A couple of days ago, in “Anger Is A Lot Like Love,” I wrote about mastery being a process of iterative failures.
The 36-hole co-leader of the Deutsche Bank Championship at the TPC Boston, Bubba Watson, is setting quite an example of being deep inside the mastery process.
At his post-round interview in the media room Saturday, for all of his “good old boy from Bagdad” (Florida) shtick, there lurks a serious student of the game and himself. His antics on Twitter with his “ur welcome” trick golf shots and other frolickings belie the still waters that run deep.
After two wins early in the year (La Jolla and New Orleans), he went flat with nothing better than a T21 at Firestone. He was asked if he any explanation for these ups and downs:
Just high expectations of myself, wanting to play better. You win three times in less than a year, all the people are writing about you in the paper, you’ve got more fans, you’ve got a lot more friends, you’ve got a lot more family, you’ve got a lot more of everything.
For me, for being a simple guy like myself, it’s not what I had the dream to do. I had the dream to play golf for a living, to win championships. You’re always dreaming to make the putts from 10 feet to win a golf tournament. You’re always dreaming about playing Ryder Cups, Presidents Cup. You never dream about the other stuff that comes with it, how much energy it takes to play good golf every week. And that’s the part that hit home with me, and I’m getting used to it.
I thought I was sick a few times, thought I had some energy problems, thought I had something wrong with me, and really it was just—I’m at a different stage of my life, more focused, more mental game, more preparation, all these things, and it just wears on you, and I had to get used to that. As a rookie I had to get used to everything else. So each year, each time you step up in the game, it’s a different level, different expectations, different things that go with it.
So I’m trying to learn that, and right now—I was still making cuts. I’ve only missed two cuts, which is pretty good for me, and I’m still learning. This week—I might go out and shoot 90 tomorrow, but I’m still learning. But it’s in a process. Hopefully I’ll play golf for a long time and be on TOUR for a long time, so I’ve got time to learn.
He was asked if the mental part of the game was keeping him from getting to the next level:
Well, yeah, definitely. I don’t think the physical game is the problem. When my mind is right, when I’m focused on what I’m doing, when I’m not bad-mouthing myself on the golf course, you know, I’m playing pretty good golf.
You know, I’m just out there free-wheeling it, having fun and focused on what I’m doing and not focused on what everybody else is doing. Not worrying about what the papers are going to say, not worried about what people are going to write about me on Twitter, some people.
So it’s a learning process, and the mental part is my biggest struggle. The physical part I’ve always thought I was pretty good at, even though people make fun of my swing. It’s worked out so far.
In the last part there, he made clear that he’s secure enough in himself and trusting enough of his swing, that he is little concerned with its idiosyncratic lurching. How many other players have ruined themselves by changing their swings in order to “get better?”
A writer began to correct him about whether they were making fun of his swing or not and he made clear that he truly is sanguine about it:
Well, you’ve got to sell papers. You’ve got to say something.
One writer pressed him about the mastery process and wondered, in spite of his insistence that he didn’t need a swing coach or a psychotherapist, did he think he was going to have to get some help?”
I’m going to have to save my money or play real good, one of the two, retire early. I don’t think I need help. I think it’s just one of those things. I’ve just got to figure it out on my own. I’ve figured out my golf swing; I’ve made it here…I’m playing good this week and my mind is in the right spot. I’ve been working hard at the house doing some things, and hopefully it’s working and hopefully I don’t have that many steps back, and it all just goes forward from here.
When I was Monday qualifying on the Champions Tour, a very seasoned PGA Tour player once told me, “Find a good coach and don’t listen to anybody else.” Bubba took quite a bit of heat for his ignorant foray into international golf in France.
Yeah, I’ve seen all that stuff. My new goal is not to watch—I love The Golf Channel but I’m not going to watch or listen to anybody, because my game is built around fun and I want to just have fun with the game, and I don’t like hearing that negative talk.
It seems hard to believe that he’ll be able to insulate himself from the critiques and criticisms that come with the territory, but I love that he’s secure enough about himself that he’s willing to try.
Because he’s finally figured out that all the true answers about himself lie within.