Bubba Seeks to End Season on a High Note


Bubba Watson has taken his rightful place in the elite field that will be playing in this week's The Barclays, the first of four tournaments in the 2012 FedEx Cup Playoffs. The $8 million event starts Thursday at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y.

In last year's hurricane-shortened event at Plainfield Country Club in New Jersey, Watson didn't fare very well, posting two rounds of 70 and missing the 36-hole cut. Despite that, he had a successful 2011 season with two victories.

Watson's life changed forever in April of this year when he survived a two-hole sudden-death playoff with Louis Oosthuizen and won his first major title, the Masters. A month before, Watson and his wife Angie adopted a baby son, Caleb, and it's been a whirlwind ever since then for the folksy native of Bagdad, Fla.

Currently ranked No. 7 in the world, Watson has enjoyed a solid 2012 campaign, with five top-10 finishes and 13 top-25s in only 15 tournaments, taking home $4,018,108 to rank fifth in earnings on the PGA Tour. He's already qualified for the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Despite his devotion to his family and profession, the energetic and charismatic Watson still has fun. He's a member of the Golf Boys - a madcap band that also includes Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan whose videos have received millions of viewings on YouTube - and has a big heart. For every drive he hits in competition this year over 300 yards, he and his club sponsor Ping donate $300. Entering The Barclays he's four drives short of 300 300-yard drives, raising a total of $304,900 in his "Drive for a Million" charity pledge.

Watson will be paired in the first round with Mahan and Carl Pettersson. The threesome will start Thursday at 1:06 p.m. off the first tee at Bethpage Black. (For all The Barclays pairings and tee times, visit http://www.pgatour.com/tournaments/r027/tee-times.html.)

On Tuesday, the 33-year-old met with reporters for the following Q&A. He talked about his season, his chances this week and what happened after he hit a few golf balls from the deck - and then indoors off a pillow - at the house where he's staying in New York. As a new member of Augusta National, he also discussed the admittance on Monday of two new members - Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, the first women members in the club's 80-year history.

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Bubba Watson to the interview room. Bubba is ranked No.5 in the FedEx Cup standings heading into the first playoff event. Maybe give us an overview of your expectations as we kick off the Playoffs this week.

BUBBA WATSON: Well, expectations are always high. I've been playing pretty solid all year, a lot of top 25s, not a lot of top 10s, not as many as I want. Good, solid play. Working hard. Ryder Cup is coming up, working hard for that, but these Playoffs are the most important thing right now. This course sets up pretty good for me, with it being a little bit longer. I haven't played it yet. I'll play it tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it, looking forward to the challenge. I think I finished either 19th or 18th here at the Open, so looking forward to the challenge again. I mean, this is always a challenging golf course, and looking forward to the challenge and the walk of 18 holes here.

Q. A lot of players have been winning who also have been open about their faith, and I wanted to know how you were progressing in your faith?

BUBBA WATSON: You know, being a Christian, it's hard, but that's not what's making me win. The Lord could care less if I win or lose. He matters how I play the game. Obviously a few years ago I was struggling with that. I was really angry on the golf course, and I've changed a lot, changed who I am as a person. But that's not what's making me a better player or whatever like that, because the Lord could care less how I'm playing, if I'm making cuts, if I'm missing cuts, could care less if I won the Masters or not. So that's not even part of the golf, that's just part of me as a human being, who I want to be off the golf course and what I want to be on the golf course, and then the wins are just lucky.

Q. What specifically do you remember about the Black course from '09, and how do you suppose it'll be different if it's not wet? What will it be like for you guys?

BUBBA WATSON: I think it'll be a tough test. Again, that's the only time I've played it, so I don't know if they can firm up the greens. If they've firmed up these greens, the golf course is really, really tough. You know, you're looking at the rough is probably not going to be as bad as it was then, but it's still going to be pretty bad. So we're just looking at hitting fairways, hitting greens and hopefully make some putts, but as I said, I heard that they're not going to speed it up. The greens aren't going to be as fast as they were for the Open. Unless the greens get really firm, the golf course is going to be playable, but I mean, if it gets firm and dries out and all that stuff, then yeah, it's going to be a really tough test of golf.

Q. As somebody who gets to wear a green jacket now every April at Augusta, I just wanted to get your thoughts on the news out of Augusta yesterday.

BUBBA WATSON: There was news yesterday?

Q. There was news.

BUBBA WATSON: What happened? They took my jacket away? You know, it was funny, I got a text from my manager, Jens Beck, right before I got on the plane to fly up here, so I told my wife, and so we were flying up here, and my wife said, "Do you think it'll be me? Do you think they'll announce me as a member?" So it was funny. We landed, she actually said, I'm not sure I'll say her name correctly, Condoleezza Rice, she said she thought she might be - we knew there was going to be two. We got the text or the call from my manager that there was going to be two ladies, and so yeah, my wife joked she wanted to be one of those ladies, but obviously she didn't make the cut. Maybe she's the third lady. But no, it was good to see. It's always in their time. They want to do it the right way, they want to get the right membership in there what they're looking for, and obviously it's great. It's great for golf, it's great for the game.

Q. From being behind the scenes a little bit earlier this year, did you have any inkling that this was going to happen?

BUBBA WATSON: No, I had no idea. I had no idea. When I got the call from my manager right when I got on the plane, right when I was getting on the plane yesterday is when I got a text from him, and he told me, and I didn't have any idea. I didn't expect it.

Q. I'd like to ask you a couple of questions about the back nine, the only par 5 there, the 13th hole, about 554. How do you play that? What's your strategy on that hole?

BUBBA WATSON: Hopefully I play it good. You know, the strategy there, it's always hit the fairway or hit the rough with a good lie. But the green kind of slopes so you're always trying to miss it in the right spots. When you're going for the green in two on a par 5, you always want to make sure you miss it in the right spots so it's an easier up and down or have a better chance to get up and down. It's always about playing to the safe side and not short siding yourself. You know, it comes down to hitting the tee shot well, and then the second shot is really critical, too, because you can easily if you short side yourself a birdie is out of the question, then you're just playing for par.

Q. What about the 17th hole, the par-3, 207 uphill? Where is the trouble there?

BUBBA WATSON: Well, all the sand traps or bunkers around the green. They put that pin on the left side, you've got to go over the bunker, it's a little bit tighter area to try to hit the green. So the key there is just getting the right number, making sure you hit the fat of the green. I know there's a big slope in the green, but you've just got to miss it on the right side there. If you short side yourself there and the pin is on the left, again, you're not getting up and down. I think in the Open there I plugged it in the lip on the left side, and obviously I didn't get up and down. I'm still smacking the ball around on those holes.

Q. You mentioned the Ryder Cup. Is it something now you thought you'd qualify if you just put it out of your mind or are the guys starting to talk about it on the range?

BUBBA WATSON: What's funny about the Ryder Cup is growing up, I've never been in the military. This week I'm staying with a Wounded Warrior. I'm staying with another active military member, and staying with these guys in a house this week, talking to them, and seeing what they do for us, our freedoms. For me to put the red, white and blue stripes on and wear that badge proudly, it's the only time I get to be somewhat close to military. I'm not as tough as those guys, but somewhat to have a flag on, so it's just representing our country. That's our Olympics right now, to represent our country, trying to be the best I can be for our country, win, lose or draw, you still want to represent your country well, so it's an honor to put the red, white and blue stripes on and play for USA.

Q. Davis has said he wants the guys who are in contention for picks to just relax and play their normal golf. Is that possible?

BUBBA WATSON: That's the hard part. It's easy to say; it's hard to do. So I've been lucky where I've got in the last two Ryder Cups on points so I didn't have to sweat it out. But yeah, so all the guys can play. All the guys that we know, the list, all those guys can play, it just comes down to making some putts and not even think about that, just thinking about the tournament at hand and the golf course at hand and then the Ryder Cup will just fall into place.

Q. Can you just elaborate on that and how you made contact with the Wounded Warrior family and have you done that before and what's that like?

BUBBA WATSON: You know, Caddie for the Cure, that cause, Russ Holden represents a lot of different charities, but Caddie for the Cure is a big one, and Wounded Warriors, he helps with them. He contacted me and asked if I wanted to stay at the house, and I said, a free house? Yeah, I want to stay there. So he told me who was going to be there, and Teddy, my caddie, could stay there, too, so we all are staying there. Last night we got in. They cooked dinner, we had some steaks and we just talked and asked them about the Wounded Warrior, asked them about what happened, and he showed me a picture of the car that blew up and all the things.

Basically I'm there just talking to them. I'm in awe of them, they're in awe of me, but I'm really just watching them and learning from them about how much they fight for our freedoms not knowing who we are, not knowing anything about us. They're out there taking bullets and dodging bullets for us to give us freedom to do what we do. It was an honor for me to stay with them and be a part of just communicating with them and talking with them and hopefully cheering them up a little bit when they get a little down.

Q. You're four short of 300 300 yard drives this year. Is that on your mind and what do you think you're going to feel like when you get No. 300?

BUBBA WATSON: You know, I'm trying to sign a deal with Ping. My deal is up this year, so I'm trying to save them some money, so I don't want to get all the drives out there yet. No, as you know, we've got a few more tournaments. If I can just do one every Playoff event we'll do it right at the very end. So I'll probably just take irons off the tee this week, one driver just over 300. But no, it'll be fun. It's an accomplishment to do that and to raise the money for charity, so I'm looking forward to that, and hopefully I don't hit too many bad drivers so I can get it done this week, hopefully the first day.

Q. I heard you had an interesting shot in your practice round today. Can you explain what happened?

BUBBA WATSON: Again, this house that we're staying in, it's off the lake there, and the owners that aren't here, of the house, asked if I'd take a picture in front of their house so they can tell their friends that I've stayed there and whatever. So I was talking to Russ Holden from Caddie for the Cure. So I just said, why don't we just hit balls off the deck into the lake. I can do it. He goes, you don't have that much room. I said, I can do it. So I came out, I got ready to come to the golf course, so I came out in my golf clothes, had my club, my new glove, got some balls, hit off the pillow. Then I said, let's move this indoors. So I moved it indoors and hit off the rug. I had to fly it about - I had about a - the little railing is about five feet high, four feet high, so hitting 4 wood off the tight carpet was a little tight, but I just got it up and made it out of the house.

Q. You didn't break anything?

BUBBA WATSON: No, I didn't break anything. I'm all right at golf sometimes. It's on Twitter. We put them up on Twitter. We made other videos for the homeowners. I said their names. I told them thanks for letting me stay there, and I said I'm practicing out of y'all's house. I'm not sure if they got the videos yet, but it's on my Twitter account. I put up two videos.

Q. Did you replace the divot in the rug?

BUBBA WATSON: I tried to kick it so there wouldn't be too many divots.

Q. You mentioned the length here. Crooked Stick is also long. How much of an impact do you think those two long courses will make as the Playoffs shape up?

BUBBA WATSON: You know, this golf course, we've played this golf course recently, so a lot of the guys have played this golf course, they've seen it, they know the length. Crooked Stick we haven't played in a while. I've never played it, never seen it, never been there. John Daly won there, I think, when he won. So obviously length is pretty good there, so hopefully I can follow in his footsteps and win at Crooked Stick.

But for the Tour I think it's going to be obviously the golf course seems like they're getting longer and longer. We're the only sport that keeps changing our distances. LeBron James feels like he can jump over the goal but they're not raising the goal in basketball, not changing football fields with guys throwing passes farther. So it is, it's going to get tougher as I get older, it's going to get tougher the longer the golf courses are. Some of the guys out here just don't hit it as far, so it makes it really tough. For me, I'm loving it; for them, they're probably not as happy as I am.

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


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