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February 27, 2013

Bubba Watson

STEVE ETHUN:  Good morning, everyone.  This is Steve Ethun, the director of communications at the Augusta National Golf Club.  It's obviously a pleasure to welcome all of you to today's conference call with our 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson.
As you all remember, Bubba played some incredible golf last April on his way to his first green jacket, with one shot in particular we all won't soon forget.  This year he'll return to Augusta for his fifth appearance at the Masters, so Bubba, welcome.  Thank you for your time this morning, and before we get started, if you could, just reflect for us kind of your first year as Masters champion, what it's been like.
BUBBA WATSON:  It's been overwhelming.  It's been exciting.  It's been fun.  It's been blessed.  You know, I can't wait to get back there and just to have my son.  My son wasn't there, my wife wasn't there for the win, but have them a year later be there, basically a year that we've had him, and hopefully he's walking by then so he can walk the par‑3 with me.  It'll be a blast for our family.
STEVE ETHUN:  Thanks again for being here this morning.  We'll open it up to questions.

Q.  One thing I remember talking to you about, what your plans might be for the champions dinner next year, and you've been kind of coy about that.  I was wondering if you might have any updates for everybody that is kind of obsessed with what the champion serves every year.
BUBBA WATSON:  My update is we'll wait to see that day what I have.  I think as Masters champion I should be allowed to just wait to tell everybody.

Q.  You certainly can do that.  There's just a lot of people that end up calling from and want to try to replicate the champions dinner.  You're just going to say they'll have to wait and find out then?
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah, they'll have to replicate it the day after, I guess.

Q.  I was just wondering in your 11 months of fatherhood where building a snowman with Caleb ranks and if you can just talk about some of the highlights of the last 11 months with him.
BUBBA WATSON:  The highlights is every day, watching him from‑‑ he was a month old when we got him, so watching him be able to focus on me and Angie and realize that we're his caregivers I guess you could say because he doesn't know what mom and dad are yet.  But changing his diaper to feeding him, holding him when he's crying, just all a learning experience and it's all a dream.  It's an amazing feeling you get when you finally become a parent.  And now watching him crawl, getting close to walking, he says mama, says dada.  He's trying to say turtle, he says turtle.
So there's a lot of things we've been watching him do, and we've taught him a couple sign language things, taught him how to clap.  Now we can say give kisses and so he tries to kiss you.  So there's a bunch of things that we've gotten to enjoy over the last year.  He just had his birthday two days ago, so now we're having his birthday party on Saturday.
It's just amazing.  I thought golf was my life, then I thought when I got married, my wife was my life, and now with a child, now it's my family is my life.  Having my wife to help raise a child is just a dream come true and a blessing on our end.

Q.  And you guys did make a snowman in Tucson; is that correct?
BUBBA WATSON:  No, we made snowballs.  My hands got too cold and I couldn't make a snowman.  He picked up some snow and he had it and he actually threw the snowball in the room so there was snow all over our room after he threw it.

Q.  Did you just say he said turtle?  Is he accusing you of slow play, or what's the deal there?
BUBBA WATSON:  No, nobody on the PGA Tour does slow play.

Q.  On your shot on 10 last year in the playoff, your quote last year was I hoped at about 40 yards, it hit about 15 feet off the ground until it got in the tree and started rising pretty easy.  My question is what's the hardest shot you've ever pulled off, if that was easy?
BUBBA WATSON:  The hardest shot I've ever pulled off?  I've pulled off a couple more that week early in the week.  The one on 17 earlier in that day, what, three holes before that, was harder.  One on 11 I think was harder.  So that one‑‑ just in that week that was like No.4 on the list.

Q.  What made the one, for example, on 17 and 11 harder?  Why do you say that?
BUBBA WATSON:  17 in regulation when I was tied for the lead, it was off of‑‑ where the patrons walk, and so it was‑‑ like it's hard packed like mud because of the moisture and stuff, so it makes like a hard‑packed mud, so there's no give.  So now I have to try to pick my‑‑ it was the same club, a 52‑degree, off of that, and go over the trees.  It seems like I was in the woods a lot, so I had to go over the trees.  So to pick that, to get it up and to still hit it 150‑something yards was pretty tough, and I did it.
And then No.11, I think No.11 was on Friday, I was 3‑under at the time, I think, so if I don't pull the shot off, I could be back on the cut number or closer to the cut.  I had a pine straw lie in the trees again like normal.  I hit it on the right side in the pine straw, and it was an iffy lie.  The pine straw was around my ball almost like a nest, like sitting down, and I had to hit a low 9‑iron that could only go no more than 10 feet because of the tree limbs, and I'm aiming at the water being left‑handed, so I'm hitting this big massive hook.  Hit 9‑iron from like 170‑something, so I hit this low hook that hooked a lot, roughly 40, 50 yards again, and my caddie thought I couldn't do it because the lie was so bad, and I told him to watch this.  So I pulled it off.
There was one other one.  There was another one on 7 that doesn't get talked about much earlier in the week where, again, I was in the woods, and I was on the right side.  I had a terrible lie, kind of like, again, a nestly kind of lie, like sitting down, and I had a gap that was only like‑‑ I mean, in our heads it looked like five feet wide, and my caddie said, no, just chip out.  I said, no, I can make this.  He said, well, why do you want to.  I said, just watch this.  So I hit it on the green through this gap in these trees, and I had to hit this real high shot over this one tree and then through the gap of two other trees and somehow pulled it off again.
In the situation, obviously the playoff shot was the most important and the most exciting, but the other ones were difficult, just nobody cared what Bubba Watson was doing those other days or other shots.

Q.  Was there ever a shot, whether it was last year or any tournament, where it was kind of on the line, should I do this or should I not, and you pulled yourself off it and went the safe route?
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah, just those ones I just‑‑ the one I mentioned to you on 17 when I was tied for the lead, no, I was going to go all the way because the chip‑out wasn't very good.  No.11 was the one that was really iffy.  7 was iffy, again, because my caddie was telling me no and I'm saying yes.  I've had some ones throughout my short career that, yes, were definitely nos and then they turned into yeses real fast when I pulled them off.

Q.  I was just wondering if you had any plans to go back to that spot on 10 and maybe try that shot over again to see if you could pull it off a second time?
BUBBA WATSON:  Well, truthfully, obviously I pulled it off once, so I should be able to pull it off again.  No, I want that to live.  That might be my only legacy of winning the Masters, so I want that shot to live, and I want it to grow, and hopefully 20 years from now it's even tougher and there was bigger trees and was a tougher situation.
So I don't have any reason to go over there.  Hopefully I hit the fairway from now on so I don't need to practice that shot anymore.

Q.  This is a little bit off the beaten path of the Masters.  It's more kind of an equipment philosophy question.  A lot of stuff with Rory's change over to Nike, there was a lot of scrutiny on him, and I wonder if after you won the Masters if anybody came to you and asked you to go to a different equipment manufacturer or anything like that, and how difficult of a decision that may be when you've had great success with what you've already had?
BUBBA WATSON:  Truthfully I don't know if any equipment companies came to my manager.  My manager goes through everything that comes through the office, so there could have been offers, there could have been inquiries, I guess, because my deal was up last year with Ping.  But I've been with Ping since I was eight, and so I didn't want to leave Ping.
But obviously now going through a different aspect of it, when you talk about we just adopted a child, I have a wife, I have charities, I have different things I want to do in my life, there's a certain number that makes you change.  You know what I'm saying?  If somebody comes to you and says, hey, I've got a better job offer for you and it's a lot more money, you have to consider it because you're looking at family, you're looking at your retirement, you're looking at charity work, you're looking at other things you can do in life.
So yes, there's always something you look at.  So if the right number comes along or what we call a stupid number in our business comes along, then obviously you look at it and you reflect and talk to your family, talk to your close friends, you talk to your manager, and you figure it out.
But obviously I don't want to leave Ping.  I never wanted to leave Ping.  I've been with them since I was eight years old and never played any other equipment, so for me it's an easy decision because I've never got a stupid number, though.

Q.  Are you as fascinated as many of us to see how‑‑ we all figure Rory is going to keep playing well, but are you as fascinated to see how it works out because there certainly have been a lot of tales of top‑level players that have gone to different equipment and haven't been the same.  Is there any part of you that's compelled to see how that all works out?
BUBBA WATSON:  No.  You know, I think that, because think about it, we change equipment every year.  We have a new driver come out from Ping, you have a new 3‑wood, you have new irons, you have a new golf ball.  It might be the same company but it's all new.  You've got new golf shoes coming out, so they feel different on your feet.  You've got all these new things coming out, so I don't see it as that big of a change.
I think the biggest change in changing a product would be the logo, if you change from one company to another, so the logo you look down at might be different.  That would be the biggest change because I'm a feel player, so when something is changed like that, I know it.  So I think that the biggest change is that.
But I think ‑‑ because you're asking about Rory, I think Rory is going to be a talented player.  I think he's going to be No.1 for a while.
There's nobody in the history of the game that's been 100 percent on making cuts, so Rory missed the first cut.  Match play is match play.  I think that doesn't matter.  We're not‑‑ team sports is different.  No.1 football team in college is going to beat the 64 team in college, so it's different.  But golf, everybody is good.  I mean, the top 100 in the world, top 200 in the world, any given day they can play golf.  That's why I think match play is such a goofy tournament anyway.  It doesn't really show how good somebody is or how good somebody is playing.  So I don't really see by him and Tiger and other people missing the first round, I don't see that shows us anything.  And a missed cut is a missed cut; everybody going to do it.  No matter how many times you try, you can't make every cut.

Q.  Two quick questions:  One, I'm just curious if you want back and have you watched the broadcast of the final round at all and sort of had a chance to reflect on it in the off‑season or any point afterwards?
BUBBA WATSON:  Yes, I watched it as soon as I got home.  You know, with the new technology of DVR and stuff, people record stuff, so yeah, obviously I've watched it.  I watched it with my friends.  I've probably watched it like three times and reflecting back on it, you want to hit mute a lot of times because there's so much negative talk on commentating and stuff.  But yeah, I reflected on it and just watched it and tried to remember the emotions and explained stuff to my wife, what I was thinking and everything like that, and my friends.
So yeah, on part one, yes, I have reflected on it.

Q.  Did anything in particular stand out when you watched it?
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah, that I won.  I actually won it.

Q.  Secondly, the green jacket, just curious what you did with it afterward.  Obviously you had the media tour the next day, and I'm just curious the past year have you worn it much?  Has it been in the closet?  What have you kind of done with the jacket?
BUBBA WATSON:  You know, as respect for the Masters and Augusta National and all their members, I haven't done anything with the jacket.  I wore it for media day up in New York.  They've asked me to do a photo shoot, so I wore it one time for a photo shoot for Augusta.  And then it's been in my closet hidden away.  None of my friends have seen it.  None of my friends have taken photos of it.  It's been in its‑‑ what do you call it, the garment bag.  They give you a garment bag with 2012 Masters champ on it.
But it's been siting in that garment bag.  I haven't taken it out.  I don't let anybody see it or take pictures of it out of respect for the tournament and out of respect for the members of Augusta National.

Q.  How many times would you say you've looked at it or gone into that closet and looked at it?
BUBBA WATSON:  We were still renting a house in Orlando when I first won because Caleb couldn't leave Florida.  So the closet was a little different, so I had to see it every time going in there.  But since we came back to our house here in Scottsdale, I haven't seen it.  I put it in the back.  I know it's there just because I don't want anybody to steal that thing, but I know it's there.  But no, I don't look at it, I don't ever see it.  I can see the corner of it because it's like back with my jackets, so I can see the corner of the green garment bag so I know it's there at all times, but I don't ever glance at it or anything like that.

Q.  Michael Campbell said recently that the reason for his troubles after winning the 2005 U.S. Open was because he basically failed to reset his goals.  He thought he'd won a major championship so that's all there was.  That's all he ever wanted to do.  Have you set yourself some new goals having won your first major?
BUBBA WATSON:  Well, it's funny you ask me that question, because as soon as I won, I sought out some players that have won recently.  I sought out like Graeme McDowell, McIlroy, asked Tiger, asked some big‑name players that have won, Charl Schwartzel, and I've asked them.  I asked, how do you deal with it, because the first three months to the first six months, your sponsors, media, you get more attention.  You've got more fans, and so you get away from the game of golf.  Golf is the last thing on anybody's mind.  But you still have to keep executing.
In Campbell's situation‑‑ and that's what I tried to not do.  I tried to get out of that situation fast, and it helped me, too, that I had my child, we adopted our child, so I spent a few months with him, so I missed a couple tournaments that I normally play in and I got to relax, reset, refocus.  I missed my first two cuts after my long layoff, but then I finished second again right after that.
So yeah, you do.  You have to do that and you have to‑‑ because you don't want to be known for the one tournament.  You want to go out there and compete.  I want to play for many more years, and so for me, yeah, I got lucky because we adopted our child at the same time, so I got to focus on family, I got to focus on other things other than golf, and then it helped me reset, and then I was itching to go back out there and play and compete.

Q.  What was the best bit of advice that people like Graeme or Rory or Tiger gave you?  What did they tell you?
BUBBA WATSON:  You figure it out on your own, but you just try to get hints into other situations.  My manager, my agent, whatever you want to call him, Jens Beck, he's been in this business for a while, and he's a great role model and a great leader, and he helped me in that situation.  So I would say he gave my the best advice.  His advice was golf first.  So we've canceled a lot of media requests, we've canceled a lot of things to make golf first.  I was Bubba Watson the golfer first before I won, so we have to keep it simple and remember that golf first.
So we told our sponsors, look, I know you want to do things and do this, but you don't like Bubba if Bubba isn't playing good, so golf is first, and that's the one thing we always told ourselves.  The best advice was from my manager who said golf first.

Q.  What was the most overwhelming part of this past year as the reigning Masters champion?
BUBBA WATSON:  It's to make golf first.  You get to a level‑‑ I love to have fun, I love to goof around, but then you want to spend more time with your fans, you want to show them love and sign autographs.  The charity work that I do that people don't know about off the course is the most important thing where I have more influence with charity dollars and charity work if I play good golf.  So I need to keep competing at a high level and remember that golf is first and then the other stuff is after that.

Q.  Left‑handers have had some success at Augusta National the past few years.  It's really a course that conventional wisdom, you have to play right to left.  Can you explain that and what it looks like from a left‑hander's point of view and playing well there?
BUBBA WATSON:  I think that for me it sets up really good for my game.  I like to cut the ball off the tee, so my driver‑‑ you go through it real fast:  You've got No.2 is a cut driver; No.5 is a cut with a 4‑wood; No.7 is a straight ball; 8, you aim at the bunker and cut it; No.9 is a cut; No.10 is a cut; 11 is tough, but 13 is a cut; 14 is a cut; 15 is kind of a straight ball; 17 is a little cut; and then 18 is tough.  So really if you look at it as a whole, there's only‑‑ there's three tee shots for me:  No.7, which is normally an iron off the tee or a 4‑wood; No.11 is a tough hole with a driver; and No. 18 is a tough hole if I hit driver.
So really there's only three tee shots that really scare me or can get to me on the whole golf course, so when you look at it that way, it sets up really well for my tee shots, and that golf course is all about your tee shots and then your iron play, and my iron play is normally pretty decent the last few years.  The whole golf course sets up well for me.

Q.  On those shots where you tell your caddie, just watch this, what's the percentage of those that you pull off?
BUBBA WATSON:  You know, you pull off a lot of those because you get focused on the situation.  You get focused on the shot.  Nothing else is in there.  There's no noise, no‑‑ nothing takes your mind off of it.
My caddie, it's funny, my caddie tells me to do that all the time, he goes, show off for me.  It's me and you out here.  If me and you were playing, you would show off.  You would beat me by 12 shots.  My caddie used to be a mini‑Tour pro, and so he can play the game.  And so that's what he always tells me to do, and so when I get focused and he sees me get focused like that and knows that I'm going to give it my best effort and he can see me with my eyes and everything, he knows to back away.  So I would say we'd pull off most of those.  I know it seems weird to say.  Maybe it's just because I don't say that that much.

Q.  So you actually look forward to those challenging shots more than just a straightforward shot?
BUBBA WATSON:  If you ask any pro, that's what they look forward to.  You love the challenge.  That's why we compete; we want to compete at a high level because you want that adrenaline rush, you want that pressure.  You want ‑‑ like we always say, you want the ball in your hands on the last shot of the game.
So yeah, as athletes, that's what we look for.  We want those shots, we want to pull those off and we want to have those occasions.
Sometimes you pull those off, but even when you're finishing 30th in the field or at a tournament, you still have those shots where you're trying to pull off.  Yeah, so that's what we look for as athletes.
STEVE ETHUN:  Just want to thank everyone for joining us today.  Thank you to Bubba for taking a little bit of time.

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