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Bubba Now 'Knows He Can Do It'
Up until April of this year Bubba Watson was known as a long-hitting lefty with an unconventional swing that could yield spectacular results or disaster. The native of Bagdad, Fla., had won three times in his career prior to the 2012 Masters.
But, after finishing tied in regulation with South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen by closing with a 4-under 68, Watson won a green jacket on the second playoff hole after executing one of his trademark brilliant escape shots on the 10th hole at Augusta National for his first major title.
Watson's record in the next two majors has been spotty; he missed the cut in the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco and finished tied for 23rd in the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.
This week he's looking for better results in the year's fourth Grand Slam event, the PGA Championship that starts Thursday on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C. Trees won't be an issue for the 33-year-old Watson. But the Pete Dye-designed layout is regarded as one of the world's toughest tracks thanks to its exposed fairways swept by breezes off the adjoining Atlantic Ocean and myriad places to find trouble.
On Tuesday, Watson had a sit-down with the media and talked about the course - which he's never played, his game entering the 94th PGA Championship, and what he's looking for Thursday when the tournament starts. Here's a transcript of that session.
MODERATOR: 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson here at the 94th PGA Championship. This will be Bubba's sixth appearance in the PGA Championship. Bubba, congratulations again on winning the Masters earlier this year, and now you get a chance to perhaps wrap up the season with a win here. Talk about being a major champion and about the golf course from what you've seen.
BUBBA WATSON: Being a major champion, it's great. But I don't know, it was like four or five months ago, so we've got to try to do something else now. The golf course, I think the golf course is in perfect shape. The greens are nice. They're rolling good. Obviously weather permitting it'll be a great test. You know, the course looks like it can be - you can make some birdies if it's not too windy, but when it gets windy it makes it a little bit more difficult. But obviously there's so many different teeing areas, they can make the golf course really long, short, whatever they want to do. So I think it's going to be a great test. I think they're going to make us work. We're going to have to hit quality iron shots, especially since it's shaved around the greens.
MODERATOR: Do you have a sense yet as to whether this golf course fits your style of game?
BUBBA WATSON: I'll tell you hopefully Sunday afternoon and not Friday afternoon. Friday afternoon I probably won't like it if that's my last day.
Q. A couple years ago at Whistling Straits obviously you got in the playoff, and you said afterwards that getting on that Ryder Cup team meant as much to you as winning a PGA. Do you still feel that way about the Ryder Cup, and how much would you like to get that PGA now?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, obviously PGA. Maybe one day I'll get picked to be a Ryder Cup captain. I've got different goals all the time. Monday was a great day for us with our son. The adoption is final, so that's the most important thing. We got that done. And now we're on to trying to win this tournament, trying to play good golf, trying to get better in the game of golf. Looks like I've locked a spot up for the Ryder Cup, so right now I'm worried about winning the PGA.
Q. I just wanted to follow up on that. What were the logistics like? What was involved in Monday and getting that finalized? What did you have to do and how did it all go?
BUBBA WATSON: The first thing I had to do is - we had a lot of court things, a lot of paperwork to fill out. He's from Florida, we were living in Arizona, so we have to both laws have to be - both state laws have to be accounted for. You know, I missed some tournaments this year because I've had court things I had to do, some law stuff I had to do. So I missed some tournaments that I didn't want to miss, that I normally don't miss. I just had to take care of that some stuff like that was most important and be there for my wife when she said she wishes I was home. So I chose to do all those things, and then golf obviously is way down the list of priorities. That came first. Just a lot of paperwork. A lot of people go through it, but trying to travel across the U.S., trying to travel outside the country and playing golf made it a little bit more difficult, but somehow it all worked out, and now we're parents, I guess.
Q. What I had wanted to ask you is there's so much talk about the depth of the fields now, just so many more good golfers in the world than there were 15 years ago. Tiger was talking about that. Why do you suppose that is, so many more guys who can win majors now?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, the name you mentioned, Tiger Woods has made the game grow. He's grown this game across the world. People are watching him, people are watching how he practiced, how he trained, how he made golf a physical game. I mean, he's strong, he's a big man, and he plays golf with he can play it with power and he can play it with precision, he can play it with a mental game, and everybody has taken note of that. You've got these young guys, Patrick Cantlay, Rickie Fowler, McIlroy, all these young guys coming up, Ishikawa coming up, all these young guys that are watching him and learning from him. The game is global now. We're finally going to get back into the Olympics, and you can see that all these people around the world are growing this game at a younger age, and it's getting better and better.
Q. You talked about the Masters being four months ago, trying to move forward from that and not just sort of living in that moment. I'm wondering how has your preparation changed if at all coming into a major championship, and secondly, what did you learn about yourself or your game from that win at Augusta?
BUBBA WATSON: Essentially that first - the first one is, what I learned from myself, is that I can do it. It is possible to win. I've won four times now but now a major. Coming down on Sundays I know I can lean on that saying that I've done it before, I can do it again. But preparation, every golf tournament is the same. See the golf course, feel out the golf course, see how you want to attack it. At the U.S. Open by watching Phil and Tiger, how they attacked that golf course and prepared for that golf course, I learned some things. Not saying it's going to happen overnight, but I'm going to learn - the more I play in tournaments I'm going to feel the pressure and what it takes to play good at those tournaments.
Last week at Akron, I made a couple three putts, three three putts, I think, for the week, and that puts me in the top 10, I think around the top 5, but I finished 19th because of the three three putts. There's just little mistakes that I'm doing but I'm trying to get better at. This week just looking at holes that I want to attack, getting ready for certain winds, no wind, what am I going to do, certain tees. I'm doing the same preparation at every golf tournament, it's just a golf tournament that - this is the first time I've ever seen the golf course.
Q. I know you're from Florida and you deal with the heat and humidity all the time, but on a golf course like this with the weather supposed to be the way it is, do you think it's more important to be physically fit or mentally fit playing that golf course this week?
BUBBA WATSON: I think it's important to be a good putter, get up and down from everywhere. But obviously with the heat, there's water on every hole, there's drinks on every hole, so obviously everybody is going to have hydration. Preparing yourself the night before or the week before, we're used to the heat. We've played in it before. So I don't really think that's going to be the biggest downfall. I think it's all about the mental, staying focused on the golf course. This golf course, a major championship can always get you at any time, so you have to be prepared for that, and you have to be strong, knowing that you're going to make mistakes, you just have to try to brush them off and keep going.
Q. You were talking about the adoption being finalized. How do you think you'll do balancing golf and being a family man?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, hopefully I'll do better in the family man than the golf because that's the most important. My wife comes first, then the baby, and then golf is down the list. I'm here to play golf. I want to play golf. I enjoy the game of golf. I want the challenge to beat everybody, but at the same time I want to be a good husband and a good dad. But how do I balance it? Time will tell. You know, if I never play golf again, I can still be a great dad, so that's the key, and that's where my life stands. Golf is there, but I'm not going to pout when I go home. I'll see that little kid smiling and I'll be happy.
Q. What part of the game do you think this golf course favors, the short game that you just brought up a minute ago, or length, or what's your take on that?
BUBBA WATSON: I think that it's going to be down to the short game. I think we say that a lot. If it gets windy it's going to be short game because you're going to play away from some places, you're going to try to make sure you don't short side yourself. The par 3, I don't know the numbers, the par 3, 17 is a good one. But 14 with as long as that hole can play, I don't know if they're going to play it that long, but with that wind coming off the ocean, it was playing pretty tough yesterday afternoon. It's all about the short game. So I think the short game, putting and chipping is going to be the key around this golf course.
Q. One question about the logistics of the adoption now being final, you were living in Florida because you had to stay there, I think, to get it all finalized. Can you all move where you want now? Are you going back to Arizona?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, we're moving to Florida full time. We got a place, and we're probably going to move in in February. But we have our house in Arizona, as well, so we're going to be there for the winter, we'll be three months a year in Arizona, and the rest of the time we'll be in Florida.
Q. Tiger said earlier today I think when asked to compare this course to any other major venue, I think he brought up Whistling Straits as a comparable. Your performance there, do you see many similarities to it, and can you play this course as well as you played that one?
BUBBA WATSON: The similarity might be we're not sure if we rake the bunkers or if they're waste bunkers or whatever they are (laughter). We heard rumors you don't have to rake it if you don't want to. Some of those don't have rakes. But no, it's true, these - Whistling Straits is just like this. That lake at Whistling Straits felt like an ocean. So yeah, everything about it, it feels like that. But I think here, it's a little less - it seems like the rough is not as demanding here as it was at Whistling Straits. Now that I've said that I'll probably miss every fairway. But yeah, it is. It's very - it's pretty much the same golf course with the heavy wind off the water, makes it a little bit thicker, makes the ball travel a little bit more, curve a little bit more. Yeah, it does feel just like that one pretty much.
Q. Do you like your chances on it based on how you played at Whistling Straits?
BUBBA WATSON: If I putt and chip and hit the ball as good as I did then, yes, I do like my chances.
MODERATOR: Bubba Watson, Masters champion, thank you very much.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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