Bubba Watson: Playing by visuals and feel

Bubba Watson managed to keep it going on Friday extending his good play in the first round of the Travelers Championship. His first round 62 gave him a 2-shot lead and Friday’s 3-under 67 to get to 11-under in slightly more challenging wind conditions allowed him to stay two shots ahead:

It was windier, gustier coming from a different direction, so it made the golf course tougher. Hard to get the ball close. You can still make some birdies, but the lower scores were very difficult to keep repeating like yesterday.

The three players at 9-under are: Brian Harmon (65), Brian Stuard (67) and Carl Pettersson (66).

There are three players at 8-under: Scott Brown, Jason Gore and Chris Stroud.

Nick Watney and Keegan Bradley are among the eight players at 7-under. 

Watson’s media session began with an observation about a big, sweeping right to left tee shot and that it did not appear that he had a lot of technical thoughts in his head:

[Apparently looking at a television monitor] No, I definitely don’t have technical thoughts. What I’m looking at here, I’m going off this bunker. You can barely see it. But there is a bunker right there.

What Watson is doing is seeing and reacting to what the golf course gives him and then instinctively feeling his shot into the fairway using those visual cues. He’s not thinking about his swing and he’s not just thinking about making pars. He’s playing for birdies:

So I’m trying to get it, feed it down there somewhere in the fairway. A low cut for me, I call it deep cut. It’s no problem for me. It’s something I’ve done my whole life. A lot of holes are shaped that way. On this golf course, a lot of holes are shaped that way. If you see it right there. So I’m just trying to get it. Make sure it landed on the other side of this pole right here that you can see. As long as it does that, it’s an okay hole, and I can make birdie.

Is it really possible that he doesn’t have a mechanical thought in his head when he plays?

Yeah, I’ve never thought about anything mechanical, where my body should be and my elbows or anything like that. I just play golf. I just see it and hopefully I can pull it off.

So his plan of attack was to be as aggressive as possible given the conditions allowing for keeping the card clean of bogeys:

That’s what we were trying to do yesterday. Yesterday the wind was favorable and good scoring. Today, tougher pins and more wind, so it makes it tougher to get the ball close. Some of the holes were playing a little bit longer because of the wind. The wind was in a different direction. So it just made the golf course a little bit tougher.

But obviously when you’re playing good, you’re thinking, well, you can still score. All these players are still pretty good. So you can still score even in tougher conditions.

So given all of that, what was it that was working best for him?

It’s just my mind right now. Over the putts I’m thinking well. Made a good, solid putt on the first hole, the 10th hole today for par. I stayed, when I hit a bad shot or a shot that went just off the fairway, I played smart. Hit a good 4-iron on No. 5 today. The wind was different than yesterday, so it made the golf course a lot longer. Made it tougher getting the ball close. So I just stayed patient and just kept playing steady.

But in the end, it all comes down to finding a way to just stay in the present even though he still gets nervous when he plays. Hard to believe, I know, but that admission is typical of his reflective candor:

Oh, I don’t know. Depends on how nervous I get. Right now I’m thinking well, I’m staying in the moment. I’m hitting my driver well, controlling it pretty nicely. Even when I miss the fairway, it’s just off the fairway. So I’m looking forward to it. But it’s really about controlling the mind. The body can hit the shots. The body can make the putts. It’s just about controlling the mind and making sure you’re in the moment.

So after his 2010 win, what were his hopes and aspirations for where he wanted to end up in his career?

I can never predict. I’m not going to sit here and brag and say I’m an awesome golfer and I should have majors. I mean, there are great players that have never won. There are great players that have never won a major. So for me to have two and now 7 wins and a World Golf Championship after my first win here, I’m ahead of schedule.

My whole dream in life was to play on the PGA Tour, and to actually have 7 wins and two of them a major, I’m ahead of schedule than I’ve ever dreamed.

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