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April 7, 2015

Bubba Watson


MODERATOR:  We are pleased to welcome back to Augusta National, our defending champion, Bubba Watson.
Last year the world watched as Bubba recorded a three‑stroke Masters victory, his second green jacket in a three‑year span.  After his win here at August National, Bubba continued a memorable 2014, concluding the year with eight Top‑10 finishes.
Already off to a successful 2015, Bubba won his seventh career PGA TOUR victory at the WGC HSBC Champions and finished tied for second at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Before we open to questions, could you comment on how it feels to again return to Augusta National as a defending champion.
BUBBA WATSON:  First of all, it's a special place.  This is exciting.  Like we were talking back there, this is the perfect golf course.  The shape is perfect.  The grass is all pretty green.
Greens WERE running pretty fast yesterday.  Haven't played it today, but greens were running pretty quick yesterday.
Golf course, it gives me goosebumps every time you come down Magnolia Lane.  Obviously seeing the kids on Sunday, Easter Sunday was special, passing out some trophies this year.  I mean, it just gets you excited, makes us feel like a kid again.  I'm excited to be here and looking forward to the challenges of the golf course and trying to compete at this golf course.

Q.  There's obviously a lot of Bulldog contingent here.  Do you guys root for one another, or when you step on the course, it's all about yourself?
BUBBA WATSON:  No, they want to beat me and I want to beat them, but it is‑‑ we smile about it because Athens isn't that for away.  You hear a lot of, "Go Dawgs!"  You hear a lot of barking.
It's a fun time.  When you get to see that many people from a school like that, it is like a fraternity.  You can root for those people.  You know, obviously I want to beat them all, but you root for them and cheer them on.  Obviously we have that tie of UGA and it's a big honor to be a part of that school.

Q.  Do you hear the Patrons getting into it, screaming, "Go Dawgs!"
BUBBA WATSON:  When I was coming down the stretch last year and in 2012, you hear it a lot.  Even when I'm playing bad, I hear it a lot.  It's good.  They are always rooting for you.  It's pretty fun.

Q.  Why do you think historically it's been so difficult to defend the Masters trophy.  I think three men have been able to do that.  How much better do you feel you and your game are to do it this time?
BUBBA WATSON:  Well, I think is if it's your first time winning, like I did in '12, in '13, I didn't know what to expect.  I mean, I'm scared to death of the Champions Dinner in '13 because you're talking about great champions across the board, old and young, and now I'm getting to sit and have dinner with them and I'm making sure they like the food I picked out.
The media attention, the atmosphere; even a year later, you're excited about your win.  Sometimes you get away from your routine or you just use your energy in a different way.  That's what I did.  I don't know about the other guys, but that's what I did.
So this time I know what to expect.  Doesn't mean I'm going to play better, just I know what to expect, I know how to save some energy.  I know how things are going to happen in the Champions Dinner now.  I know more.  That doesn't mean it's going to help, it just means that I should be better prepared this time.

Q.  You've been out and about wearing the grown jacket in various appearances both years after you've won.  Do you have any stories away from the cameras, any jacket stories over these two years that you've had it?
BUBBA WATSON:  I have no funny stories because of respect for the jacket, respect for the Tournament, respect for the members here that let me have the jacket for a year.
I did some media with it.  I took it to my high school, my elementary school, my middle school and the University of Georgia just to hopefully inspire whatever your dreams are, if you want to be a Masters Champion or if you want to be a doctor, President of the United States; just inspire, saying that I can do it, and if I can do it, anybody can do with it.
That's the only thing I've ever done with it that would be fun‑‑ or not even crazy, but that's the only thing did with it.  I try to hide it from everybody.  I don't let anybody see it or touch it when it's at the house.

Q.  I was reading this morning about how you had written a check for the school and all that which is great publicity.  Did you see the survey on ESPN yesterday?
BUBBA WATSON:  No, I didn't.  I take that back, I heard about itbecause I did an interview ‑‑ I'm playing in China next week, so I did an interview for the China tournament and they asked me about it.

Q.  What do you think about when you read about that stuff?  On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does it irritate you, that kind of publicity?
BUBBA WATSON:  Here is the way I take it.  I take it as I need to improve as a man.  I take it with pride.  I need to get better.  And I think over my career, since my rookie season to now, I've gotten better.  But obviously there's more room for me to improve as a man.  And so hopefully next year or the year after, it improves.  It's a challenge.  It's great.  I'm glad that it came out and it's going to help me improve.
So if it's a bad thing and people don't like me, then I've got to improve and prove them wrong.

Q.  Do you get any sense of this in the locker room at all?
BUBBA WATSON:  No.  I had the same question asked to me, so I answered that question.  I put my name on there to, because I'm not going to call out anybody, there's nobody I dislike on Tour.  I dislike them if they beat me, but I don't dislike them as a person.  So I put my own name down there.  So one of those names were me; I wrote it down myself.

Q.  If you were being beaten up‑‑
BUBBA WATSON:  Obviously, I've never been in a fight in my life, so if I was in a fight, it was my fault.  I caused somebody to get angry.  So yeah, I wouldn't help myself either.

Q.  Does this stuff irritate you at all?
BUBBA WATSON:  No, it helps me improve.  So I don't know which way I would go with that, but it helps me improve as a person.
I've had some mess‑ups on Tour, and I think I've improved in those areas and I'm trying to get better.  That's all I can do.  I'm glad people that call me out when they do; that's the only way I can get better.  If I don't know about it, then I can't improve.

Q.  Can you talk us through the emotions you go through on a Saturday night when you're in contention at the Masters?  And separately, if you can relate it, what are the biggest challenges you face on the back nine on Sunday?
BUBBA WATSON:  Well, every hole on the back nine is the challenge.  You know, on Saturday night, when you have a chance or whatever tournament it is, you're thinking about, you're trying to get away from it.
Last year, I turned off the TV, turned off the phones, tried to get focused on what I need to do and prepare.  I tour with my son; we think about toys and cars and not about golf.
So I try to focus on everything else that's not golf.  And the pressure on the back nine, for me, is that‑‑ don't think about putting the green jacket on again, or lifting a trophy.  Don't think about the bad stuff.  Think about that shot.  There's going to be times that you‑‑ when I get frustrated on the golf course, it's because I know for a fact that I wasn't focused on my shot.  And so for me, it's about focusing on the shot at hand for those few seconds and hopefully it turns out the right way.
So for me it's about calming your mind and not thinking about what could happen, what the green jacket means or what the trophy means, and that's the challenge on the back nine when you're close to the lead or leading is getting focused on what you need to do at that moment.
Yeah, on Saturdays, it's tough to find things to do that gets you focused on something else besides golf.

Q.  On Sunday, how hard is it not to think about putting on the green jacket?
BUBBA WATSON:  It's very hard.  Even as a junior golfer, I was always thinking about trophies and stuff when you had the lead and how fun it would be to lift the trophy, the media questions, what this means for my family, all these things.
So that's the challenge.  That's the challenge for all of us.  We all get nervous for different reasons.  That's the challenge for me is not to get ahead of myself and focus on what I need to do.
That's what I did on 18 last year.  I had a three‑shot lead and hit the 9‑iron in there, let's just make up a number, 12 feet and I was still focused on, I didn't want to cheer, I didn't want to smile at people.  I wanted to make sure I make that putt or 2‑putt so I can win.  I was so focused on what I had to do, I wasn't thinking about, I had a three‑shot lead and I could choke my way up there and still win.  I still focused and tried to commit to the short putt and everything.

Q.  Of all the golf courses you play on the PGA TOUR, where do you think Augusta National ranks in terms of how it sets up for your game?
BUBBA WATSON:  Well, it's the only course I've won twice at, so it's pretty good, and it's a good one to win twice at.
The condition of the course is better than any course we play all year.  So you're going to have great fairways, great greens, so you have the chance to score.  You have the chance to play at a high level.
Most of the holes, I got lucky with 11 the last two years with the ice storms, some of the tops of the trees are missing.  So that shot is a little bit easier for me now off the tee, if there is such a thing on a 500‑yard par 4.  But it's a little bit easier.
So now, it's 7, 1 and 18 are the holes that I look at that are difficult for me off the tee.  When you think about all of the other holes look good to my eye, set up well for me, the trees outline the fairway pretty good, so it's easy for me to envision the shot I want to hit.
If you add it up, yes, Augusta sets up pretty nicely for me.  And like I said, if I never win again, it's a good place to win twice.

Q.  Left‑handers have had a lot of success here‑‑
BUBBA WATSON:  Right‑handers have had a lot of success here, too.
I think for me, and I think Phil, Phil's tried to hit cuts off of tees; Mike Weir has hit a few cuts.  For us, it sets up good for a cut, and that's what you need around here, or a draw for a right‑hander.  For us, it sets up good for the shot shape we're trying to hit.
And it's golf, so it goes in cycles who wins or doesn't.  For some reason, lefties have won recently and hopefully it keeps going with me and not the other lefties.  It's one of those things.  For years, there wasn't that many lefties on Tour, and now with equipment, there's more lefties and now there's more chances for us to win the Masters a few more times.

Q.  As much as anybody, you seem to have taken to the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship; you came last year when you had no obligation to.  What is it about that that inspires you, and does it help you in any way just being around that?
BUBBA WATSON:  Yes, last year‑‑ well, when I was a youngster, eight years old, there was a competition kind of like that for a few years, and we got to go to Disney World if you won it.  That was our Augusta National.  We got to go to Disney World.  So I was there a few times and won it a few times.
Now that it's back, better than ever, obviously, at Augusta National, the members letting the kids compete here; it's inspiring.  Sometimes in our job, even playing golf for a living, it gets stale, it gets boring.  And so for me, it's inspiring.
Watching my son want to play golf now, watching these kids‑‑ I passed out trophies for the 12‑ and 13‑year‑old girls, watching them putt on the putting green on 18 green, making the putts and stuff.  It's inspiring.  It makes us be a kid again.
Augusta National, I think, does that for myself.  It makes me be a kid.  I'm excited to come here.  Get excited to play here.
So watching junior golf, going from just over 17,000 kids sign up for it to just over 30,000 kids sign up for it, obviously it's a good program and a great program and that's going to help grow the game.  And somehow, not that I'm putting thoughts in my head, but if somehow it went global, there's going to be more and more kids start the game and more and more kids compete to try to make it to Augusta National.
It's amazing where they've started and where they have come from and it's amazing the parents let their kids come out here and see this beautiful place.

Q.  On the other side of that ESPN story, what is it about you that you think makes golf fans love to watch you play?
BUBBA WATSON:  Because I'm nuts (laughter).
I hit driver a lot of times because I'm comfortable hitting it.  If that means‑‑ I don't hit driver 100 percent every time.  Sometimes I hit what I call a ding cut, a low cut off the tee just to try to get it in play.  So I think fans watch that, and see me hit the high bomb, they see me hit the cut, they see me hit the draw, they see me in pine straw hook it sometimes, they see me fly it over big trees every once in awhile, on 13 maybe.
When you watch that, you're watching shots that they might not be able to hit and you're watching shots that they might be able to hit because I hit them wild most of the time.
So I think fans, they see that.  They have seen that it's a homemade swing that I've come up with and it seems to work sometimes, and so I think they just enjoy that; that it's not me out there worrying about my swing.  It's me out there worrying about my score and not the swing.

Q.  Did you notice last Sunday there were so many lefties in the kids?
BUBBA WATSON:  Yes, I did.  It was exciting, like I said earlier.  The equipment companies are making the equipment so left‑handed kids don't have to play right‑handed now.  Now on Tour there's a lot more lefties.

Q.  Do you know that many of the kids mentioned you as their favorite player?
BUBBA WATSON:  No, I didn't, but that's neat to see.  Maybe it's because of my pink driver, but yeah, that's good, though.  Whatever works (smiling).

Q.  Have you ever messed around with any Persimmon‑headed drivers, given how you do curve the ball, people talk about it being old school.  Have you messed around with older equipment?
BUBBA WATSON:  I've read about them (laughter).  I'm not that old yet.
No, I've had ‑‑ PING used to make the wooden driver.  My dad took the black PING off it and made it cherry red.  I always do my clubs different, so my dad made it cherry red with a graphite shaft, back then a gold one.
So I hit that a couple years when I was younger, but that's the only one.  I've always played PING equipment, so that's the only one I've ever missed with was the PING wooden driver.

Q.  Did you curve the ball a lot with that?
BUBBA WATSON:  I curved it‑‑ I don't want to; I'd love to hit it dead straight, just can't do it.  Not that good yet.
We were just out talking with the Titleist people, we were talking about the shot out of the trees, they are like, they make the ball and they are like, "I still can't believe you hit that hook.  How does the ball move that much with a sand wedge."
I said, "Yeah, I don't know how I did it either, but it worked."

Q.  Now that you are two times Masters Champion and knowing that the major puts a lot of pressure on you players, how much pressure do you think you will have in the majors to come?  Is it different?
BUBBA WATSON:  Well, the Masters, I've won it twice, so I know the golf course.  We play the golf course every year.
Last year, when I was‑‑ I think I was down three after No. 7, and I was focused on 2012, when I know how tough the back nine can be, and I know that you can make birdies on the back nine, because that's what I did in 2012.  I got lucky and I made birdie on 8 and 9 to take the lead on the back nine.
So I knew how to deal with the pressure.  I knew what the pressure was.  So last year helped me a lot, knowing what I went through in 2012.  So I could deal with it a little bit.
Now the other ones, we play different golf courses.  There's golf courses I've never seen.  This year happens to be golf courses that I've played for the other majors.  And so obviously feeling the pressure at Augusta, at a major, and winning it, I know that I can do it.  So it helps a little.  You're still nervous.  You're still scared.  But at least I have a little bit of help knowing that I have won a major a couple times, so I think it will help a little bit if I have a chance on Sunday.
You know, we are all good golfers, so the other guys might be better than me that day, but at least it will help a little bit.

Q.  You said you like to try to stay in the moment and you're already part of a pretty exclusive club with two Masters titles.  Have you allowed yourself to think‑‑ or what would it mean to you to go back‑to‑back and really join a pretty exclusive group?
BUBBA WATSON:  You know, it's a funny story yesterday walking up No.9.  Me and my caddie, Teddy, we're walking up No.9 and I said, "Teddy, I just can't even believe it."  And Teddy is the same way because he's got two Masters, as well, now.
You know, we're talking about it and I just said, "Teddy, I can't even believe it, I'm still trying to get over 2012, and I haven't even got to 2014 yet."  You ask yourself, why or how; how does a guy from my background make it; how does a guy from my background actually win it, and to do it again.  And like I said, I haven't even thought about 2014 yet, I'm still thinking about 2012.
It's amazing, when I sit back and think about it, you're in awe of the place.  This is what I consider the best golf course in the world.  If there's any golf course I want to play, it's this one.  So to have the green jacket twice wrapped around me, I still can't believe it.  It's still an honor and thrill and I can't put it into words how special it is and crazy it is that I have two, two trophies at my house.
Sort of repeat, again, if I did repeat, like I'd come back next year and still say I'm thinking about 2012, not thinking about the other two.  No, it would be an honor and a thrill.  My game, my love for this place, just like some of the veterans that we watch around here that keep competing every year, they have a love for this place.  It's a special place in their heart and their minds, and they get excited about it and they become a kid again and they compete at a high level.  We saw it a couple times last year, some people in the Top‑5 and Top‑10.
That's the same with me.  I feel like I have a shot around here.  Doesn't mean I'm going to do it.  I'm going to try to compete at a high level and hopefully on Sunday, we have that chance on the back nine.

Q.  Can you share with us what you plan to serve tonight and having hosted the Champions Dinner once, can you describe what it means to you?
BUBBA WATSON:  Again, in 2013, my first Champions Dinner, watching these legends talk, their stories, I didn't know what to do.  I mean, I was like, are you sure I'm supposed to be here.  You watch this and listen to the great champions and their stories, and I didn't talk, I just listened.  My story is brand new, so I didn't have any stories to add to this.  It was pretty neat.
This year, I'll go ahead and tell you, let y'all know‑‑ this is my only chance to let y'all know.  It's going to be the exact same that I ate in 2012.  It's the same meal because it's from my mom, homecooked meal and that's why I do it.

Q.  Adam Scott was in here before you, and he nominated you and Rory as the two players to beat this week.
BUBBA WATSON:  That's because he didn't want the media on him.  He brought out that long putter again.  I see what he's doing (laughter).

Q.  Who do you see as the main challengers?
BUBBA WATSON:  Obviously Adam Scott's the favorite (laughter) and then there's Rory and there's Tiger and everybody else and then I'm at the very bottom.  So y'all talk to all of them this week.  Bother them all week.

Q.  Do you have any special plans for the Par 3 Contest?
BUBBA WATSON:  My son will be there.  He probably won't be caddying.  My wife will probably have the caddie bib on, as well, just to make sure he doesn't get out of hand.  And then Dakota will be in a little white outfit.  She'll probably be there, as well, so all four of us will take pictures and then Dakota will probably have to go eat or take a nap.  All of us will be there probably for pictures.
It's funny, I was talking to Tiger about it, he's playing the Par 3 and about his kids.  What a thrill it is to be a part of this great event, the Masters, be a part of the Par 3, and then have our kids there.  That's just the thrill of a lifetime.  Later in life, the pictures and things, how special is that.
Caleb, we've been talking to him about two weeks about he's going to caddie for me because we put his caddie bib on we had made for him.  He's been wearing it around the house excited, he said, "I'm caddying for daddy, I'm caddying for daddy."  He doesn't know what that means, but it will be a blast.

Q.  Did you sense anything different with Tiger, he's listening to music, hugging people, former coaches included‑‑
BUBBA WATSON:  Like I'm trying to say in this conference, this place brings it out in you.  The older champions, the veterans, they get excited around here.  That's why everybody comes back.  They want to be a part of this.  It energizes them.
But I think that Tiger has taken enough time off to where he wants to be back and obviously he's pretty good around this place, so he is excited.  It's been four weeks since I've competed because my friend passed away.  Last year coming in here, it was four weeks.  I had some sickness.  Shot 83 one round and withdrew from Bay Hill, so basically four weeks last year, as well.
I'm here and I'm excited to compete again.  It's the same with him, how would you not be excited to play Augusta National and compete at a high level.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you.

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