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August 5, 2014

Bubba Watson


KELLY ELBIN:  2012 and 2014 Masters Champion, Bubba Watson joining us at the 96th PGA Championship.
Bubba's competing this week in his eighth PGA Championship.  He was runner‑up in 2010 at Whistling Straits.
Bubba, welcome.  How about just start with some general thoughts on the golf course and how you feel like your game is as you head into the final major of the year.
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah, this is the first time being here in Valhalla.  The course is in great shape.  The course, it's nice.  It's a good layout, good test of golf.  Obviously long irons are going to be key around this place, a lot of long holes.
I'd say there's about five tee shots for me that are very difficult that I've got to really pay attention on, and again, you're going to wear out your long irons.  My 6‑ and 5‑iron are going to get a lot of work this week.  But yeah, my game, I feel like my game's all right.
A couple things last week, the greens were pretty soft so I spun them off the greens a few times but looking forward to it.  Tweaked a few things here and there, and hopefully I'll be ready this week.

Q.  What holes do you see where you'll definitely be hitting driver off?
BUBBA WATSON:  Pretty much all of them.  You have to.  There's like half the holes are 500 plus yards, par 4s, which is awesome.
I would say, let's see, No. 1, hitting driver.  No. 2 hitting driver.  4 is debatable.  5 is driver.  7 is driver.  10 is going to be driver.  12, I think is not driver.  15 is driver.  16 is driver, got to hit driver there.  17 is driver and 18 is more than likely driver but there could be a chance it could be a 4‑wood, yeah.

Q.  Just some thoughts about the way the course sets up for the kind of golfer that can be successful here.  Some guys have talked about the most difficult part about this golf course is the approach shots; that they are demanding in terms of hitting it high or that some of the greens are shielded.  Just your vision of what you saw.
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah, right now, the course is softer than probably they want it to be but we still are two days away from the tournament.
Right now, every shot is kind of receptive.  It's not backing up off the green, but it's still stopping pretty good even with a long iron.  Obviously a higher shot is going to be a lot better for you.  A big hitter, a big hitter that's hitting his driver well can play this golf course.  You know, the rough's not too demanding, and the fairway‑‑ it's really demanding around the greens.  There's a lot of crazy chips are going to happen this week, a lot of pitch shots that are going to be different, because the ball is sitting up around the greens, so it's hard to decide what shots you want to hit.
The grass is going to get in between the clubface and the ball, and so it's going to be tough to hit it cleanly and to get it all the way to the green from ten feet.  You know, it's going to be very difficult around the greens.  So if you can somehow hit a lot of greens, it doesn't have to be close, but hit a lot of greens, you'll be able to score a little bit around here.

Q.  Rory McIlroy topped the driving stats at Firestone for length.  Does it surprise you a guy at 5'9" can do that?  And will you relish having a driving competition with him the first couple of rounds?
BUBBA WATSON:  It doesn't surprise me at all.  The first part, doesn't surprise me at all.  His technique is obviously pretty good.  He's No. 1 in the world I think now, again.  He's still young.  He's still learning the game.
But no, I don't really think that it's the size.  I think his technique is so good that obviously he can move the ball out there.  He plays a big, high draw, and so no, it doesn't surprise me how tall somebody is if they can hit it pretty good.  He's pretty strong, too.  I don't know if you know, he's pretty fit.
When we get here to the tournament Thursday, it's about playing a game.  He doesn't care if he out‑drives me.  I don't care if I out‑drive him.  We're trying to score.  At the end of the day, if I out‑drive him every hole and he beats me, he doesn't care.  If he out‑drives me every hole and I beat him, it doesn't matter.  It's a big field so we are not looking at each other.  We are looking at a score at the end of the week.

Q.  The latest from Vegas has you at the same odds as Tiger Woods this week.  That normally would probably be a good thing.  Now, maybe not so much since Tiger might not even play?
BUBBA WATSON:  What is the odds?

Q.  33 to 1.  You like him?
BUBBA WATSON:  For him or me?

Q.  For both.
BUBBA WATSON:  I don't gamble but if I did, I would always pick Tiger Woods.

Q.  When you had won Riviera and the Masters and it was shaping up as a nice year, are you at all disappointed at the way it's gone since June, and why has it gone this way?
BUBBA WATSON:  No, I'm not disappointed.  I haven't played many rounds of golf.  Taking it easy with the family and stuff, cutting back with the schedule.
Played pretty good at Travelers.  Travelers, I played the par 5s pretty bad.  A couple tee shots here and there, five feet one way or the other changes the whole round.  Played the par 5s, I think, 1‑over for the week at Travelers which is unheard of for me there, which I still finished 31st.
At Greenbrier, the same thing.  I hit some iffy shots.  Didn't really make some putts that I wanted to make.  Still had a decent finish.  I think I finished 16th there.
You know, we had a tough situation at the British Open.  Pretty windy for my wave that I was in, and so missed the cut by two there after an unfortunate triple‑bogey on the first round.
So, you know, I don't see it as I'm that far off.  It's one of those things where you don't see yourself as that far off.  You see yourself as really close, and so I've just got to keep going and trying to make putts or try less to make putts, however you want to word it.
But right now, I'm looking good for the Playoffs, looking good for Ryder Cup Team, looking good to play in the Grand Slam event.  My year's all right; I'll take it.  I'll be at Maui next year.  Did I answer that question?  (Smiling).

Q.  You made some comments at the British about your relationship with the media and what they write about you.  I was curious if you can elaborate on how you think we, the media, perceive you, and how that's different from how you think fellow players or fans perceive you.
BUBBA WATSON:  I really don't know how to put that into words, but I think the media really loves me because I don't give PC answers.  Sometimes people write different stories and make it and twist it in ways they want to.
But again, the way I live my life and the way I want to live my life as a Christian, I don't read‑‑ I took the Internet off my phone.  I don't read what people write about me.  I don't read what people say about me.  My true friends, my family, they know who I am as a person and what my heart is all about.
And then the fans; I think the fans just see me as a small‑town guy that's worked hard to get where he is, and I appreciate that, and I think that they see it as a guy that's just out there having fun with the game of golf.  Just like anybody else, though, I'm going to get mad when I hit a bad shot and I think the fans see that, and I'm going to be happy when I hit a great shot.
I just try to have fun playing the game of golf, and I think that's what the fans see.  I think my true friends and family know who I am as a man, and I think fans can see that I'm just a guy enjoying life and having fun.

Q.  With Tiger currently battling a back injury, he could potentially miss his third major this year.  Are you starting to get used to not seeing him at majors?
BUBBA WATSON:  Well, I mean, obviously this is a serious issue that he's dealing with.  Obviously it's tough.  I've never had an issue like this.  I've never had back problems.  I've never had any kind of issues.
So you know, it's unfortunate for our game.  He grows the game.  He moves the needle more than anybody else.  Rory is trying to move it more than him now.  I think Tiger, as soon as he gets back healthy, he's going to be back performing at a high level.  He set the bar so high for himself that media and fans expect him to be up there.  But obviously the man just a few months ago, you know, a year ago, won five times and was Player of the Year.  So I don't think he's far off.
He had surgery on his back, so you know, let's just give him a little time.  He'll be back to Tiger Woods that we say he was in a slump but still won five times last year (chuckles).  I wish I was in a slump.

Q.  You chose to hit iron off the 10th tee.  Your thoughts on why you did that and your thoughts about the long drive contest?
BUBBA WATSON:  My thoughts, I want to practice the game of golf.  I want to learn this golf course.  I haven't seen the 10th hole.  I don't see that we should have a competition like that while we're playing a practice round and learning the golf course, trying to win a great championship.  There's no reason to make something up in the middle of the practice round like that.  That's just me.  Like it or not, that's just who I am.  That's just what I think.
I think the Par 3, that's something you're spending time with your family.  The kids are out there.  You're signing autographs, you're have the kid zone, you're signing autographs for kids.  You have the choice to participate or not to participate.  And this is just right there in the middle of your practice round when you're trying to see the course.  Just kind of weird to me.
But I hit my 3‑iron perfect, though, right down the middle.  Longest 3‑iron of the day.  I won that competition, take that.

Q.  (Inaudible.)
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah, it will be driver every day.  I was just trying to prove a point that nobody cared about.

Q.  Obviously all three guys this year have won a major in the last two or three years; how much does that previous success help you get over the finish line and win another major?
BUBBA WATSON:  Augusta, all majors, are different than regular tournaments.  But Augusta, normally we hear roars on the back nine.  This year we didn't, a lot of pars being made.
So for me, when Spieth got off to an early start, I remember in 2012 when Louis got off to an early start with a double‑eagle on 2.  I knew to keep my head down.  My caddie said, we still have a long way to go, still got the back nine to go, so just keep your head down and keep focused.  2012 obviously helped me stay focused on what I was doing and my own game, and so I just stayed committed to my shots.
Obviously, when you win one tournament, a major or not, you know you can do it and you know you can produce at that certain time.  Obviously doing it in 2012 helped me in 2014, where I could stay committed to my shots and not worry about what other people were doing and just stay focused.
And me birdieing 8 and 9, and him bogeying, obviously made me take the lead.  So then luckily for me, nobody made birdie so I didn't have to try to make birdies.  I just tried to make pars.

Q.  There's been a lot of chatter on different avenues about your take on the 10th and the long drive.  Do you find it surprising that you would be accused of taking yourself too seriously?
BUBBA WATSON:  Me?  Yeah, that's surprising.  I am.
I'm here to win a championship.  I'm not here to goof around (laughing).
No, it's just‑‑ there's a couple things that just rubbed me the wrong way, and so‑‑

Q.  In what way?
BUBBA WATSON:  I just see it, if it's going to be a contest, make it where you could participate and not participate.  Calling your name on a Tuesday of a practice round, it just seems funny to me, just seems hokey to me, so I just didn't.

Q.  And in a broader sense, do you worry at all or‑‑
BUBBA WATSON:  I worry all the time.

Q.  Let me rephrase that.  Do you care at all what people think of you?
BUBBA WATSON:  Truthfully, no.  Because the way I'm trying to live my life, read the Bible, follow the Bible; I can't worry about‑‑ no matter what I do, no matter if I win every single tournament, half the world is going to love me and half the world is going to hate me no matter what.  You can't impress everybody and you can't make everybody happy.  It's hard enough trying to make my wife happy, so I don't need to worry about other people being happy.
I care about what you think, though, because you write big articles (smiling).

Q.  Just some thoughts about what it takes to win a major.  You've won a couple of Masters.  Your thoughts and vision of what the difference is, especially in the final round on Sunday and especially if you have not done it before, how you make that jump into light speed or whatever?
BUBBA WATSON:  The key I think is calming your mind down.  You know, when you make the turn, if you're winning or around the lead at any golf tournament, not just a major, you're thinking about what this means to you, what this means to your family, what this means to your career in golf.  And so you have to calm those.  You have to quit thinking about that and you have to focus on each shot.  And that's where your caddie steps in and you can see you're kind of getting away from it or speed up or slow down or doing something you're not supposed to be doing.
So your caddie steps in and tells you everything he can tell you besides the game of golf to get you to concentrate on what you're supposed to be doing.  After winning one time, you know what it takes, and what it takes in the game of golf is making those momentum putts.  You can hit a great chip shot to 10 feet that somebody can't pull off, but if you miss the putt, it doesn't mean anything.  If you hit a great shot out of the rough over a bunker that somehow stops on the green and you 3‑putt it from 20 feet, it doesn't really‑‑ so the short putt means as much as this long tee shot.  So you're going to have more putts than tee shots, unless you're hitting a lot of balls out‑of‑bounds.
You're going to have those momentum putts.  And like I said last week, I never really made the putts I needed to make.  The last few tournaments I didn't really make the putts to keep the round going.  If it's an eight‑foot par putt; if it's a great shot but then you miss the 4‑footer for birdie, it kind of changes your mind‑set and makes you think you're struggling.  Even if you're not struggling, it just makes you think that.
When it comes down to it, on the back nine or all through the week, you just have to make those momentum putts.  And obviously the guy that's hitting great tee shots but then making the putts and getting up‑and‑down on difficult up‑and‑downs and staying committed to their shots and staying focused on what they are supposed to be doing, that's where the champion is going to end up.  At the end of the week, you can look back at all the stats, but the stat that's going to come back is making the key putts at certain times when it looked like he can make a double but he makes a 15‑footer for bogey.  Something like that can change your whole day and whole week.
KELLY ELBIN:  Two time Masters Champion, Bubba Watson, thank you very much.

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