Why I like Bubba Watson

The Travelers Championship at the TPC River Highlands kicks off in Cromwell, Connecticut, just south of Hartford…the reason that when the players don’t refer to it as the “Travelers,” they refer to it simply as, “Hartford.”

Bubba Watson, at No 10 in the World Rankings and 12 in the FedExCup points, is the highest ranked player in the field. Small wonder, it was the site of his first win back in 2010. Do you remember what an emotional accomplishment that was? Sobbing in his wife, Angie’s, arms in joy for the win and sorrow that his father passed away before he was able to see his son’s finest moment to that point. Seems like just yesterday. We see all these milestones in the lives of Tour players who touch us in one way or another and it always seems like it was just yesterday.

Bubba cries a lot when he wins. It’s a vivid statement about just how invested he is in what he does for a living, how much he cares about it: 

Yeah, I’m excited to be back here. Obviously, great memories here. 2010 was great memories and sad memories about my dad.

So he’s always interesting when he comes into the media center. The questioning began with his assessment of Jordan Spieth’s win at the U.S. Open on the heels of his Masters win (which Watson won twice, so he knows a little bit about what it takes):

His game is impressive. It’s all good. Right now he’s hitting on all cylinders. His driver is good, irons are good, obviously his chipping is good and he’s making putts. The key is making putts. If you look and watch every week, you’re going to watch the guy. The guy’s making putts. The guy’s making the ten-footers, five-footers, those are the guys that are going to be there on the weekend, week-in, and week-out.

What’s impressed me is as young as he is, and even though he’s played on the Tour as an amateur at 16 years old, what’s impressed me is how he’s grown and developed his mental game, his mental focus and his preparation. That’s what’s impressive. At that young age, when I was that age I was still in college, but when I was that age I was nowhere near where I’m at now, and I’m not even close to what he’s at.

As we all know I’ve got mental issues [his candor about himself], and I’m still working on it. But that’s what’s so impressive about him is his mental focus and drive is what is so impressive. We watch the elite athlete. We watch the mental focus and the preparation and the drive to become the best. That’s where he’s heading. Who knows if he’ll ever become No. 1 in the world, but he’s trending in that direction pretty quickly. Then ’14, yeah, I’m just glad I got to beat him in ’14 before he went crazy the next year.

One of the first principles of the mastery process is being conscious enough to realize not how to do something, but what you do when you try. Some of the ways that we add to our consciousness in our golf swings is the use of a good coach with a video camera.

The reason a good coach is a key element of that awakening is that I can remember being fascinated by my swing when I first began videoing it. It was such a revelation to finally see what my swing looked like. But without an informed understanding of the golf swing, mine looked pretty good. Which it was — I could get it around — but there are always improvements in the efficiency of a swing that once made, hardly seem to budge the foundational swing you began with. But they do; the evidence is in the air.

In Bubba’s case, he accepts his swing for what it is and what he can make it do with seeming ease. The mystery for him is his “mental issues” as he refers to them. It has been almost heartwarming to see a young man emerge from the panhandle of Florida with all that sheer natural talent and then find his way to higher consciousness by becoming interested in how to process the world as he finds it.

…last week I played really nicely. Just the ball bounces one way or ball bounces the other way. Mine chose to bounce the other way. I mean, that’s just how it is. That’s golf. Some days you play good, and you don’t score well. So now I’m just looking to have a chance on Sunday. I took five weeks off before the Open, so for five weeks I didn’t have a chance on Sunday. Then I missed the cut.

I have chronicled other incidents where Bubba has made very public blunders (calling the Eiffel Tower, “that tower,” when he was in Paris for the French open a couple of years ago).

And where he chose to go for his coaching in that instance was his Christian faith. He apologized profusely for offending anyone with his ignorance and petulant yearning for home, and responded forthrightly to the avalanche of criticism he received on Twitter. He said in so many words, that he was sorry and then quoted scripture to evidence his contrition and make clear the path that he was following to be a better person.

Not really what you’d expect from a self-deprecating young goofball from Bagdad, Florida.

And that’s why I like ‘im.

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