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Bubba Shooting for Two Straight in Travelers
Bubba Watson proved to the world and himself that he finally got his emotions on the golf course under control during last year's Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn.
Last June, the long-hitting lefty from Bagdad, Fla., won his first-ever PGA Tour event by defeating Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank in a two-hole playoff. The relief of finally getting his maiden win allowed Watson to release those emotions in a proper context, as he dedicated the victory to his parents, specifically his father who was battling cancer.
Watson has since gone on to two wins, both this year. In January he edged Phil Mickelson by a stroke in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, then in May beat Webb Simpson on the second playoff hole of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
The Travelers got underway Thursday at TPC River Highlands. On the eve of the tournament, Watson met with reporters and talked about what that initial win in Connecticut meant to him and how it helped propel his career.
MODERATOR: Okay. Like to welcome our defending champion, Bubba Watson. Bubba, if you want to talk a little bit about your thoughts coming back to where you got your first win on Tour and then we'll take some questions.
BUBBA WATSON: You know, it's just fun coming back here. I've been here for a few years now. It's just fun coming back to this tournament. Great atmosphere around here, a lot of support from the city here. But yeah, being the defending champion is great. I'm looking forward to it, looking forward to trying to lift that trophy again. But yeah, it's going to be fun. It's a fun week. I'm excited about it. I've been hitting the ball good all year. Just need some putts to fall so everything is good.
MODERATOR: Okay. Do you want to talk a little bit about what this win did for you? Obviously this year you got off to a great start. You're one of two people with two wins, you're second in the FedEx Cup standings. Kind of talk about how this maybe got you started and what has carried over.
BUBBA WATSON: It showed me that I can play the game of golf. It showed me that by winning here I can play with the guys; I belonged out here, I guess. It just gave me confidence going forward the rest of my career, no matter how long or how short. It gave me something else to think about when my dad had cancer, gave my family something to think about, and realizing that golf is just golf and there's more to life than just playing golf and hitting a white ball everywhere.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. Questions.
Q. Does being the defending champion change anything other than all the stuff that goes on beforehand?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah. Just more attention. That's all it is. It's the same golf course, tough golf course. Still gotta beat however many people are in the field; still gotta play golf. That was last year. Just like if I'd have won last week, that would be last week. You know, it's a new day, new week, a new tournament. So yeah, it's just a year later. Just happened to do good one week out of the year last year, so now just gotta come back and try to do it all again.
Q. Being the big man on campus. You're on billboards. You've been part of the marketing campaign. Does that kind of hit you when you come back here that you're a pretty big deal to people here that saw you last year?
BUBBA WATSON: It's sad, isn't it? (Laughs). My ugly face on a billboard. Yeah, it feels great. But I just gotta stay focused on what the job is, you know, the job of trying to lift another trophy, hopefully raise some good charity dollars for the tournament and the city, local area here. You know, that's the main goal of the tournament and the sponsor Travelers. So that's the ultimate goal, but yeah, I'd love to hold that trophy or put on that jacket again like I did last year.
Q. You're going to have to do this a couple more times now that you know of, go somewhere and defend a championship. What have you learned from this week coming back to a tournament where you are the defending champ? What have you learned that's going to help you approach those other two?
BUBBA WATSON: I haven't learned anything yet because this is my first time ever doing it. After this week I might learn something. You know, right now, it's great. It's a great feeling. Knowing that I've lifted this trophy before, knowing that I can play this golf course. You know, just looking forward to the challenge, looking forward to hopefully a few more fans out there from the town supporting me. You know, just looking forward to the challenge of trying to get that trophy again, trying not to let anybody else have it.
Q. How do you pace yourself a little bit this week? I mean do you find that there's more --
BUBBA WATSON: More of you guys?
Q. Yeah, more of us, more call on your time?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, I try to hide as much as possible. I went to the Brownstone Water Park on Monday. Went there at the rock quarry, about 20 minutes from here. Was there all day Monday. Yesterday I was four hours, five hours at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, had lunch there with some kids, my whole team with me, my caddie, my trainer, my wife, we were all there playing around with the kids, dancing with them. So just trying to hang low and just take it all in, taking all the things in, the great blessings that I've had in my life.
Q. Following up on that, going to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, you're a very charitable guy, giving to churches and things of that nature, what did that mean to you? How did that touch you going up there yesterday?
BUBBA WATSON: The first thing is I've always had a dream growing up to play good golf, but my dream on top of that is to start a foundation, is to start some kind of camp with something that impacts kids. So it was just a learning experience. I went there and took it all in, learned how everything worked, learned how much money it took to get one of those and to run one of those. And to see the smiles on these kids' faces that have tough diseases, it was overwhelming. I like to cry, so it was overwhelming sometimes trying to hide from the kids, you know, when I was crying, but you know, it was amazing to see, and it was just neat to learn about it and see what I want to do in the future.
Q. (Indiscernible) was a little older in his career and out here to earn a paycheck. For you how much is it about winning and holding up that prize?
BUBBA WATSON: That's all it's about. It's about winning, holding that trophy, putting on that Travelers jacket with the little umbrella on the pocket like I did last year. I still have it in my closet. Yeah, that's the thrill of it. That's what we do. That's our prize coming out. We want to win. We want to beat everybody. If it was against you guys, I'd want to beat y'all. But the money aspect of it, that's going to help do the things that I want to do and help other people. That's the greatest thing behind that.
Q. Obviously this week is a different kind of week for you being the defending champion, but what's the toughest part of a transition from a major championship back to a PGA Tour event in your mind?
BUBBA WATSON: Not much. The media room is a little bit bigger in a major championship. It's a golf tournament. It's still 18 holes, 72 holes hopefully, unless you go into a playoff, I guess, in the U.S. Open. But it's still golf. I mean no matter how high the rough or how short the rough or how fast the greens or how hard the greens, it's still 18 holes of golf against a great, strong field, and this field here is a great, strong field no matter what the golf course is set up like.
Q. Talk about the video that got so much attention last week the four of you?
BUBBA WATSON: Which one was that?
Q. How that came about?
BUBBA WATSON: Let me see when it was. It was Tucson, Match Play. Me, Rickie, Ben Crane, and our family -- well, Rickie doesn't have a family yet, but it was Rickie by himself, and my wife and Ben's wife, and we went to dinner with some people and we all just hung out and we were just talking about we want to be in a video, because me and Rickie do goofy videos by ourselves, but we didn't have a production crew behind it. And so we wanted to come up with something. So then we nominated Hunter Mahan, because he wasn't there, to be a fourth member of the band, but he obviously agreed to it. So we thought about that in Tucson. We shot it in the Texas area there. We shot it Monday after the Dallas tournament, the Byron Nelson is when we shot it. And then we aired it last week. But yeah, it was something fun for us to do, a different way -- everybody has charity golf tournaments and things like that to raise money for charity. So we wanted to do something different, so why not just make a boy band and try to sell some stuff on iTunes, maybe some T-shirts and come out with different songs and just have fun with it, have fun with life. That's how we came about it.
Q. How important is it when you're playing week after week traveling around the country to have diversions, to have things outside of golf so you're not completely consumed by it?
BUBBA WATSON: For me it's a big part of my life. There's no way to think golf seven days a week. I'd quit the game of golf. So for me, like this week, last year -- last year this week we went to Brownstone, the water park. We found it, and I went there and jumped around for a few hours. Then Saturday night Rickie and Aaron Baddeley and their families we went to play laser tag to get away from the game and just to have fun, being the big kids that we are. So this week we just took a different approach, we went to the water park. We -- Monday I usually take off anyway, so we went to the water park on Monday, and then we were going to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp on Tuesday anyway to take a tour. So just to realize how blessed we are, we want to do other things in our life just to see and remember that golf is just a game.
Q. Hunter had said that this course and the timing of it and the way the course is set up that you don't have to learn it, sets up really well for guys who are looking to win their first PGA Tour event. It's not a course you have to learn and it comes right after an Open where some of the guys aren't playing. Do you find that this is kind of a perfect course to win a first championship on?
BUBBA WATSON: It was last year. Now I'm hoping it's the best for the fourth win. That would be great. No, it's a great golf course. The conditions are always good. The greens are always running pretty good. It's just a great golf course, great atmosphere here, with all the volunteers and the support that this tournament has; great sponsor like Travelers. It's just a great atmosphere. But yeah, think about it, if you're playing the U.S. Open, you're coming down the lead, you're probably tired coming in this week and if a guy that's not in the U.S. Open, coming here fresh, had a week off. So yeah, there's some thoughts to it. I didn't play in the Open last year and then I got here mad that I wasn't in the Open and then somehow I won. So yeah, that might have some effect on it that you're energized and you're ready to go and you're mad that you weren't in a major, so now you're ready to go at the Travelers.
Q. Have you seen the flag yet on 18?
BUBBA WATSON: No. The tournament director texted it to me, so I saw it. I got to see it. I haven't seen it. The horn just blew, so we only got to play through 17.
MODERATOR: Do we have a couple more?
Q. Bubba, can you talk about playing the 15th hole strategically, how you approach that?
BUBBA WATSON: A wedge, sand wedge, putt. Well, for me it's a tough distance for me. The 15th hole is a short hole, but it's like, I don't know, 285, right around 285 to the front edge of the green, and I carry a 4-wood. So it's one of those where it's going to be tough for me to get all the way to the center of the green to get it up the hill there. So I'm just going to try to be just short of the green, get it up-and-down, chip and a putt. Driver is too much obviously. So it's just one of those I'm just trying to hit it short of the green. I'm not trying to reach that green. If I reach that green, it's just because it was downwind that day or it got a hard bounce. It's not one that I can normally get to. So I'm just trying to come up short of the green and get up-and-down with a chip and a putt.
Q. 17th hole is a little bit longer --
BUBBA WATSON: That hole is tough. Made double bogey on Sunday there last year. I'd take an iron off the tee, usually it's a 3-iron off the tee to get over that bunker, try to hit it in the fairway. And then today with a little bit of rain I hit 3-iron, 8-iron in there. So that's all I'm looking at doing, just hitting that fairway, just hitting the fairway, you got a short enough iron after you hit the fairway, doesn't matter how far down the fairway you are. Just as long as you get in the fairway.
Q. Bubba, I heard you say once in an interview that you never hit a straight shot in your life. Is that true?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, every once in a while when I mess up. No, because I don't see straight lines. I see curves. I think it's easier for the -- the hardest shot in golf is the dead straight shot. You know, if you have a gap of five feet and you have to hit it straight through it, you worry about the trees, because it's so hard. It's just like a putt. It's hard to dead straight putt. So you always want to move a certain way. So yeah, it's just hard to do. So I always see the curves instead of straight. But I can do it. Not on call all the time, but...
MODERATOR: Thanks a lot, Bubba. Good luck this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.