Bubba Watson: I Did It My Way

Bubba Watson had another good day on Saturday in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He shot a 5-under, 67 on the TPC Blue Monster at Doral in Miami to take a three-shot lead over Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose. (He’ll be paired with Bradley on Sunday.)

And that got him snatched away into the media center to discuss his round, the golf course, and the tournament. And once again, we got some jewels out of him that speak to the primary interest of this blog, the mastery process. The early portions were perfunctory questions and answers about what happened, but then he naturally moved into mastery issues.

He begins with this dissertation on nervousness and he offers us two visions of how to deal with it:

  1. You can “lie to yourself” as in whistling by the graveyard, or,
  2. You can admit that you’re nervous, then put it aside and go do your work

Q. You’ve won out here a few times now. How much more comfortable are you with the nerves in this position, and obviously going into tomorrow?

I’m not at all. I mean, that’s the challenge. That’s the beauty of it. I play this game because I love it and I love the challenge, and I love trying to get better and better. If anybody says they are not nervous going into Sunday that’s around the lead or close to the lead or has a chance to win, they are just lying to you. Their psychologist is telling them to lie to themselves. (Laughter).

So I see it as, no, I’m nervous, I’m going out there and I’m trying to beat this golf course. I’m trying to beat the Blue Monster. I’m trying to man up and play a good score and if I can shoot another good score in the 60s and somebody beats me, they beat me. I go home happy. I can’t be mad about that. If I play the way I should play and I get beat, I just get beat.

What he doesn’t say, is that by confronting your nervousness, you get to examine it, to “be with it,” as a way to get to the bottom of why you feel that way. It’s an iterative process that ultimately will lead you to ego considerations as the cause: what if I fail? What will they think? What will happen to me?

However, if you become really invested in the moment, in the task at hand, all of that disappears. Which is maybe what Bubba meant when he spoke about going out there and “trying to beat this golf course.”

Then the media began discussing his lack of a coach.

Q. You’ve said many times that you’ve not had a coach or consulted one. Do you enjoy trying to figure things out on your own, and have you ever even attempted to have somebody, I mean seriously look at your swing, or work with you?

I like a challenge. I like playing and learning it myself. I’m stubborn. I like doing it myself. I love applauding myself. Why would I want to go say thanks to somebody else? I want to do it on my own. I want to play better for me and I want to win because of me and I want to play good because of me; and no, I’ve never seeked out advice of a coach or anything on my swing. I just swing funny and somehow it works.

This is always true because it’s you that has to actually feel what’s happening in the swing. A kinesthetic experience isn’t something that can be intellectually explained. But it can expedite the process if you have another set of well-trained eyes to confirm what you’re doing. And it follows, suggest how you might do it better. It saves a lot of hunting and pecking and blind alleys. It doesn’t mean that you have to surrender your control of the process.

The next question dealt with Rory McIlroy’s candid assessment of how dated Doral was and ended in a discussion of Bubba’s perceptions. But I thought the initial part of his answer was much more interesting. It dealt with the constancy of the pressure these elite players play under:

[Doral] is very challenging. Obviously when you’re playing good golf, no matter how you’re playing, if you’re playing good golf, somebody is going to shoot a low score. Next year it would be really windy but somebody is still going to shoot under par. That’s just how golf. Is not everybody is going to play great but there’s going to be somebody.

And then the media steered him back into his iconoclastic independence as to working with a coach.

Q. …I read somewhere that you said, if you can beat me, I’ll listen to you; but if you can’t beat me, why would I listen to you? Is that still your mentality…?

Yeah, that’s how I think but just jokingly. That’s how I think, though. There’s no reason for me to when I get done with my golf career, I want to say that I tried my best. And if that golf career ends, I’ve got two more years exemption, after two more years from now, if I end my golf career because I can’t play golf, then I can say, I tried my hardest, I tried my best and I didn’t make it.

I don’t want a team of people behind me showing me how to swing on computers. That’s just not me. That’s not my personality. I’m just trying to do it on my own. It’s more fun to do it on my own. I like to figure it out on my own. It’s just like a math problem except I probably wouldn’t get the math problem right. But I try to figure it out on my own and try to learn from there…

Q. When was the last time you had somebody work with you swing wise? And secondly, when you see all of the hustle and bustle that goes on on the range with everybody and their swing coaches and physio guys and mental coaches, are you amused by it? What’s your impression by all that goes on when you’re down at the end of the range just beating balls without a team?

I’ve never asked for help. The last time I got help was my dad probably about ten years old. He could barely break 100, so he just, I used him as like a mirror. I looked at him because he was right handed so I just used him like a mirror and he told me the basic grip, the basic swing and I learned it from there.

No, it doesn’t amuse me. I mean, those guys, I have a trainer that travels with me everywhere I go. We work out, we worked out this morning pretty hard. Worked out yesterday.

You know, but it’s all about personality. It’s all about your mind. You know some, guys want somebody there. Some guys want somebody there to cheer them up, to keep them going, to tell them that the swing looks good, to help them.

I just choose not to. There’s other guys that don’t have a swing coach that chases them around everywhere they go, some do. It’s just all about preference, and for me it’s just not having one.

In the end, he returns to his central theme and core belief, that he wants to be able to say, “I did it my way.” And given the way he’s scoring and the seemingly magical shots he’s hitting to do so, who can argue with him?

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