Bubba Watson, the defending champion of this week’s National Trust Open, may play the clown prince having a grand time with jokes about his good looks and prodigious talent, but one of the things you can always pretty much count on him for is introspective honesty in an effort to become a better man, husband, father and golfer. And pretty much in that order.
It came up in a question in the media center about whether as a self-taught golfer with no coach, is he able to fix himself when he’s not playing well?
Yes, I definitely know what it is and how to fix it. Now, do I do it is the other question.
It’s all mental for me. I don’t see physically there’s a shot that I can’t perform. And so if I’m focused, my mind is in the right spot, I’ve got enough energy to stay focused, then I can perform at a high level. I’ve gotten better at it. My consistency level, less missed cuts; you’re going to have bad days. It’s just about how do you save them to still make the cut to make it to the weekend. [Last year he barely made the cut and then shot 64, 64 to win.]
So I think I’ve gotten better at it. It’s all mental for me. It’s all about where I am at in my life, where I am at in my focus, my dedication to each shot. And that’s the biggest challenge for me. It’s not physical. We can all hit shots. We can all make putts. Now, can we do it week‑in, week‑out.
It came up in his description of his second child that he and Angie just adopted:
Oh, it’s fun. It’s a different — I guess you have to be softer. You have to be more gentle, I guess you’d say. My son is turning three this week. So, you know, he wants to wrestle. He wants to jump around and run into things.
My daughter, she’s three months old now, so, you know, she still can’t move or do anything like that. But still, you can just tell, softer, and Angie wants to dress her up like she’s a baby doll. She’s got all these hair bows and all these things to make sure you know she’s a female.
It’s different. It’s a different feeling. Same feeling, same loving feeling, but different girl from boy. He’s a tank and she’s a little princess I guess.
It came up in his extensive response to winning at Riviera, then the Masters and finally, the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, a World Golf Championships event. He was responding to a question about having used the West Coast swing as a “springboard” to a great year:
I’m all about energy level and about focus, and so for me, the West Coast, it seems like I played pretty good on the West Coast and then when it gets hot and later in the year, I kind of struggle — not struggle, but just the focus; miss a putt here, miss a putt there, miss a shot here, miss a shot there.
My record has not shown as well second half of the year, I guess you could say. Now the year goes all the way around, never having a break. I still do it off the calendar year. I don’t do it off of whatever we’re doing [the 2014-2015 “season” which begins in October, 2014].
So I look at it as it gets me excited. It gets me excited about the game. Try to take all of December off or half of December off or half of November off and some of October off where I feel like I have some kind of an off‑season.
So I always get excited. I get excited about the West Coast — doesn’t matter if it’s the West Coast or East Coast or wherever we start, I just get excited about the new year and the new season starting. I guess I’m like a little kid; the sugar runs out and I die halfway through the year.
It’s fun, and I have, I’ve got off to a good start. Seems like Doral is my key. If I finish second in Doral, I’m going to have a good shot at Doral because every time I’ve won the Masters, I’ve finished second at Doral. Hope I finish second at Doral this year.
It came up, along with his humor again, in his discussion about just what it was about Riviera that the players found so captivating. Parenthetically, Fred Couples is in the field again because it’s one of his favorite courses. Davis Love III can’t seem to stay away either:
Right off the bat for me personally, I say that they don’t tweak it. It’s been the same. They added a tee box on 2 but I don’t know if we have even used it yet. I have not seen too many changes that I was worried about. They are letting the golf course just defend itself.
And then when you look at the history, the great names, like Bubba Watson on the trophy, things like that (laughter), you look at the great names on there, it’s an honor to be a part of.
Every tournament has history, but I see it personally for me as they don’t tweak it. They just leave it the way it is. I’m surprised they haven’t tried to move the clubhouse yet, make No. 1 [where the elevated first tee backs up to the clubhouse] a lot farther like a lot of golf courses think they need to do is add length.
They leave it here, and they let the grass and the winds and the humps and bumps of the greens define their golf course instead of trying to make it extra long.
And, finally, it came up in response to how good he can be given last year’s bonanza:
Well, I think I’m as good as I can be right now. I don’t see anything that I need to really change or do differently. Now it’s the other people around me, hopefully they start struggling so I get even better or I look even better (laughter).
Right now, I’m on top of my game. Doesn’t mean I’m going to play good this week. Doesn’t mean I’m going to play good the rest of the year. Just means right now, I’m playing good. I’ve had I think three, like I said, three Top‑10s in a row. They are all spread out over about a six‑month period but everything’s in the right place in my life. I’m thinking better. I’m focused on the right things outside of golf.
I realize that golf is just a sport, and it doesn’t mean that my son is going to like me or love me any more or any less depending on what I shoot. My wife is still going to be there no matter my miss the cut or make the cut. There’s a lot of positives in my life I have to look at the right way. We’re heading in the right direction. I can’t help what other guys do. If a guy comes out and wins 13 tournaments in a row, 14 tournaments in a row and beats me, that’s not my fault. It’s just I tried my hardest and he beat me.
I do have to add one personal story that gets to the fullness of the man. I asked him a question one year at the Accenture Match Play Championship down in Tucson that somehow brought out how competitive he was, an essential ingredient in the match play format.
He responded that he was competitive in anything he did, from eating breakfast to playing matches. And then looking straight into my eyes he said that even if we were just racing to tie our shoes, he’d want to beat me.
And there was just something in that deadpan look that made me squirm ever so slightly.