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October 31, 2017

Bubba Watson

Las Vegas, Nevada

JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Bubba Watson into the interview room here at Shriners Hospital for Children Open. He's making his third start in this event, first time since the tied for 14th in 2007. So, Bubba, first of all, welcome back to Las Vegas, if we can get some comments on being here?

BUBBA WATSON: Thank you. It's fun being back here, seeing the course again. Last time I played, we played both courses, so it was nice getting back out there today and seeing the course. Obviously with a tragedy and stuff happening around here, this is a good spot for me to come back and be here and play and be a part of this city again.

JOHN BUSH: You're making your season debut on TOUR. Talk about last year. You finished 75th in the FedExCup. I know not quite the season that you wanted, but just take us into this year and what your goals are for the upcoming season?

BUBBA WATSON: My goals are to be better than that. It was a frustrating year when it came to the golf. It was a great year off the course, but a frustrating year. Hopefully I'll improve that. I was supposed to take four months off, my wife had knee surgery. 32 staples later she's doing good. So.

That was the whole goal was to stay home, be a stay-at-home dad and help her out. I was so bored, I wanted to play golf, and there was no better place than to come here and play golf. And she gave me a free pass to come out here.

Q. How is the (inaudible) so far?
BUBBA WATSON: We're doing pretty good. This year there are only two teams in the fall league, so we're top two. We're right there.

Q. It's given you that (inaudible)?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, it was a tough, you know -- my wife's going to have to have both knees done, so when you're planning that, you're planning your golf schedule out, you're planning kindergarten out, you're planning on being a dad, planning all that last year -- well, still the same year, but last season, I get away from golf. So knowing that she was going to have to have surgery and be bound to a couch or bed for a while is going to be tough. So all that planning and everything, it's been tough as I said. But off the course, you couldn't ask for better.

My son is loving school. I've been volunteering at the school. It's so much fun going there and seeing a smile on his face and being a dad and coach. It's been so much fun.

My little girl, she's doing good in preschool. It's been a blast. But now my wife saw I wanted to get back. I was eager to get back. I've been working hard on my game to try to get back and stay in shape. Just giving a free pass to get some rest and play some golf.

Q. What's the rest of your year look like?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, we'll see how I play, see how I do. Right now I'm scheduled to play the Shark Shootout with Mr. Snedeker. But he hasn't played in a while, so I've been bugging him every week to try to get him to play and practice. I think he's scheduled next week, so Snedeker is scheduled to play there. We're scheduled to play the Shark Shootout. Then the year will be over. So that's really all I have on my calendar right now.

Q. What happened on October 1st (inaudible)?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, you look at the schedule where I signed up, I think, last Thursday, and it was where do you want to play, where can you play? And obviously when that happened, that's what triggered why would you not want to come here and support this place and show love. I mean, all I'm doing is playing golf, but trying to show the city, it's a beautiful city and it's a great place for people to come. Got to go to a couple shows. Went to a show last night, so it will be fun.

Q. What show?
BUBBA WATSON: That's a great question, Terry Fator. Unbelievable. Yeah, I mean, I've seen YouTube videos and I've watched him on America's Got Talent, right, ten years ago I believe that was. So it was cool seeing him in person and how talented he truly is.

Q. Where exactly were you when you first saw the shooting and your decision to come play?
BUBBA WATSON: It was -- when it all went down, I was at home. I don't look at social media. I don't read comments and I don't look at the internet. I stay away from TV as much as I can, so I didn't see it until the news at night. When I put my kids down, I saw all the stuff or the next morning. It happened at night, so the next morning. So I didn't think about playing the tournament at that moment.

I was still scheduled not to play until Phoenix next year. So, you know, as I kept practicing, and I felt my game was where I wanted it to be and my wife saw that. She had her surgery, and we stayed in the hospital for a couple days, and then we kept talking those two days away from the kids in the hospital, and she said you want to go play, don't you? And I said, yeah, I really do. But I'm supposed to take this time off because I'll miss it more. She said, Vegas is a great place. Why don't you go there and support it. So she gave me the pass to.

But it made sense when we started talking about it and being here and supporting this beautiful place, this fun place to be. It just made sense.

Q. What do you think of the course?
BUBBA WATSON: The part that I didn't remember the most was the front nine. For some reason I thought that number 3 was a par-5 when I last played here in the front. Now it's a really long par-4. But the back nine I can remember. The back nine it feels like that's where you've got to score two par-5s, drivable hole.

Number 10's not overly long. I don't think number 11's long. I haven't played the back yet, but I'm just going off memory. So I think the back nine is where you've got to score and hang on 17, even though Jonathan Byrd made a 1 there one time. You hang on at 17, and hopefully have a chance for birdie or a two-putt victory on 18.

Q. Couple questions. First, you did so well winning a couple majors with Titleist in your other victories. What prompted you to go to (inaudible)? And how are you feeling about it?
BUBBA WATSON: That's a great question. But my contract is done with Volvik. I do not have a ball deal as we sit here today. So I can play with whatever ball I want to. My deal was up, and so I'm ball-free. So I don't have a ball deal. So I'm going to play with whatever I want. I'm just going to go back to what I grew up with, so I'm playing Titleist.

Q. Speaking of this weekend and speaking of balls, (inaudible)?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, my deal was up with Volvik.

Q. (Inaudible) what do you think of the so-called competition balls?
BUBBA WATSON: I haven't heard that. But, I mean -- you're still going to have a short hitter and you're still going to have a long hitter no matter what the ball is. So it doesn't affect me. But the people that support this TOUR the most, I guess, the club manufacturers, so I don't see that that's a good business model to go after.

Q. Have your kids connected to your philosophy of playing golf?
BUBBA WATSON: My kids? No. I'm a sports man, you know. I want to compete. I want to win. I want to beat you even if we're playing for a handshake. I'm trying to win off of pride. That little trophy that's going to rot away, I'm still trying to compete for it. For a green jacket, that's very nice. I'm trying to compete for that as well.

So the kids, I'm just trying to be a dad and give them the right up bringing, that's one thing. But my competitive fire, that's never going to go away.

Q. (Inaudible) are you nothing like him?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, my dad's not here, so I can say whatever I want, right. He can't get mad at me. So I compare complete opposites. The first thing I said was to the other coaches the other day. I said, you talk Caleb, I'll talk to your kids. You teach him and I'll teach yours. So it's a different mindset.

But my dad let me do the same things. I mean, he was a lot louder than I am. He was a lot more driven, I guess. For me, at this young age, 5 years old, just have fun with it. I started golf at 6, started tee ball at 4. So my dad let me do my own thing. But, you know, he was very loud about it when he discussed how to get better.

So when I talked to my son or the other kids, it's truly about having fun. Like, there are some -- there have been some funny moments, and we'll just call it funny moments where it's 5-year-old tee ball. What does it really matter? Just let them see the ideas and then hopefully grow from there. Next year they get a little more serious, and every year they grow into it, and they understand the game a little bit better.

Q. Not sure you're aware, but in 1953 the first ever Tournament of Champions was played here. And in 1983, this was the first million dollars PGA TOUR purse. What does the history of the game mean to you and knowing those facts?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, the sad truth on the one question, one part of the question was you go to tournaments that are really good for your game, and I love Hilton Head. I love it to death. I think it's a beautiful course we play; it's just not built for me, because I hate hitting irons off the tees. But I think it's one of the best courses we play all year. They don't tweak it much. They leave it the same. So that's the sad truth on that one.

You go with what's best for your game, best for your eye, and gives you the most comfort around the golf course. But, yeah, when you talk about tournaments, and again, that's why I wanted to come here, because the town has done so much.

Look at the charity dollars raised for the hospitals, the kids. How would you not want to support it? I mean, every week I've said -- every week on the PGA TOUR is a major. It might not say major by it, but it is a major because of the charity dollars and the impact, the business impact, the economic impact, the charity dollars, we impact every city we show up at.

Q. Last week you had the qualifier, the Monday qualifier. Can you just talk about how the TOUR is unique in the way that it still gives guys these random opportunities (inaudible) unlike other sports?
BUBBA WATSON: You know, the beauty of that and the beauty of all sports is if you're good, you'll figure out a way to get here or get there, wherever you're trying to go. But obviously, that's amazing. Again, sad that I don't watch golf. I try to get away from it, try to get away from all media and news and gossip. So I didn't see that.

But that's pretty amazing to hear that and think about that, to go through all that, and to be here, finishing the week. Because normally, when you Monday qualify, you're tired. Your emotions run out Monday night or Tuesday. Then you have to start back up and fire back up on Thursday. So to go through the three, go through Monday and play phenomenal golf is pretty special.

But, yeah, anybody that's good, they have chances to do it. You know, there are guys from all different levels, all different school levels and everything, different backgrounds that make it because they're talented.

Q. (Inaudible)?
BUBBA WATSON: If you're talented. They'll find you. If you're talented, they find you. I promise you.

Q. I'm wondering if (inaudible) how might that course set up, when it's something you haven't played in a while?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, obviously, when Tiger Woods says he's going to play again, how would you not love it? You talked about history right there in front of you. The history of Tiger Woods and the history of the game of golf. You always want your legends to keep playing, you know. It's a sad day when they hang it up. So for him to get back and being healthy enough to get back, how would you not? He gets four rounds under his belt at that event, and it gives him a goal to be prepared for, gives him the drive to be prepared for. Hopefully he is truly healthy enough when he gets to that moment to tee it up.

We should all be thrilled to see a great champion like that show up and be able to play again, not just from a health standpoint, but also from the game of golf. I mean, he's changed the face of golf as much as anybody and grown the game of golf as much as anybody.

Q. What do you remember about this golf course? You've had some success here in the past.
BUBBA WATSON: What I remember is you've got to make putts. You know, the golf course is very, very fair for everybody. Long, short hitter, it doesn't matter, you've got to make putts. The greens are always in good shape. My nemesis hole that I don't like is 17. Because when I look off the left hand and I see water first, you know, you look up and first thing you see is the water on the left side. So my friends are those bunkers over there to the right.

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