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MASTERS TOURNAMENT MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 16, 2015
STEVE ETHUN:Â Thank you, Bubba, for spending a few moments with us.Â He's our two‑time and current Masters Champion.Â He's on the phone from Orlando where he'll compete this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.Â As is our custom for this annual teleconference, Bubba is going to offer some opening thoughts as he gets ready to defend his title here at the 79th Masters.
He also has some good news to share as it pertains to the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, an initiative that we launched two years ago with The PGA of America and the United States Golf Association.Â I'll let Bubba explain his involvement, but it will definitely be great for the game of golf and very much appreciated.
I'd like to introduce Bubba.Â Bubba, maybe you could share your plans with us for next week and your support of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship.
BUBBA WATSON:Â Okay, perfect.Â Yes, I'm looking forward to the tournament, getting back there.Â I'm eager to get back there.Â Any time you can get back to the Champions Dinner is special place in the game of golf.
Looking forward to the tough test of the golf course again, like always, and obviously the beautiful shaving.Â And having the kids involved in the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship; and then also having my son and my daughter now for the Par‑3 Contest on Wednesday, what a special honor that is to have the family involved in that.
And then next week:Â After the Arnold Palmer tournament, going up to New York.Â Going to do some talk shows, having the green jacket on me again, hopefully.Â And I'm going to spend some time with Kelly Xu, who won last year.Â I think she's seven years old, seven or eight years old.
So she's going to be up there involved with it as well, trying to promote the game, trying to promote the game in the right way with the contest, the Drive, Chip & Putt.Â What an honor for kids and families to be involved in it, to grow the game of golf but also to grow the game of golf in a different way and in a special way that has involved Augusta National.
As a kid, I would be honored and thrilled just to try to compete and have a chance to make it to Augusta National, so this is one of the best things that I've seen in recent, recent years to grow the game of golf.Â It's great to be a part of that and be involved in that in New York with some of the media outlets that we can be involved in, having a young person like this, like Kelly, that's going to be there, as well, just trying to show the fun side of the game of golf.
STEVE ETHUN:Â And Bubba, I think you are particularly excited about getting to spend a little bit of time with Jimmy Fallon; is that right?
BUBBA WATSON:Â Oh, yeah, for sure.Â Jimmy Fallon is going to be great.Â What a hilarious guy, great guy, and can't wait to get up there and meet him and maybe do some fun things.Â Maybe do some crazy things.Â And so, yeah, it will be a blast.Â It will be a blast to get up there and do some of the cool things that we get to do as champions of Augusta National in the Masters.
STEVE ETHUN:Â Bubba will be on Jimmy Fallon next Monday evening.
Q.Â Your short game has probably been overshadowed by your long game, and then yesterday we saw Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed accomplish‑‑ get to a playoff and have a really great finish, mostly because of their short game.Â There's a perception that all the young guys care about is bombing, but obviously you and Jordan and Patrick are proving that wrong.Â And what kind of example is that for a kid that's going to enter this Drive, Chip & Putt contest; that this is the most important aspect of their golf game to work on?
BUBBA WATSON:Â Well, if you look at‑‑ let's just look at the name of the contest, Chip & Putt.Â Out of the three categories, there's short game twice.Â So that just shows what means the most.Â You look at any champion, whatever tournament it is, whatever level it is, look at their short game.Â Their short game is what causes it.
I hit a lot of drives over 300 yards, but I've only won seven tournaments.Â So that means that over 200‑something times, I've lost.Â I think that's more of short game.Â We can all hit shots at this level, at pro level.
So it comes down to chipping and putting, who makes their 10‑footers, who makes their 5‑footers; who can get up‑and‑down from tough situations, easy situations, from pine trees, from the rough, from the fairway and the bunker.
If you just look at the name, just the name of this contest, it's going to show the two things that are most important, because two of them are short game and one is driving.Â So you have to drive the ball in play, you have to drive it in‑bounds, or not in the water, and then you have to be able to chip and putt to get better at this game.
I think that's going to show kids, I think it shows parents, it also shows weekends golfers and it also shows pro level; that's how you're going to get better at the game of golf is the short game.
Q.Â I wanted to follow up on some other questions about the drive on the 13th hole last year.Â I was wondering if maybe the trees on that side that you went to were a little thinner than usual because of the ice storm, and had that ball not popped out into the fairway, where would you have had to drop it?
BUBBA WATSON:Â I don't know about the ice storm.Â I mean, those trees are tall.Â They were tall the year before.Â They were all last year.Â So I don't know about the ice storm.
I still flew it 360, so I hit it pretty far.Â And wasn't like it was a low one.Â It was pretty high, too.Â So I can't tell you on that, and you can't see it from the tee.
But like I said, always said, I pushed it ten, 15 yards to the left.Â I wasn't trying to go that far to the left, but I hit it good enough and the wind was pushing it enough to get it over.
Where I would drop it?Â I might have been able to drop it just across the creek right off the tee there because it obviously started to the right and then cut.Â Some people call it a slice but it was a controlled cut, I like to call it.Â So I might have been able to drop down there, let's say 150 yards off the tee.
But then at the same time, I'm not sure how the hazard looks, I'm not sure if it's all hazard or if it's just the creek that's hazard.Â So it might be a lost ball, too, if we can't find it or can't prove that it went to the creek.
Lucky for me that I didn't have to prove all that stuff.Â I hit sand wedge and then made birdie.
Q.Â Were you surprised that there was not a lot of movement and nobody made a charge on the back nine last year, or were the course conditions just too hard for anybody to be able to do that?
BUBBA WATSON:Â I think that if you look at it, I'm not sure if you've ever played in the Masters on the back nine on Sunday, but if you have, you know how much pressure there is.
So when you look at it in '12 when I won, I made four birdies in a row.Â So really the movement was only me that year.
And then last year, I made a bogey on 10 and a birdie on 13, and I think I parred out.
I think it's just, if you look at the leaderboard, a lot of younger guys, a lot of guys that are eager to win, a lot of guys that have won tournaments but maybe not a major; it's just one of those things.
You know, this year, it could be everybody birdies.Â It was just one of those things.Â I don't think it was anything course setup.Â I don't think it was weather.Â I don't think it was anything like that.Â It was just, you know, people are trying to hit good shots and for some reason they didn't hit them close enough or they didn't make the putts.
I don't think it was anything tricky.Â I don't think it was anything like that.Â It was just one of those years where there wasn't that many birdies on the back nine, because I was giving it my all to make birdies and I was just making pars.Â Just one of those things, there weren't as many roars as there was years past.
Q.Â What is it about Augusta National and the Masters that seems to take your shot‑making and your creativity to a different zone?
BUBBA WATSON:Â You know, if you look at the golf course, just at the golf course, you're going‑‑ it's lighter rough; the pine straw, which is better than rough.Â So you can hit solid contact and be creative with your contact out of pine straw over rough.
And then you look at the trees, the trees, it's not like there are a lot of branchs down below.Â So there is gaps that you can pull off shots, kind of like I pulled off on 15 last year under the limbs over the water.
So when you look at it from that perspective, the golf course alone shows you that people can do it.Â We have seen Tiger hit shots.Â Phil Mickelson, the one on 13, Phil Mickelson hits it out of the pine straw in between two trees, I think it was, when he won.Â
When you get into the high rough that most tournaments try to create, it takes away shot‑making.Â It makes you chip out.Â When you build a golf course with high rough, you're chipping out, and that's taking away creativity and that's taking away some people's strength.
And so when you go to Augusta, the high trees with no limbs and not really much rough; there is a little bit of rough but then there is mostly pine straw.Â So if you hit in the pine straw, you can still maneuver the ball out and make solid contact to hit creative shots.
And then it's Augusta National; so my juices start flowing.Â And sometimes I've been able to pull off some of the shots that you shouldn't be able to pull off just because of my energy level and I get pumped up and I become a kid again.Â Even though I'm 36, I feel like I'm getting old.Â I still feel like a kid when I get to Augusta.Â It's the home of golf.Â It's the mecca of golf.Â I mean, who doesn't want to be a member there; who doesn't want to be able to play there; and then who doesn't want to putt on that green jacket.Â So everybody gets excited there.
Q.Â How do you explain this run of Georgia Bulldogs heading down Magnolia Lane in recent years, and what part do you see yourself having played in in inspiring this?
BUBBA WATSON:Â As long as I keep beating them, that's fine with me (smiling).
I think the University of Georgia, it's created an atmosphere where, like I said in a couple other questions earlier, chipping and putting.Â I mean, that's the name of the game.Â That's how you're going to get better.Â It created what we called a gauntlet; I'm guessing they still call it a gauntlet there at Georgia where you have to practice your short game and you have to get up‑and‑down.Â It's not about just chipping on the green and 2‑putting.Â It's about hitting on the green and making a putt.
So we created a gauntlet practice area and practice facility that are better than I've ever seen for a college.Â And I think then when you see people‑‑ like I had Franklin Langham who was playing good, he got to, I think he was top 25 or top 30 a few years, and so I got to meet him and talk to him.Â He was a Georgia Bulldog.Â So I looked up, wanting to be like that.
And then I think me playing, some of these younger guys, they are recruiting good, great, great players.Â They see me, and they are like, well, if Bubba can do it, I can do it.Â It just inspires them to play.Â When you see people from your own school, people that you can pull for from your own school, you're going to get inspired and try to play better.
If I helped a little bit, then, yes, that's great.Â But I just think that University of Georgia is doing things the right way and teaching you‑‑ Coach Haack is teaching you the right way about the short game is the most important.
Q.Â Looking ahead, I realize that the Match Play is out here in San Francisco this year, and I was just curious, in all your years of playing match play, how you figured out the protocol of when to concede a putt and when not to and how your view is changed on that.Â It's not always clear‑cut, I imagine.Â Any examples you can recall of how your view of that process has changed?
BUBBA WATSON:Â Well, when I'm playing a match against the members at my golf course I play at, I never give putts.Â I make them all putt them out.Â But when it comes to pros, it's obviously different.
You know, it's early in the round, you might give some putts just because it's not a close match yet, and then you wait to see if they give you putts.Â You might be friendly because they have been friendly to you.Â There's really no secret to it.Â It all comes down to the moment.
Really, am I going to make the guy on the 18th hole putt a foot‑and‑a‑half putt?Â No.Â But if it's to beat me, then you just make him do it anyway, even though you know he's going to make it.Â It just depends on the moment:Â Are you 2‑up, are you tied, are you losing by a bunch; if you're losing by a bunch, just say, that's great, let's get out of here.
So it just depends on what the moment is at that time and if that person looks nervous over it, or what, some situation like that.
Q.Â Has there been any one memorable moment in your years of playing match play where you have conceded a putt and you wished you hadn't, or an opponent didn't concede a putt you thought he should have, or any example that shows the difficulty of this?
BUBBA WATSON:Â Yeah, you think every time they don't give you a putt, you think, why don't you give me the putt, because I don't want to putt it.
There's never been a time when I gave a putt ‑‑ I'm not worried about it.Â But again, match play, it's the same‑‑ even though it's match play, it's the same.Â You've still got to make your putts.Â You can't bank it that some guy is going to give you a putt.Â You can't bank that somebody is going to miss it or make it.Â You just play golf.
And then you remember while you were trying to make a birdie putt, you're like, "Oh, wait, sorry.Â Yeah, that's good."Â You can forget that.Â We're so used to not playing match play; we are just so used to putting out that sometimes I forget to give a putt, just because I'm like, oh, you have to putt that out.Â And I'm like, oh, wait, it's match play.
It's a tough one sometimes.Â Sometimes you forget and sometimes you just, because of the situation, you say you have to putt it.
Q.Â Going into the Masters in a couple weeks, who would you say is sort of your primary rival going into this year?Â And the second part of that question would be, the last time you defended your title in 2013, you didn't have such a successful run.Â So what are you doing differently this time to prepare to defend your championship?
BUBBA WATSON:Â The first part, the rival, the golf course is always the toughest part.Â There's not too many rounds shot under par, so obviously the golf course is always set up difficult.
Anybody in the field is good enough to win the golf tournament.Â They have either won a tournament before or always playing good to get in the field.Â At a certain level, everybody is capable.
Now, am I going to wake up feeling my best?Â Am I going to wake up thinking my best?Â Am I going to wake up performing at the top of my game that week?Â Who knows, I don't know that, I can't tell that you and I can't tell you who is going to do that.Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â But we are all good enough to win.Â You're talking about, I'm pretty sure they are all‑‑ the Top‑50 in the world are going to be there.Â They are all pretty good.Â Going down the list, they are all good.
And so, the second part was what am I doing different.Â In 2013, I was a newcomer.Â I was still trying to find my feet.Â I was still trying to figure out, somehow, I'm Masters Champion.Â Showed up at the Champions Dinner for the first time, and I was the honorary guy there, I'm the guy that had to pay the bill for the dinner.Â I had to sit at the head of the table.Â So this is all a new experience.
Media attention is different because you're defending champ.Â It's just a lot of things went on and I'm not making that as an excuse in my bad play, but I still made the cut.Â So you know what, when I look back at it, it wasn't my best, but I made the cut.Â Half the field wishes they were there playing on the weekend struggling like I was, if you want to call it that, so I'm still happy about it.
This year what I'm looking forward to is I know my routine, I know what I want to do and I know what I need to do.Â And now I know what the Champions Dinner is all about and now I know what the head of the table feels like.
So hopefully this time, I have a better chance on the weekend or I'll make the cut first and have better chance on the weekend.Â Hopefully just knowing that I'm not as nervous, not as skittish, not as anxious to get to see all these great champions in this Champions Dinner.
So hopefully this time I perform a little bit better and hopefully everything works out on Sunday and have a chance to win.
Q.Â Speaking of the Champions Dinner, are you going to tell us in year in advance what it's going to be?Â And looking at the list of people that have won the Masters three or more times, and it's a Who's Who of the greats in the game.Â What would it mean to you to add your name to that with a third green jacket?
BUBBA WATSON:Â The first part, no, I am not telling you what I'm having for dinner.Â It's the one chance that I can just hold everything from everybody.Â So I'm doing it.Â And I might never get that chance again, so I better suck it in this time, too, and keep it in.
The second part, I think it's the Who's Who who has won twice.Â Who cares about three times; let's just talk about twice.Â So I think that's the best part.Â No, to win it three times, obviously, yes, it would be remarkable.Â Any time you get a victory in any tournament that we play in, it's a big deal.Â For that town, for that city, it's a major event.
I think it's a big deal.Â And to win it three times would be remarkable.Â I never thought I would win it twice, so I can't believe that we are talking about it, three times.
Yeah, it would be crazy to do that, and some of the names that I'm already with and some of the names that I could be with if I did win it a third time would be unheard of and something I've never dreamed of, because you know, I'm from a small town, a guy named Bubba, never had a lesson.Â I just see it as what a dream it is to play on the PGA TOUR, somehow now got two Masters jackets.Â Pretty wild and pretty crazy stuff.
Q.Â Who do you think is under the greatest pressure going into the Masters this year, you as the defending champion or Rory McIlroy going for the career Grand Slam?
BUBBA WATSON:Â Well, I think that me, I don't have any pressure.Â I've already got two jackets.
Now, if I had to win‑‑ if you was just looking at me and McIlroy, I would say McIlroy.Â Not that he's under pressure, I don't call it pressure at all from McIlroy.Â I call it as an accomplishment he's trying to do.Â But he's so young, he's going to have year after year after year to try to do this, to win a Grand Slam.
And obviously, if it was the other way around, all the pressure would be on me because who doesn't want to win a Grand Slam.Â If I ever had a chance to win a Grand Slam, what a thrill that would be and what an honor that would be.
McIlroy has proven at a young age, what is he, 25 years old‑‑ so for him to do it at that young of age or a chance to do it at that young of an age, that's unheard of.Â At 25 years old I was barely keeping my TOUR card.Â That was my first year on TOUR.Â What a talent that he is.
So I don't see it as pressure.Â He's got years, he's got his whole life to try to win the Masters but obviously him personally, he's going to put pressure on himself.Â Who doesn't want to do that?Â Who doesn't want to be the youngest to win the Grand Slam‑‑ I'm guessing he'd be the youngest, I'm pretty sure; pretty young to win that.
Looking at me and him, obviously I think he would have more pressure than me, because look at the talent he has and the records he could beat when he gets older.
Q.Â I know you don't want to tell anybody what your champion dinner is, but two parts on that.Â Will you at least let us know if it's going to be the exact same thing as last time, and how would you describe your culinary taste buds?
BUBBA WATSON:Â I will tell you this:Â We are definitely going to have food.Â And the second part is, I eat plain.Â I'm very plain.Â In 2012, I ate a burrito or two burritos every night and consist of chicken, rice, black beans and cheese.
And last year in '12, I ate a burrito or two burritos every night.Â So I get there early; so I'm there for like ten nights.Â I had a burrito, except Champions Dinner‑‑ well, I take that back.Â Don't tell nobody, but Champions Dinner night, I did have a burrito before I got to the Champions Dinner.
So I had a burrito every single night then, as well.Â '12, I didn't go to the Champions Dinner, so I had a burrito every night then, too.Â So maybe this year I should do all burritos again.
Q.Â And last thing, do you think it's important that Tiger Woods get back and maybe in time for the Masters?
BUBBA WATSON:Â Like what do you mean, like him show up?
Q.Â Do you think it's important for golf and important for the tournament that he get there, and how much would it disappoint you if he's not a part of the field and a part of the challenge?
BUBBA WATSON:Â Well, for sure, I mean, the game of golf is obviously missing because of Tiger Woods‑‑ it's missing something.Â It's like when any great of the game is not there for injuries or for old age or for whatever it is, retirement; you're missing a part, until you find the newcomer or the next guy that's going to be the great champion.
So when you look at it, though, when I look at it as what Tiger Woods has done for the game of golf, what Tiger Woods has done for the purses, which helps everybody's bank account, which helps for the media outlets; the more media attention, the more jobs he's created from the media side of it; the more jobs he's created in the security side of a golf tournament.
I mean, he's created jobs all around the game of golf and all around the game of golf tournaments.Â So obviously when he shows up, it's a bigger party, I guess you would say, for the fans but just a bigger program for everybody in general, from volunteers to security to media attention to the spectator side of it.
I mean, just everybody, everybody in general grows around him just because what he's created and the buzz he's created and the legacy he's created for himself and the game of golf.Â He hits shots that we have all dreamed about.Â He's won, what, 80 tournaments, which I've only got seven, so I'm still way behind him (laughing).
STEVE ETHUN:Â With that, we want to thank everyone for their time today.Â Thank you, Bubba, and we will see you up in New York next week.
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