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Bubba Seeking Two Straight Majors
Talented but erratic, Bubba Watson was never quite able to fulfill the potential that many observers felt the long-hitting lefty from Bagdad, Fla., possessed. But all that changed in April at the Masters, when Watson closed with a 4-under 68 to tie Louis Oosthuizen in regulation and then pulled off one of his characteristic wild shots out of the woods to the green and beat the South African on the second playoff hole for his first major title.
In 2010, Watson could have broken his major maiden in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. But, in a three-hole aggregate playoff with Martin Kaymer, Watson came up a shot short after bogeying the third hole and giving his German opponent his first major.
Because of that Masters' victory, Watson is the only player with a chance this year to win the fabled Grand Slam. He's in San Francisco for the U.S. Open, which starts Thursday at the Olympic Club. Will the tight, eucalyptus-lined Lake course at Olympic fit his left and right ball flights? Only time will tell.
On Tuesday after a practice session, Bubba met with reporters and talked about his chances for back-to-back major title. For the first two rounds he'll be in one of the marquee pairings with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Here's what Watson had to say during the media Q&A.
MODERATOR: Good morning. We're very happy to welcome Bubba Watson to the media center at the 2012 U.S. Open this morning. Earlier this year Bubba claimed his first major victory at the Masters tournament. Can you talk about what life has been like in the few months since the Masters?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, the best part is I became a dad, adopted a son. That's the most important thing. Winning the tournament is great. Winning a Masters is great. But being a father is the best part. And being a better husband is a good part, too. So it's been fun. It's been life changing. Golf has been like the last thing. When you win a Major like that, I've talked to certain people, they've told me certain things, what I got out of it, when you win a major like that, golf is the last thing on anybody's mind. Everybody starts asking questions, and golf is the last thing. And my manager is like golf needs to be the first thing when I come back, and not about the media and doing all these fun things. It's been a tough road trying to get back to golf, trying to get back to focusing on golf. Now after missing a cut a couple of weeks ago, I got mad enough and started practicing.
MODERATOR: Your best finish is a tie for 5th in 2007. Can you talk about playing in The Open and what it's like coming to the Olympic this week.
BUBBA WATSON: Playing in The Open you know it's going to be a test of golf. You know it's going to be a fun test, a very difficult test. It's going to require mental focus that you've never had on most golf tournaments. Oakmont was probably the toughest course I've ever seen. The way it was set up. I think here matches it, maybe a little bit tougher. So we know that you can't worry about what par is or who you're playing with or what you're doing. You've just got to worry about how tough this golf course is and about your mental focus. You're going to make bogeys, not many birdies. It's about trying to make par somehow. You know the U.S. Open is going to challenge you in all aspects of your game. That's the challenge for all of us this week.
Q. You said you can't think about who you're playing with. But on Thursday you're playing with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Can you talk about what that's going to be like on the first two rounds of the U.S. Open with huge galleries out there?
BUBBA WATSON: It's going to be like Sunday at the Masters, huge galleries. It's going to be we've all played with each other before. They're not going to be focused on what I'm doing, hopefully I'm not going to be focused on what they're doing. We're all going to try to be hitting these little fairways and these little greens and somehow two-putt. We're not going to be focused on what each other is doing, we're going to be focused on the tough golf course at hand and the mental preparation. We need to be on top of our game for 18 holes. But it will be fun, though, it's two legends.
Q. I was out there this morning, you're walking the course with a 14 year old kid, looking pretty good out there. What was it like, what kind of guy is he?
BUBBA WATSON: He's obviously a very quiet guy, 14 year old. Playing with Aaron Baddeley. It was fun. It was fun talking to him. It was fun getting to know him. He was nervous, didn't talk much. Maybe I just talk too much. But it was cool. Hearing the story, talking to his caddie and him about how they got in and what all happened for them to get in. And then he flew over yesterday. And he signed up to play golf with me this morning. It was fun. It was fun getting to meet him and watching a talent like that. He's a big boy for 14, and he can hit it good. Obviously at 14 he's got a lot of growing up to do with his game. Obviously he can play. He's in the U.S. Open. It's not like it just luckily happened. He can play to get here.
Q. Compared to other U.S. Open courses how does Olympic - what kind of special shots does it favor or require?
BUBBA WATSON: Not that I know this in my head, but 13, what is that, the par 3, 13, the par 3 they shaved all the grass on the left side of the hole. So if you hit it - you could actually hit the ball on the green and end up in the hazard. I don't understand why they did that. But they did it. Next hole, 14, they moved the fairway over. I hit it in the middle of the fairway, but had to slice a 9 iron about 40 yards just to hit the green. It just doesn't make sense. Those are the two holes that really are in my mind that we don't even know how to play. Me and my caddie were going over them, me and the other golfers were going over them, talking about it on the putting green. Not sure what's going on with those two, but you try to make your pars and get out of there. That's the only two spots that I see that are iffy on the whole golf course. The other parts of the golf course are just tough. Just a hard test of golf.
And so it's just - it's going to be all about mental. You know you're going to make mistakes, you know you're going to make bogeys. You have to keep going. Par - what is par, 70? It's not really 70. It's over par. 5 over at the end of the week, just like at Oakmont, probably has a great shot at winning. Unless something changes dramatically with the weather or something like that.
Q. People talk about how winning your first major changes your life. And you made the rounds, you're on Letterman. What was the reality of that to actually live that and how has that changed your life?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, it's part of your dreams to do those. Being a golfer and being able to do those things is fun to do. You want to do those things. I didn't go right away after Augusta. I went home first. And my wife is like, you need to go do it. It's something you've always wanted to do. I went up and did all the media stuff. Having a son, it's a difficult situation for me, having a son the same time I won the Masters. There's more important things in life. Being there for my son, who never had a man's voice, never had a man around, I needed to be there for my son. And hopefully later on in life he understands that, that I won the Masters, but I was there for him and I talked about him a lot.
Q. Was it weird just being away from golf, playing so few competitive rounds since Augusta? Did you miss it?
BUBBA WATSON: I missed it for sure. I didn't play for a few weeks, didn't even touch a club. Just was trying to be a dad and a husband. It was something I needed, though. It got me away. It got me focused, it got me ready to play golf again. It got me missing it. You set your goal to play good in the majors. Me and my caddie, the whole team this winter set our goals to play good in the majors and then winning the first major. Now we've got to reset our goals. Now we're challenged. We're going to hopefully play good in the rest of the majors and hopefully make the Ryder Cup team. There's other goals that I want to do now, but after winning the first one, it's kind of like, whoa, we played good in the majors already, so we have to reset and pick other goals.
Q. Can you see, at 16, if the tee is all the way back, could you reach that in two or you're not thinking that?
BUBBA WATSON: No, you can't reach that hole in two. You can't reach that hole in two from the forward tee. I don't know why it needs to be 670 with the deepest rough of the golf course. There's going to be people that don't get there in three because they hit it in the rough and the lie is bad. The golf hole is a dogleg with the highest rough. I hit driver, driver today and still had I think 60 yards to the front. And I hit two perfect shots from the back tee. I hit driver, driver and I had 60 yards from the middle of the fairway. And if I hit it - if you hit it in the rough and have a bad lie you can't move it very far. So you're not going to be able to reach it in three from the back tee.
Q. Everybody who's talked about this golf tournament and this golf course has talked about shaping shots. Is that something you like to hear, because that's a natural part of your game?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, I mean everybody is going to have difficult shots. But you're talking about shaping shots. Let's just say the first hole. It's 522 or 520, you've got to slice it if you're a right hand player, you've got to hook it if you're a left handed player, to a 20 yard wide fairway. You know, it's not like you can shape shots and make it go that far and still have a short iron in. You're talking about guys hitting 3 woods and hybrids into a par 4, first hole. Normally the first hole is an easy hole. And this is not easy. There's holes where you can shape it. There's holes where I'm going to hit a driver and blast it out of the rough, and have a shorter iron out of the rough. Because of shaping the ball sometimes doesn't really - the fairways are so narrow that it's going to be hard to shape a ball in the fairway. If they get hard it's going to roll out of the fairway. It's going to be very difficult.
Q. Talk about how you feel about the state of your game now and what you worked on after missing the cut at the Memorial. And the second part, how many drivers are you hitting around here?
BUBBA WATSON: At the Memorial I was just rusty. My wedges were a little off, my putting was a little off, had a couple of three putts here and there. Didn't make key putts to keep the momentum going. But I went to Scottsdale and practiced a little bit. And noticed that it was just putting. Putting keeps the rounds to go lower. I didn't miss the cut by I think like a shot or maybe two shots. It wasn't too far off. That golf course gets tough on the weekend. If I made the cut I had a chance to move up. Drivers around here? I think we counted six or seven and then today we bumped it up. I think we're probably going to hit around nine, just so I can blast it down closer to the green and get it out of the rough.
Like Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 - 4, I landed it in the fairway with a driver, I sliced it about 40 yards, it landed right in the center of the fairway and still went in the right rough because it slopes so much. But we'd rather have a hundred yard shot than 200 yards from the middle of the fairway, so we're going to play it that way.
Q. As one of the longest hitters on Tour how much do you have to gear it down on U.S. Open courses, particularly one like this? The second part of my question is, at what point do you feel like you became a complete golfer as opposed to just a guy who could hit the ball a long way?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, you gear it down on holes. There are certain holes you gear it down on. You're trying to do certain things. There's certain holes where you're not trying to hit the fairway, you're just trying to hit it over somewhere. 14 I'm not going to try to hit that fairway. If it gets in the fairway it means I missed my target a little bit this week. It's not really gearing down, you have to play smarter and do different things.
Obviously I don't go a hundred percent on my driver on every shot. Maybe once a round I'll maybe do that. Me being a complete player, I always thought I was a complete player. Media sometimes thinks I'm the monkey that hits the ball a long ways. I have to keep doing things my way, and it comes to Bubba golf, I guess. I always thought I could play. It's getting the mind right and getting the breaks go your way, making some key putts, and now I'm a Masters champ.
Q. You're 99th on Tour in driving accuracy. Can you win on this course driving it the way you have all year or will you need an inspired performance in that end of your game this week?
BUBBA WATSON: Yes, I believe I can the way I hit it. There's going to be - there's some golf tournaments you hit more fairways, there's some golf tournaments you don't hit many fairways. Obviously this week everybody is going to have trouble hitting fairways and out of the rough. I think with my length, with my so called strength I can hit irons out of the rough that people can't hit as far. If I can just putt. If comes down to putting and chipping. The short game is the key around this course. Anytime in the U.S. Open putting is the key. It's always short game.
Q. Going into Augusta, other than the adoption, you went through your early season routine and were as ready as normal there. It's obviously been different between these two majors. Are you as ready as you normally are when you come to a U.S. Open or have you reached a point in your career where you can just sort of turn it on when you get to a place like this?
BUBBA WATSON: I'll tell you in about five, six days. This golf course, you can be as ready - I'm as ready as I can be. I'm practicing - I sat on the putting green for an hour and a half just trying to get the feel of the green, just trying to get the stroke down. I saw the golf course a lot. Going to see eight more holes tomorrow. The golf course is so hard, if you're a little off, if you're a foot off - like I said on 13, you can land it - I can land it with a small cut on that green and be in the hazard. So that's not about, are you ready, that's about one foot over, one foot the other way, it's in the hazard or it's on the green. So you have to - it's all about the ball just going the way I need it to go. I'm ready. This golf course is going to be so tough, it doesn't matter if you're ready, it can make you look silly if it wants to.
Q. Based on some of your comments a real frustration, do you like this golf course?
BUBBA WATSON: Do I like it? I'll tell you in a few days. I think we all - the way it's set up, it's going to be touch. I don't want to come out here and shoot 80. As of right now I don't like it. There's an 80 lurking. After four days of golf if there's not an 80, then I like it all right.
Q. When playing with big names like Tiger and Phil, big names, what do you think the prevailing feeling is going to be? Will it be that, wow, these are - will it make you step up your game, sharpen yourself because you're playing with the best or will it make you feel in some way - will there be any intimidation factor, I say that with respect that you are a Masters champion, of course.
BUBBA WATSON: No, I understand what you're saying. Well, one has won 70-odd sometimes, and the other has won 40 times. Obviously it's going to be a little different. No intimidation though. I've played with those guys before. Know them. Good friends. Obviously you step up your game. The atmosphere is different, the atmosphere starts out with Thursday with big crowds, I'm guessing we're going to have big crowds. You're stepping up there in a different situation. Your mental focus, your preparation is different. Everything is heightened a little bit. Hopefully we step up our game. Hopefully I step up my game.
Intimidation, no, I'm not really looking over who it is. But obviously at the end of it, at the end of the week or the end of my couple of days of playing with them you look back and you learn from them. You watch how they handle their situation. You wonder how they handle a bad lie. You learn from two legends of the game. These are the people I grew up watching in high school. Now getting to play with them. I didn't get to see around the older guys. But these are two legends of the game. One is probably number one of all time and one is probably top five for sure. So you're going to learn a lot from them, seeing how they go about their business.
Q. If you're coming down the back nine on Sunday in contention to win, how big a factor will the green jacket be in your mental attitude and your approach?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, you know, that's why you have a great caddie. When your caddie is there he reminds you of things like that. He reminds you, you were down, you had four birdies in a row, you charged, got tied for the lead, and then you won a playoff. It's always in the back of your mind that you've done it once, you can do it again. So when it comes down to the last few holes, if I'm around the lead or tied for the lead or 1 up, I know I've been there before, and I've done it and I can do it again. It does help a lot having that in your back pocket, knowing you've done it before.
Q. On the first six holes what do you think a good score is going to be?
BUBBA WATSON: For me or for the field?
Q. For both.
BUBBA WATSON: Hopefully the field, about 8 over, and I'm about 7 over. The first few holes are the toughest. There's more blind shots off the tees, you can't see the fairways, you can't see where you're hitting. You've got a 240 yard par 3 with a small green. You've got a par 5 that's a par 4 on No.1. I played it yesterday, trying to putt out and doing some things, and I was 2 over through I think the first six. And I made some good par putts. If you can get through there even it's like you're shooting well under par, almost like you birdied all the holes. Because it's a tough stretch. There's not many birdie holes in that stretch right there. Like I said, it's going to be tough. It's going to be - if I was 1-over - if I shot 2-over every single day in the four days, I'd be pretty happy, knowing what I've seen so far. Unless it dramatically changes somehow obviously.
Q. Father's Day weekend obviously coming up, can you talk about being there on Sunday and a chance to win on Father's Day. And also the little things that you've noticed just with your son in just the time, the last couple of weeks, months.
BUBBA WATSON: Hopefully Father's Day I'm here on Sunday. Hopefully I'm here after the weekend. No, Father's Day will be different. No matter where I'm at, it will be different because I'll be a father. My dad won't be here. It will be the first time on Father's Day without my dad and me having a son. But having a chance to win on Father's Day. I won on Easter Sunday, which is a big day for me. It would be a special occasion to win back to back majors, but also do it on those special days.
And, yeah, for the last couple of weeks, I'd say the last three weeks, he's been smiling. Now he's starting to realize who I am and who Angie is. And he smiles all the time. To this day he loves his baths, so it's been fun every day bathing him and watching him splash water out of the little tub that he has. And seems like more water is out than in when he gets done splashing around. But it's been fun.
Q. Tiger was in a few minutes ago and said this is probably the hardest U.S. Open course. Oakmont might challenge that. You've just - what is it that makes this course as hard as it is? What is so special, why is it especially hard?
BUBBA WATSON: It's not special if it's hard. Why it's especially hard, being the first hole is you've got tight fairways. Look at the fairways first. You've got tight fairways, they're real narrow. They've added that tee on six, so you've got to lay back on six, because the new tee now brings that bunker into play. So you've got to lay back off that. I laid back of that bunker yesterday and still had 4 iron in to a small green, bunkers all around, deep rough all around. That's not fun to hit 4 iron into a par 4 that could be rock hard.
Then you have 7, which is a 288 yard hole, that, yeah, you can go for it. But we dropped the ball in the middle of the green, just dropped the ball on that slope and it rolled all the way off the front of that green. If you're chipping you can't stop it on the green. There's something about every hole. Like I said, No. 3 is 240 something to a small green. Wind has been coming off the left every day. So you're trying to hit a bunker - this new tee they've got there, you're trying to hit a long iron, a hybrid, depending on wind or short iron depending on wind, to a small green at 240 yards. Every hole has something to it that makes it very difficult.
After you hit the green you've got a fast surface trying to make putts. So three putts are right around the corner. Just something on every hole that makes the course very difficult. You've got No. 5 where I hit 2 iron off that tee and I still had 220 yards to the hole. And I was in the middle of the fairway. You can't hit driver - you can, I guess, but to be smart you can't hit driver on some of these holes. And you're just leaving yourself with long irons to a rock hard green, well guarded greens, small greens. Every hole there's something around the corner. Even the shortest hole is tough to the longest hole is tough. There's something on every hole that can get you. It makes it very difficult. That's a nice PC way that I can say it (laughter).
MODERATOR: Thank for you joining us. We wish you well at Olympic.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.