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Bubba Hopes to be in the Pink Again in San Diego


While many of the game's top-rated players are in the Middle East for the European Tour's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, most of the regulars on the PGA Tour continue their 2012 seasons with the Farmers Insurance Open. The $6 million stop commences Thursday at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

It was last year here that Bubba Watson nabbed his second Tour win, closing with a 67 to edge local favorite Phil Mickelson by a stroke for his second career victory on the PGA Tour. Watson, a long-hitting left-hander - like Mickelson, notched his third title in May's Zurich Classic.

Thanks to those wins and $3,477,811 in earnings last year, the native of Bagdad, Fla., is currently ranked 21st in the World Golf Rankings.

Besides his frighteningly long drives and penchant for hitting anything but a straight shot off any of his clubs, Watson will be noticed this week and the rest of the year by using a garish pink-headed driver with a pink shaft. The club will be the centerpiece of his "Bubba & Friends: Drive to a Million" campaign, which he's launching this week.

For every drive Watson hits over 300 yards, his equipment supplier, Ping, will donate $300 to a cancer-related charity. Ping started the program with a $10,000 donation.

Though he's had the driver since before the Presidents Cup in mid-November at Royal Melbourne, where he scored three points for the victorious American team, Watson began practicing with the new club two weeks ago.

Watson plans to use social-media sites throughout the year to bring attention to the effort. He has high hopes. "I couldn't do it on my own," he told Helen Ross of PGATour.com (http://www.pgatour.com/2012/tournaments/r004/01/24/bubba-farmers-ross/). "I don't have $1 million to give away. My friends, sponsors, we're all trying to team up and raise $1 million - and for a guy from Bagdad, Fla., named Bubba that's a pretty big accomplishment. Even if we raise a half-million this year it's still half a million."

To prevent unnecessary administrative costs, Watson didn't create a foundation for the campaign. Interested contributors can give whatever amount they wish to a local American Cancer Society or cancer-prevention organization of their choice.

A season-long "tracker" on his website - www.bubbawatsongolf.com - will record the progress of the fund-raising.

On Tuesday, Watson, instead of discussing his new initiative, talked about defending his title, his recent purchase of the General Lee car in the old TV show "Dukes of Hazard," and thoughts about the upcoming season. Here's what the folksy 33-year-old had to say.

MODERATOR: Okay, we'd like to welcome Bubba Watson, champion of the Farmers Insurance Open. Bubba, your first two wins last year. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes today. Kind of bring us up to speed on how you're feeling heading into week.

BUBBA WATSON: I'm feel going. I had a great off season. Maui was a good start to the year. I didn't have a three putt so I'm pretty excited about that. Probably my first tournament never having a three putt. So it's looking like this is the start of the year. After two weeks off, just trying to get some more energy. We played late in the season last year, so looking forward to this. I've played well here a few times. So, yeah, it's always nice to come back here. It's a beautiful city; it's a fun golf course.

Q. Not related to golf, but I saw you made a big purchase the other day. Can you talk about the car and whether you were a big fan of the show when you were a kid?

BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, I was a big fan. If you go back in history when I was on the Nationwide Tour, I did a I guess a Cribs kind of episode with Golf Channel. They looked at my cars. They came in my house, and I even talked about it on that show. I pulled out the collection of DVDs of "Dukes of Hazard," and I said my dream is to have one of these. So there is proof that I've loved that car and I've loved that show forever. My wife at the time we met she knew that I loved that car and I wanted one. We made a deal back then that if I ever won a golf tournament, she would let me get one. So I won three, and I finally found one I liked. It's Lee 01, so it worked out in my favor. I wasn't going to go much more money than that. Because they were predicting a lot higher numbers, but for some reason it just fell in my lap.

Q. What are your thoughts on the talk about the changes with the Nationwide versus Q school? I know you're going to talk about that soon. What are your thoughts about the best way to manage this?

BUBBA WATSON: I've always thought that Q school should have about five spots. So the guys out of college, guys on the mini tours have a chance to get straight to the Tour. I thought the Nationwide or whatever sponsor it is, I think that they should have all the spots. I think you should be a proving ground. It's kind of like baseball. You start at the minor leagues, and then you work your way up. Obviously, you play good, you'll get here pretty quick. But I think there always should be some spots at Q school because of guys coming out of college, some of the guys, however they want to do it, coming out of high school, whatever. There should be at least five spots there, then the other guys get Nationwide status. That's what I've always believed. I played three years on the Nationwide Tour. You learn a lot. Then you get here and it's a dream come true. So I think it's a good stepping stone.

Q. We're doing an historical piece on Torrey Pines and the tournament in the San Diego Open. You've joined the likes of Weiskopf and Nicklaus and Palmer who have won here?

BUBBA WATSON: Ben Crane. I was just naming some other ones.

Q. I like your shaft, by the way. What makes Torrey Pines special to you? Including the history, the golf course itself, can you tell me what makes Torrey Pines special?

BUBBA WATSON: It's just a great test of golf. You've got beautiful scenery. You've got a beautiful city. You've got history behind the tournament, obviously. But it's all about the beauty around this golf course, and it's a public golf course. You're letting everybody come play it. You're letting everybody get on this. It's not like you have to work your butt off to get on this golf course. It's available to everybody. So you put all of that together and it just makes a great spot for a golf tournament. A beautiful spot for a golf tournament. So when you wrap that all in together, it just makes one heck of a golf tournament.

Q. Avoid the rough?

BUBBA WATSON: Well, sometimes the rough is not that bad since I'm in there a lot (laughing).

Q. To go back to the car. So after you won your first tournament, that's when the search for this car began? How do you do that? You can't just go to Autotrader.Com. I imagine it's more involved than that.

BUBBA WATSON: Well, the search began a long time ago. The winning part was the hard part. But as soon as I won, I looked at obviously my dad was dying of cancer at the time, so it was different emotions then. But when we finally got back and got away from the golf course and went back to our hotel, I looked at her and she said no. You're not getting a General Lee. You can't have that confederate flag on the roof. I said it's not about the confederate flag it's about the show and what it stands for. It's the most recognizable car. So years and years of persuading her, it didn't help. Then finally we've never been to the Barrett Jackson, because I've always played the Hope, now the Humana. So I took it off this year. So a friend asked us to go, and it was sitting there. It was the first car that I just I almost passed out when I saw it, and thought there was a chance I could get it. Somehow it fell in my lap so I could get it. I couldn't afford much more than that.

Q. What was it about the show that was so special for you that impacted you so much?

BUBBA WATSON: Well, my name's Bubba, so... it was just good old country boys. I grew up looking at Boo Weekley, so it was kind of just fitting, you know. I just loved it. I love the show. I love all those old shows. Obviously, Knight Rider was one too. After I bought the car, we figured out that in six days after I was born, that's when the car jumped for the first time. So, I mean, six days old and the car jumped in 1978. So now I own it, so that's pretty cool.

Q. Do you feel like a Duke?

BUBBA WATSON: What?

Q. Do you feel like a Duke?

BUBBA WATSON: No, I feel like an idiot sometimes, but I mean no. You know. It's just something that it's basically a comic book. You know how people collect comic books, baseball cards, basketball cards. We don't have that many golf cards. It's like that. But it's in jump condition right now, so I've got to restore it a little bit. But I want to drive it. I'm not going to sit it like an old man just sit it and stare at it in the garage. I'm going to drive it, honk the Horne at people and all that good stuff. It will be at Phoenix next week. It's good enough to drive to Phoenix, but don't tell anybody it doesn't have any seat belts yet.

Q. I hate to pull us away from the cars, but golf-wise, you mentioned three victories, One here last year, and another one in New Orleans. Wondering where your game is in terms of building now to the next level, maybe winning a major. Where are you? What do you think you need to do? Do you feel like you're ready to win that major?

BUBBA WATSON: Well, I feel like my game's in the right spot. Again, my head has to be in the right spot mentally. You know, in Maui, it looks like I could play that golf course really well, but I haven't played it good the two years that I've been there. It just doesn't fit my eye and everything. I'm feeling great about my game right now. Everything, my life's going in the right direction. Just bought one of my best gifts ever, so, yeah, I'm on cloud nine right now. So hopefully, it's a big season. Obviously, the last two seasons were my best two seasons ever. Last year I beat my season before. So hopefully we keep moving up. Every year I've improved so that's what we're looking for. If that means a major if that means no wins, just keep improving. The main goal is obviously to improve in life and improve off the golf course with charities and different things. That's what I'm most passionate about.

Q. Just to follow up, just talk about the Ryder Cup year. You got to play in a Ryder Cup and a Presidents Cup. I'm sure you're looking forward to that as well. But that takes care of itself if you do other things?

BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, if you play well, it takes care of itself. I'm trying to find somebody that has Davis Love's number to let him know I'm interested in playing.

Q. I have it.

BUBBA WATSON: Oh, good. Maybe afterwards we'll get that from you. But it would be fun. It would be fun to play at home at the Ryder Cup in Chicago. It would be a big blessing to play there, but a big honor to play there and play for your country just like all the other ones.

Q. How do you like your chances here? Talk about the field.

BUBBA WATSON: My chances here. I think I've top-10'ed here three times, maybe. So I've played this golf course well. It's the North course that I usually don't shoot very low on, but last year I shot low on it, so it helped me out a lot. The South course has been one of my favorites. I shot a couple of low rounds there, steady round there's. So, yeah, I'm looking forward to it. The field is always good. It's the PGA Tour. These guys are good. You know, this field's going to be strong. There are going to be great players here, great rookies coming out and trying to fire at all pins, so, yeah, it's going to be a good test of golf this week.

Q. On another subject, J.B. Holmes is returning to the Tour this week. Just want to get your thoughts on what he's gone through. Have you talked to him at all or even, if not, just your thoughts on him coming back?

BUBBA WATSON: I haven't talked to him at all. I've thought about calling him and stuff, but I didn't want to bother him really because he's recovering. Yeah, I think it's great. What he's gone through, I've heard different things from different people that he struggles. Obviously, his muscle memory is probably gone. He hasn't been able to do much. He's had to lay there and not do anything to let it heal properly. So I'm looking forward to it. It's great to see any fellow golfer, anybody you work with come back from an injury, any kind of injury. But something like that where he's - I mean, brain surgery is not easy. That's something that is serious. That could be career ending. But him coming back, who knows how he'll hit it. Who cares if he misses the cut, makes the cut, if he wins, it's just good to see him back out here. I bet he's going to be happy to be here and be out of his house.

Q. PGATour.com is live at a couple of holes on the South course this week. The first one is the par 5, 13th hole, and the other one is the par 3, 16th hole. I wonder if you could kind of walk us through from tee to green what your strategy would be depending on where they've got the tees as well? I think it's going to go from 540 to 615 yards on the par 5.

BUBBA WATSON: The par 5, 13 last year I hit driver wedge in there on a Sunday. So if I can do that again all four days, that would be good. The wedge came up just a little bit short, but I still made birdie. That tee shot, if you hit the fairway, just about everybody can reach that hole. When they step it back to the 600 yard hole, I think it's a silly because you never know what the wind is going to do and sometimes it gets a little cold here. So it makes that hole a little silly. Obviously, I can still reach it if the right condition is on the back tee. So I think it's a good hole. It's a tough green when you're trying to go for it in two. So sometimes you have to play smarter just to make the birdie going for it in two not just fire at the pin. But it's all about hitting that fairway. When you hit it in the bunkers, obviously, you have to lay up. That lay up is very tough with the slope. You can't really see the bottom of the fairway. But obviously, it's a hole that you should be able to birdie. Then what is the other one? 16 you said?

Q. Yeah, 16 yeah, 16.

BUBBA WATSON: 16 they added to that tee to the hard left there. It's a great hole. It's a long iron. Coming down the stretch, it's a really great hole. You can easily shank it with a long iron. They have some tough pins tucked in the back left over there. But, again, that's just one you're trying to hit the center of the green. If you make a birdie there, hopefully you've made a long putt. Because unless the pin's in the front, you don't attack that hole, you just try to make a three and get out of there as fast as possible.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.