter to death. It's amazing watching where his career started and where it is now. It's amazing to listen to him talk about where he picked up range balls, he worked in the pro shop, did everything, and now he's at the Ryder Cup. So I love his passion, I love, I respect him very much, and I love how passionate he is about winning it. That's the same way our team is. And again, it's the little gold Ryder Cup is what we're trying to get, and again, it doesn't matter who it is that I'm facing. If I was facing y'all or facing Poulter or facing Phil Mickelson, it's about winning the Cup. It's the same thing. I understand where Poulter is coming from. I love it. I love watching his passion. The guy is great for the game of golf. And I think we all do that, and we're not trying to disrespect or make fun of any other player. It's just we're trying to win that trophy, and his passion is about that trophy just like our passion is about winning that trophy. We want to be able to lift that trophy on Sunday night, so yeah, we all have the same passion and the same drive, it's to win that trophy.
Q. This course seems to have been set up perfectly for you. Do you enjoy that? And if you get drawn to play with Nicolas Colsaerts who actually drives it longer than you on average, would that be something to see?
BUBBA WATSON: As a fan of golf, again, I'd love to see him. I've never watched him hit balls, I've never seen him swing. It would be fun to play with him. It would be fun to play first into the greens. It would be fun to do and watch a great talent like himself. So you're talking about no rough on this course. Some of the trees are missing; so you're looking at great golf out of the trees when you hit one wayward. Everybody has the ability to hit the shot out of the trees. Let's see the big hook, the big cuts, over trees, under trees, around bunkers to make birdies. No matter what team it is, as a fan of golf, you should be excited about that, to watch great shots, great shots be produced to win matches, to lose matches, whatever it is.
Q. Is this course made for 'Bubba golf' then?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, think it's just made for a spectacular game of golf, no matter what team you're pulling for. I think that's what it's about. It's about growing this game; The PGA of America is about growing the game, growing the youth of the game, and I think these great shots that you're going to see from all parts of the golf course is going to be great.
The transcript for this interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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