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Bubba on New 'Home' Course at Greenbrier
Though he has played in the Greenbrier Classic only once, Bubba Watson has quickly developed an affinity for the site of the PGA Tour event, the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
Watson, a native of Bagdad, Fla., moved into a new house a month ago at the century-old property, which is entered in the U.S. Register of Historic Places and considered a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
In his first entry last year in the $6.5 million PGA Tour, which starts Thursday at Greenbrier 's Old White Course, Watson closed with a 5-under 65, but finished 30th, well back of winner Jonas Blixt of Sweden.
But the two-time Masters champion became smitten with the place, and his growing friendship with resort owner Jim Justice only secured his relationship with the Greenbrier. "Even if I didn't have a house here, it would be great to win here. Then I can rub it in Jim's face when I see him," Watson joked Tuesday.
With his victory in the Masters in April, an earlier win in the Northern Trust Open and seven top-10 finishes in 13 starts this year, Watson leads the PGA Tour in earnings, with just over $5 million, and is second to three-time winner Jimmy Walker in the season-long FedEx Cup points race.
Watson is looking forward to a better performance this week in his adopted neighborhood, especially since he's had a chance to get some knowledge with Old White's nuances. "I played it probably five times in the last two weeks, so I've been able to see it and familiarize myself with it," he said. "But that doesn't mean when the pressure's on that I'll play good."
During his sit-down with reporters, the 33-year-old Watson discussed what he likes about living at the Greenbrier, and his thoughts on being a West Virginian. He'll be paired in the opening two rounds with J.B. Holmes and Brendon Todd. Here's what Watson had to say.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Bubba Watson into the interview room here at the Greenbrier Classic, making his second start at this event, finished tied for 30th last year. Bubba, welcome back. It's almost home sweet home for you though. Welcome back to the Greenbrier.
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, for sure. Been living here for about a month off and on. Moved into my house about a month ago, so, yeah, it's nice. It's nice being here, nice being able to sleep in your own bed, so it's pretty cool. I'm excited about the week.
MODERATOR: Tell us a little about what it was about this place that was so important for you to move here?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, you're always looking for a great temperature, always looking for a great place to live, so when you look at what the Greenbrier has to offer or West Virginia has to offer, you have family atmosphere, you have great golf, family atmosphere. Many things to do besides golf. Obviously, the Stenner Center is pretty good. The mountains are nice views, so when you add that all up, it comes to an easy place to decide to move to.
MODERATOR: Season highlighted by your second win at the Masters, just comment a little about the season as a whole?
BUBBA WATSON: The season has been good. You know, we always want better. We always want to win all of them, so we can still have a good year and still have good finishes, so I'm looking forward to this part of the year. The playoffs are coming up, and then eventually we'll have the Ryder Cup, so that will be a fun trip overseas again.
Q. How awesome would it be for you to win here now that you have kind of made this place your home?
BUBBA WATSON: It would be great. Even if I didn't have a house here, it would be great to win here. But having a house here, living in my own bed, all that stuff, it would be really good to pull off a victory here and have a W, and I can rub it in Jim's face when I see him.
Q. Since you now live here, is there more of a comfort level with the course, and how you get around it and negotiate it because you're kind of more familiar with everything?
BUBBA WATSON: You know, I've played it a few times. I've played it probably five times in the last two weeks and so I have been able to see it and have been able to familiarize myself with it, just trying to see what shots I want to play. That doesn't mean when the pressure is on and the conditions are right I'll play good, that just means I have a better chance of seeing the course a few more times. So, yeah, I think living here and being around here just gets me used to the grasses and the different layouts. So, yeah, I'm looking forward to it. I've had some practice, some good practice here, so hopefully I can turn that into making some putts and having some good scores.
Q. You got to play here a couple times. Has Jim given you any advice recently about playing here in a tournament atmosphere?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, me and Jim played a few times. So he took me around and told me where I should miss it and where I shouldn't miss it. He was like you don't want to miss it right here. You don't want to miss it left here. You'd rather try to hit in this bunker. So he told me his insights because he played here since he was a little kid; now he's a big kid, so he's tried to give me some advice. But it's just like every golf tournament and every course we go to, hit the fairway, hit the green, make a putt. Pretty simple, it's just hard to do.
Q. I think a lot of us have seen your festivities over the last week with the hard hat over at the Saints field. Just talk about what you've been doing over this last week to get ready for this tournament?
BUBBA WATSON: The last week we've been playing golf. I'm going to go play this afternoon over at the Sporting Club and the Snead course with some friends that are in town. I have friends and family in town. But we went fishing just about every afternoon. My little man rode a horse the other day. I guess you call it riding the horse, somebody was holding the horse and we were holding him, but at 28 months old, he thinks he's doing something really cool.
For me, the Saints are the closest football team to my house, so for me to be here where the Saints are going to practice is pretty neat. The football season is really the tough stretch of our year, so don't get to many games, so I'm looking forward to hanging out with those guys. The only guys that I know is Sean Payton who plays a lot of golf, and Drew Brees plays a lot of golf, so I'm looking forward to hanging out with them and see if they can get off the practice field and play some golf.
Q. Are you a West Virginian now officially?
BUBBA WATSON: I'm not sure, but I like it so far, so hopefully everybody else likes me.
Q. 16 and 17, I asked Jimmy about them earlier, with the finishing hole, a par 3 finishing hole, how important is it to take advantage of 16 and 17? And how can you go about getting birdies on those holes?
BUBBA WATSON: 16 you've got to get 16 first. It depends on the wind, whatever that wind is doing. If the wind is downwind, the hole becomes a little easier. But if it's into the wind somehow, you're looking at a carry that the water is just ridiculous to carry, so that new tee back there. So you have to play it safe, so that becomes a par hole depending on the wind or birdie hole chance depending on the wind going the other way.
17, obviously, is a birdie hole. Some people may not be able to reach it in the wind, the firmness of the course, but still a wedge in there. And then 18, 18 the front pin becomes a birdie hole. The back pin becomes a par somehow. So the big hump in the middle of the green makes it a little tougher. But, yeah, 17 you're always thinking birdie on the par 5 no matter what the wind is doing. 16, depending on the wind, makes it a very good par or a good chance at birdie. Then 18 is all about where the pin location is.
Q. Do you have a memory of the first big tournament or even the first small tournament that you won as a kid?
BUBBA WATSON: First tournament that I can think of as a kid? It was called Divot Derby back in Pensacola. It was a local tournament. I won it ten years in a row, but at 8 years old I won it. That was probably the biggest for me because it's my local town. There is a big huge trophy that you get your name on it. I thought it was the biggest thing in the world at eight years old. When I got to high school, I thought that trophy's not that big anymore. So, yeah that's my earliest memory of winning a golf tournament.
Q. What's it like when you're driving down roads around West Virginia, you see the Sporting Club and there is a picture of you and Jerry West? What is it like to have your picture beside Jerry West?
BUBBA WATSON: The one that says Live Where Legends Do?
BUBBA WATSON: It's pretty funny. You're talking about the logo. You're talking about Jerry West. You're talking about a legend in his sport, and then there is me. Basically it's like I won the lotto and they put my picture up next to his. It's funny. I've gotten to meet him a few times and hang out with him and play some golf with him, so it's pretty neat to meet him.
But my picture up there, I should be on the other side of the street facing the other way where nobody sees it. But it's very neat. It's very exciting. I mean, what an honor to be up there and be considered I guess part of West Virginia now and Greenbrier. So it's an honor and a thrill, but obviously, I don't compare to him on paper.
Q. You've played with some of the Duck Dynasty folks before, and tomorrow they're going to be here. What is it like for you, kind of the fun of it?
BUBBA WATSON: First of all, no matter, I don't care what you think of them or what you like or dislike of them, they're just fun people. You've got to get past the beards first, but they're fun people. They're great people. They're all about their family. I've stayed at their house. I've stayed with Jase at his house. Willie thinks he's really good at golf, but he's not. Jase wants to be really good, but he's not.
It's fun hanging out with them. But what grew our friendship and brought our friendship together is the Bible, being Christian and throwing ideas off of one another. They send me Bible verses during a bad round of golf or a good round of golf telling me to keep my head level. So it's been a great ride to be friends with them and be close friends with them. But obviously on the golf course tomorrow all that goes out the window and I just make fun of them.
Q. A follow up to the Masters, the first time you didn't like how you kind of handle the months that followed. It's been almost three months now. Has this year been better and what's been different about it?
BUBBA WATSON: I think the first time I've said many times, is that I thought I was the king of the world. You get the green jacket and you think you're supposed to play good every time, but at the same time I won the green jacket I adopted my son a week before. So having a son that's never had a man's voice or had a man's touch, a man's feel, a man's everything, so I had to be there for him, so golf was the last thing on my mind.
But I didn't want anybody to see the green jackets. I didn't want to be praised for it. I didn't want any of those things. I just wanted to be a dad and a good husband. This year was different because we (Indiscernible) we've grown as a family. I've grown as a man, hopefully. This year was all about how can I inspire the right way. So I wanted to go back to my schools. I don't know if you saw the thing on the Golf Channel, but I cried. I cry a lot.
But I cried, and when I was giving the checks away, I've given a few checks away in my life and I've been blessed to do that. So when I give those checks away to my high school, elementary school, middle school, it was like a light bulb went off saying I've never dreamed of going back to my high school and giving them a check for education.
For me, I don't know if it inspired them, but it inspired me for more. How can I do more? How can I get involved more? So hopefully me and the Greenbrier here in West Virginia, hopefully we can team up. We've been throwing around some ideas about how we can help the youth around here, so that's big on my heart knowing we had adopted and different things. So hopefully we can inspire Greenbrier and outside of Greenbrier around West Virginia.
Q. Seems like talking to you, talking to Jimmy Walker, you guys might have a razzing relationship with each other these days?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, Jimmy Walker is a good putter. I'm mad at him for that. But everybody that we hang out with, everybody that I hang out whether they like me or not, I'm still going to razz them and have fun, because life is way too short to be too stiff, you know? Kind of like Jim Justice. You know how stiff he is. He's just boring.
Q. Talk about your initial thoughts whenever the PGA announced that there would be a PGA Tour event in West Virginia, and how your thoughts have evolved since then?
BUBBA WATSON: You know, when it was first announced, I didn't know anything about the Greenbrier. I didn't know any history about the course itself, the Old White. I didn't know anything about the hotel, so all of these different statements come out, so you research it. I think this is the fifth year of the tournament, my second year. So a new event happens, you listen to your buddies that have played it. Scott Stallings, good buddies with him, he told me how great it was for families.
Me and my wife at the time were looking for a farm, mountain home, cottage kind of deal. We came here for the first time, I was like, wait. Here's a mountain home. I've got four golf courses and I've got I think four pools on all the properties when you add them up. The restaurants are great. There are a lot of activities to do outside, so it was an easy sell for me to move here and my family to move here.
But when you talk to the other pros, that's what really lays it on you. A tournament director can tell you how great it is, but you'd rather ask the pros what they think and how they feel. So you start talking to Webb Simpson and start adding up these guys, not one person says anything negative, except their golf wasn't that good. That's about the only negative thing you hear. So everything about the Greenbrier has been perfect, and now my second year here, obviously I moved into the house ten months after I was here, so I like it pretty well.
Q. I know a couple weeks ago -
BUBBA WATSON: Sorry, I've got one more. You asked me about activities. I went to the bunker yesterday. I took my friends and family to the bunker yesterday. My second time through the bunker tour. The history, when you add it all up, the history, I love historic things, like Jim Justice. I love old things. Jim Justice, is a good guy.
Q. I know a couple weeks ago you said you need to be mentally tougher. I'm wondering if you could define what mental toughness is to you, and do you feel you've been tough since then?
BUBBA WATSON: You know, it's a fine line what I believe mental toughness is. We're all human. We've all made mistakes. It's how you deal with those mistakes. On the golf course being mentally tough, if I hit one out of bounds or I make a double bogey on the first hole, first round, first hole, Thursday morning or Thursday afternoon, whenever I tee it off, how do I handle that situation? Do I flip out like I've done before and want to break stuff? Or do I go to the next tee trying to birdie or trying to par and get back into a rhythm? So it's all about you how handle yourself that way. You're going to have bad days.
There are going to be days you just play bad. You feel bad, you just don't make putts. You just don't do something right. Then you're going to have days where it looks like you're hitting it terrible, but you're scoring really good. So golf can really flip on you. My caddie always says in 72 holes you're going to play good golf. So don't worry about this one bogey or one double bogey. That might be your only double bogey, it just happens to be the first hole of the tournament. So you can't get mad at that. You have to keep your head down, keep grinding and playing better on the next few holes.
So I think as a younger and dumber man, I didn't do that the right way, so I'm still learning. There are going to be days that I just don't feel good so I'm going to be really upset out there on the course. But I'm trying to improve and get better each day. And that is really that mental toughness is how do you - are you being a light for young kids or are you just being a jerk? So I've got to get better at not being a jerk.
Q. Tom Watson was in here a little earlier. Have you had a chance to speak to him about the Ryder Cup recently before today? As much as you have going on and off the golf course throughout the course of the season, how much do you think about the Ryder Cup?
BUBBA WATSON: In the beginning of the season I thought about the Ryder Cup a lot because that's my goal. Every year - it's a team event, the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. Obviously, the history is behind the Ryder Cup. I've never won a Ryder Cup, so I want to win one, so that means I have to get back on the team. So playing good when I won The Masters. Tom threw that out there that I was going to make the team so my goal was to be healthy since then.
So I've talked to him a few times since then through text messages and he's asked me some questions. I've asked him some questions. Yeah, we've communicated a few times. This is my first time on property this week, so I haven't seen him yet. I've been playing at the member course down the street. So if I bump into him, I'll definitely talk to him about some stuff and tell him what I'm thinking, even though he doesn't want to hear it. But we tried on the outfit at Memorial. Saw the clothes we're going to wear. So, yeah, leading up to where we're at now, we're watching the points.
I've got friends that I wish could make it. I've got my buddy Webb Simpson who we partner up quite well together. I don't know why, but we do, so I'd like to play with him. So I want him to make the team. But, yeah, I think the beginning of the year you start thinking about it right away because you have a goal to play on it. So as a rookie, you have a goal to try to impress everybody to get on the team. As a veteran, you're just trying to get back on the team or on the team for the first time. So you're always thinking about in the back of your mind the team events. Whatever that team event is, and this year happens to be the Ryder Cup.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.