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July 10, 2007
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Good afternoon to members of the media and guests in attendance here at the John Deere Classic. We have a very special announcement this afternoon and I'd like to introduce our guests, Howard Schacter, who is the chief partnership officer with Steve & Barry's; Bubba Watson, a PGA TOUR professional now in his second year, recently almost won the U.S. Open, finished tied for 5th and is having a strong season, top 25 in the FedExCup Money List; and Michael Collins, who's an XM Radio and Golf Channel personality.
Michael, at this time I'd like to turn it over to you.
MICHAEL COLLINS: Let's start with Howard here for a minute. First, tell us a little bit about Steve & Barry's.
HOWARD SCHACTER: There's probably a lot of folks if the room who have never heard of us. Steve & Barry's is a national casual apparel store. We've been around for about 20 years, very unique in that we specialize in offering as high a quality merchandise as we possibly can at prices that really are astonishing. Virtually everything in our store is at about a $15 price point.
The company started in 1985. There was a Steve, there was a Barry, and as college kids they were really frustrated at how expensive college wear is, the sweatshirts with the school name and the tee shirts and such. So as college senior they decided there's got to be a better way. They started their own store and it took off.
Over the years we've moved into shopping malls around the country, opened up about 100 stores over the last year or two, and there are a couple thousand more on the way.
MICHAEL COLLINS: How long have you been with Steve & Barry's?
HOWARD SCHACTER: I've been with Steve & Barry's since 2005, specifically brought in to help build out our relationships with athletes and celebrities that can help spread the gospel really about what we're trying to do and create more innovative type product lines that appeal to specific segments of the shopping audience.
MICHAEL COLLINS: So I've got to ask, then what are we doing here?
HOWARD SCHACTER: Well, we probably hit everybody's radar in a big way, in the biggest way possible, with the last year with the introduction of a product line call the Starbury(tm) Collection, which is a line of high performance basketball sneakers and apparel that we started with Stephon Marbury of the New York Knicks, and the highlight item in that line is a basketball shoe that Steph wears on court every game that only retails for $14.98 in our store, and yet if you were to cut that shoe in half it's exactly the same as shoes that cost upwards of $150, $200 by any other major brand or retailer, and that's really what we're about.
And that Starbury(tm) Collection just completely took off. It's become a phenomenon beyond our wildest expectations.
So we started looking at other sports where equipment costs much, much more than probably it should, and golf was one of the natural places for us to expand.
As we started looking at the terrain of the golfing world and who was out there to maybe partner with us, we started learning a lot about Bubba's story, coming from humble beginnings with parents that have sacrificed, and thought, you know, this could be a perfect synergy, exactly the same type of story as Marbury but yet a very different type of sport, and we reached out and fortunately we were able to make something happen. And today hopefully it's the beginning of history.
MICHAEL COLLINS: The beginning of bubbagolf(tm) wear, bubbagolf(tm) apparel. Bubba, at first we talked about how we all come from humble beginnings just a little bit, and a lot of people know you because you're the big driver out on TOUR with the big pink shaft putting the ba-donk-a-donk drives on everything.
But, I mean, a lot of people don't know about your background, where you're from and how you came up and stuff. Tell people a little bit about you and your beginnings.
BUBBA WATSON: I'm good-looking -- no (laughter). Scratch that out.
From back in Florida, you know, growing up, I started at age six, my parents said if I'd go to school and try hard, I would never have to get a job, that they would make sure I didn't have a job. I would just try to get good grades and graduate school.
And then golf came into my life at age six and have been playing ever since. My parents said if you work hard at golf and practice and you keep showing us effort, we'll make sure you have everything you need to play golf and perform.
So my mom had a paper route at age -- probably my tenth grade year. It's hard to talk about.
MICHAEL COLLINS: Because they made so many sacrifices so that you could be here. Your mom had a paper route?
BUBBA WATSON: (Nodding) it's hard to talk about. I don't like to talk about it. She worked hard to support me and show me the ways that I should support my family and my kids to come, as many sacrifices as her and my dad made. It was just hard. She wanted to be here, but she's working.
She wanted to be here to support the line. I talked to her right before we came over here, and all she could do, she couldn't even say anything. She was just so excited to see where I've been and where I've come from, and to make it this far, it's just an honor and I'm blessed that Steve & Barry's came to me, and just to see my name on shirts and to know that I made it out of Bagdad. But not to move from there, but just to see that you can make something of yourself no matter what you do.
I had the high school teachers telling me I couldn't graduate high school, couldn't make it in college, couldn't make it in golf, there's only certain people that can make it in professional sports. And to make it in two years, I've locked up my card for next year, I'll be on TOUR for three years no matter what happens. No one can take that away.
And for them to bring me my own clothing line, at any price point that anybody can afford it, no matter who you are and what you do, I can't thank them enough for letting me do this. I mean, I don't know, it's kind of one of the greatest things in my life.
MICHAEL COLLINS: You know, if you still know that high school teacher, we might be able to send some shirts to the teacher (laughter), just a little say "Whassup, just want to send you some shirts now that I've got my own line."
BUBBA WATSON: It was really hard at the Open because all I could think about at the Open -- because they want to have a Bubba Watson high school, and I'm sorry to say that but I don't like my high school (laughter). I'm friends with some people, but --
MICHAEL COLLINS: Me and my high school don't get along, either.
BUBBA WATSON: I've asked for two years -- I hate to bring this up again, but I've asked for two years to start a scholarship to one girl, one boy, and I was going to give $2,000 to each kid that goes to college, not even a golf scholarship, just to go to college, and I was going to give them $2,000 towards their college. And for two years they haven't came up with the paperwork at my high school for me to figure out how to donate money.
It's a sad situation down where I live. If I can do anything -- have a college tournament that I help out, just anything I can help out. Just this ability to make quality clothes at this price point, it's an honor and a dream come true to be working with these folks.
MICHAEL COLLINS: How cool is it to know the kids where you're from, you don't even have to do that $2,000 scholarship, but all those kids going to your high school, they know you went there so they can look up to you and say, look, now he made it but now he's with Steve & Barry's bringing clothing that we can afford.
BUBBA WATSON: Let me wipe my tears real quick. I did the hard part, talking about my family.
You know, it's great. It's one of those things where -- I'll be honest, I turned them down the first time. I said, there's got to be something illegal about this (laughter). I'll just tell the truth.
We went to Orlando, we were at Bay Hill last year, and they pulled me aside and we went through the store and I was touching all the clothes that they already had in the store and got to see it and see the price tags, how affordable it was for everybody. And the jackets, I mean, they have everything in the store. And to fill up and get a couple bags of goodies to go home with -- I only wear blue jeans around. I like tee shirts and blue jeans, and their store has the most tee shirt styles, 100 different style tee shirts, different logos, so that's all I wear when I go out. I don't like to dress up, I just like to be a good ol' boy.
And to see that and that everybody can afford it, if people are looking up to me I hope they look to see just because I make a few dollars, I'm not going to change. I'm still Bubba Watson. I'm not trying to follow Phil Mickelson, Lefty, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods; I like those guys a lot. I want to be the first Bubba Watson. I want to help anybody I possibly can. My wife will get mad, I keep donating a lot of money.
MICHAEL COLLINS: Still shop at Big Lots?
BUBBA WATSON: Exactly.
MICHAEL COLLINS: But Howard, I have to ask you because the quality of these products is the same quality as all the top line clothing that's out there. Okay, how?
HOWARD SCHACTER: Well, everything in the bubbagolf(tm) line, and I should mention we've talked about polo shirts, there's about 30 different items in the line, performance golf attire, shorts, pants and shirts as well as regular polo shirts, windbreakers, hats, visors, you name it, a complete collection and it's going to be featured in Bubba's own section of the store.
How do we do it? The truth is that clothes just don't cost as much as people think they cost to make. We save dollars on things like spreading the word through publicity and not spending gazillions of dollars on advertising. You know, we pack our shirts in a certain way and put them on the shelves in a certain way so we can save on labor. We'll pack our trucks to the brim and not put an extra truck on the road that's not packed to the brim so we can save on fuel. I sit in a $20 chair in my office. I stay at extreme discount hotels on the road.
And these things add up in ways that are invisible to shoppers other than the price tag. It allows the price tag to come down. So the quality of everything in Bubba's line like that Marbury $15 shoe is of the highest quality. These are products that really are comparable to what you're finding at the most specialty boutiques and pro shops out there as opposed to extreme discount stores, and yet everything in Bubba's line is going to sell for $15.
MICHAEL COLLINS: Basically what you're saying is all the shirt quality and the pant quality are the same quality as the stuff that you can spend $80 to $100 on, but you don't have a corporate jet, you guys aren't spending $100 million on television advertising, newspaper advertising; it's all going to be word-of-mouth kind of stuff, and that's what is going to keep your price down?
HOWARD SCHACTER: That's 100 percent right, and again, it comes back to that mission I talked about earlier, that Steve and Barry when they started that store, that first store in 1985, said it's ridiculous what people have to pay for clothes, we've got to make it more accessible.
When you think about the folks that this line is right for, certainly we'll get the country club golfer that will understand, this is exactly the same, why would I spend more. But really it's for the guy out there that loves to play golf, is probably playing the municipal course on the weekend in a natty tee shirt and shorts. Here we're giving him exactly the same chance to dress like a PGA golfer does, wear exactly the same clothes, high end, and yet $20 or $30 for an entire outfit.
BUBBA WATSON: You've got to look good to play good.
MICHAEL COLLINS: At least you're still going to look like Bubba. Do you have any input on the design and stuff?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, I helped pick out just about every stitch. So if you don't like it, that's my fault (laughter). But they sent everything to me. It's funny, the hangtags came to my house, and they said we want you to pick out these, do you want the picture of you on there, do you like the lighting on there. And I said, "I have to pick out that?" The little plastic piece that holds the hang tag, do you want black, clear, white? I don't care. I ended up picking out black, I think. I had to pick out all that stuff before we even got to the shirts and the pants and the shorts and the windbreakers. I had to do all that first.
Again, it was a big honor for me to be able to do that and to have that much input into all this stuff.
MICHAEL COLLINS: Did you come up with the logo?
BUBBA WATSON: Their team. They had 30 logos and they pitched it to me as it's kind of like a stick figure golfer with a little head on top, and then my drives are like thunder and lightning, like a lightning bolt, so that's how they pitched it. I said, "Yeah, that sounds good."
HOWARD SCHACTER: It's been a great relationship. Bubba is our guy. He's reflective of the guy that's coming into our store every day, so we want the clothing to be the merchandise that Bubba would wear every day. There's no other reason to do something like this. If Bubba is not going to wear it we can't expect a shopper to come, even if it's for $10 or $15, and wear it.
MICHAEL COLLINS: That's what's so neat about this clothing line is it's regular, everyday kind of clothing but for people that don't necessarily fly in corporate jets and get to ride in the big Mercedes and stuff like that.
I know it's tough for you to talk about your background coming up because you're a little bit different of a golfer. Swing coach?
BUBBA WATSON: No, no swing coach. That's a waste of time. You've got to thank the coaches and stuff when you win -- I haven't won yet, but if I ever do win, I don't have to thank my coaches.
MICHAEL COLLINS: Sports psychologists?
BUBBA WATSON: No. Somebody else is going to tell me what I should think out there? That's not any fun.
MICHAEL COLLINS: And growing up, you started when you were six years out old.
BUBBA WATSON: Six. The pro at my golf course just happened to be left-handed and he had an old 9-iron so he gave me the 9-iron, and my dad would play golf with his buddies and I would beat the 9-iron behind them.
MICHAEL COLLINS: Are you a natural left-hander.
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, I started playing baseball when I was four so I started doing everything left-handed, started writing left-handed and playing golf left-handed.
MICHAEL COLLINS: When did you realize that you knew you had some skills that might take you to a higher level than anybody else?
BUBBA WATSON: I still haven't realized that. I'm still nervous every day.
When I was younger I got lucky, I shot -- the sad part is I don't know the year, but it was 12 or 13 I shot 62 in a tournament at my home golf course, ten birdies, eight pars, and I won the tournament by like 46 shots, and it was a three-day tournament. I shot 71-71-62. I won by 46. But I was young and it was a local tournament.
That's when my parents said you're going to have to choose baseball or golf, which would you rather do. I said baseball I can play great and lose the game, and I just didn't want to deal with that. So my parents said, let's quit baseball and work on golf and you keep doing that, and I wouldn't have to get a job or anything so I turned pro.
MICHAEL COLLINS: Was there any point in time going through everything you went through with the sacrifices your parents had to make where you thought, you know, it might be too much, maybe I should stop playing golf, or did they always say, you keep playing no matter what?
BUBBA WATSON: No, even my sister, my sister is three years older and they said the same thing. If you do what you're supposed to do in school and if you want to play golf or do something, we'll help you any way we can. They gave me the same opportunity and I took it and ran with it. I was like, yeah, I'll practice every day.
MICHAEL COLLINS: Practice or get a job? I'll practice.
BUBBA WATSON: It was funny because my mom talked about it the other day. I was home a couple weeks ago. There was this big house going to the airport that we have to pass it, and I always told her when I was growing up, I want to buy that house. So it's one of those things where I never really looked at my parents are struggling, I looked at what I can do for them. I do practice.
MICHAEL COLLINS: It's paid off.
BUBBA WATSON: I helped them paid for their house a couple months ago. Got their house paid off. So it's nice.
MICHAEL COLLINS: That's awesome. What are your hopes and dreams now going from this because you've got your own clothing line coming out now with Steve & Barry's, which seems like a perfect marriage for the two of you?
BUBBA WATSON: I hope so.
HOWARD SCHACTER: No formal ceremony (laughter).
MICHAEL COLLINS: But from here, where would you like to see all of this go?
BUBBA WATSON: I'd like to see this be one of the top sellers. Stephon Marbury seems like he can't keep the shoes in the stores, Sarah Jessica Parker just launched BITTEN(tm), and her stuff has been going out like crazy. Just to show the world that you can make great products for a smaller price or for the everyday man, just -- who knows if people think I look good, but if I'm wearing this stuff and I look good on the golf course, feel comfortable, then anybody can do it. It doesn't matter who you are, how much money you have, what job you have or anything.
HOWARD SCHACTER: That was very well said.
MICHAEL COLLINS: You said something about Sarah Jessica Parker.
HOWARD SCHACTER: We just launched a line called BITTEN(tm) about a month ago. Our stores are gigantic; we're about 60,000 square feet, which is about the size of a Best Buy, to give you an idea of the size of the store. We appeal to everybody. We've got clothing from little babies to mom and dad.
We just entered the women's market in a huge way with a partnership with Sarah Jessica Parker, who, like Stephon and Bubba, came from humble beginnings and wanted to do for women exactly what these guys are doing for different segments of the male audience. We came out with an entire collection for women called BITTEN(tm), which is doing quite well.
MICHAEL COLLINS: Is there going to be a women's line of golf apparent at some point?
HOWARD SCHACTER: We're going to listen to our shoppers, which is the most important kind of test marketing to do, and if they say they're looking for products for women that's what we will do, but right now we're focused on men.
MICHAEL COLLINS: Any on-line merchandise available?
HOWARD SCHACTER: Bubbagolf(tm) is only available at our stores, but we're definitely ramping up on sales and this should come in a couple of months.
MICHAEL COLLINS: A lot of people are going to be looking forward to this.
HOWARD SCHACTER: Exactly. Like I said, we have about 200 stores right now, and we're hoping to add a couple thousand. We've got about eight or nine in this general area, one in Davenport for anybody that's interested in checking us out, throughout Chicago and in the Midwest and both coasts. On-line is coming.
MICHAEL COLLINS: I'm going to open it up to questions for anybody now.
Q. Did you talk to Stephon at all when you got started with this?
BUBBA WATSON: When I got started I got lucky and they let me go to his release party, so I got to meet him. When I met him, they said this is Bubba Watson, he's going to start the golf line. He was too busy going on with his stuff and getting his stuff released, but we talked and he said it was great. He just told me why he did it because I asked the basic questions like I would ask anybody, and I said, that's pretty much the same reasons I did it. He's up in New York and the atmosphere is a lot different than Bagdad, but it's basically the same thing.
Q. Your choice to make the announcement here, or how did that come about? Why the John Deere Classic?
HOWARD SCHACTER: Well, from our perspective, we just -- from the day we met Bubba, it's been about a year, and for those of you not familiar with how apparel and brands work, to go from concept and a handshake to having a full collection on shelf in basically a year is a monumental task. So as soon as we knew we had the product and it was solid from a quality and styling perspective, met performance needs that Bubba has on the course, we wanted to get it onto the shelves as quickly as we do. So while it's a little non-traditional to launch a brand in the middle of the golf season, it was either that or wait until next season, which we didn't want to do.
Q. You just mentioned performance needs. When you're dealing with a particular sport in your line, do you talk to the athlete about the things that drive him crazy about certain types of clothes and what they want, and how does that factor in to how it's designed and made?
BUBBA WATSON: With me it's just -- I don't know if you know this, but I swing it a little bit harder than everybody else when I'm hitting my driver. So my big thing is I don't like tight cuffs around the arm. I want it loose. You know, I want my stuff to hang just over my shoulders, the seams right here. I want it to hang over so it's more loose. I like my stuff more loose.
So just basic stuff like that, so when I'm swinging at it I don't feel any restraints or anything like that. And then we've got some stuff that's supposed to hold the sweat a little bit better, some performance stuff with thinner materials and breathable with holes in it, so we just kind of went with the basic and new styles that everybody is trying to do to, the Dri-Fits and stuff like that.
MICHAEL COLLINS: How much more product will you be releasing through the rest of this year?
HOWARD SCHACTER: Well, we are launching with about 30 items. Again, the shorts, pants, polo shirts, both performance and just active wear, hats and visors, and then we'll be watching the market very closely and adding new color schemes and new types of apparel as the shoppers tell us what they like and enjoy. We are hoping that this is a line that's on our shelves for many, many years to come and that will grow the brand as Bubba continues to grow as a golfer.
MICHAEL COLLINS: I've got to ask, too, because the pants are comfortable pants. For the players, you have to wear pants, but as a former PGA TOUR caddie the shorts are great, too.
BUBBA WATSON: Still full price (laughter).
MICHAEL COLLINS: Who came up with the bubbagolf(tm) logo on the inside? It's like rubberized to hold the shirt in place. That's a huge thing for anyone that plays golf.
HOWARD SCHACTER: And that's an important point. I can't stress enough that the products that are selling for $15, if folks come up here and touch and feel, you're talking about very high quality with embellishments and detail that you do not find in merchandise at these price points. That's one where it's a matter of our designers who come from many of the top brands in the country that have joined our chain as we've grown, sitting down with Bubba and really trying to understand the needs of today's golfer, what are they looking for, and to the extent we're able to incorporate them into the finished product.
BUBBA WATSON: A golfer doesn't want their shirt to come untucked. It looks sloppy, you have to try and look halfway decent out there. It has a little grip on it so it holds your shirt in place while you're swinging at it wildly.
HOWARD SCHACTER: The shirts incorporating a sweat wicking technology, that's proprietary to us, so even on a hot day like today you'd be comfortable on the course. Again, very high quality and at price points that we're very proud to be able to bring to everybody.
MICHAEL COLLINS: It's an amazing line and a great idea. It's a perfect marriage for Steve & Barry's and Bubba to be together, to bring a line of clothing like this to people who can now afford great golf clothes.
Q. Howard, when the company first came up with the idea for Starburys(tm), this affordable stuff, sports apparel for the masses, what kind of reaction did you guys first get from other people at the preexisting companies or the people you brought the ideas to?
HOWARD SCHACTER: To be honest with you, we don't think about other companies. We do what's right for us. I hate to be redundant, but it's true. When we started this company, when Steve and Barry first created it, it was what can we do as business people that will make us the kind of money and life we'd like to have but doing something that can truly change the world and do something good.
And too often times in this country those are objectives that just don't meet. But that's what our store is all about. So I'm sure there are those brands out there scratching their heads and saying how are they doing it or why are they doing it because we can sell our merchandise for much higher prices than we choose to, but we feel like if we do the right thing and we're honest and genuine and truthful that shoppers are going to resonate with us. Heck, if it ends up meaning that other brands and retailers end up doing similar things and they can go to sleep a little bit better at night, then that will be a good thing. But for now we're doing what's right for our brands, our partners and what's right for or shoppers.
Q. Did you run into any resistance along the way?
BUBBA WATSON: No. You know, golf -- the line hits our shelves today. I don't know if we mentioned that. bubbagolf(tm) hits our store shelves today. So we'll see immediately how well it's embraced. We think it'll do phenomenally well, as all our other product lines are.
In the case of the Starbury(tm) shoe, the sneaker is a status symbol among many people in this country, and the idea to think that something cool could come at a low price tag like $15 was just a revolutionary idea certainly within the urban marketplace. But what we have found over the course of time, one by one it's the kids on the playgrounds wearing $150 shoes that are becoming the oddballs and more and more kids wearing the $15 shoe and proud of it and showing that the quality is exactly the same.
I don't know if we have exactly the same dynamic in the golf world, but it's only a matter of time if you show somebody here's a house that costs a million dollars and here's a house right next door that costs $100,000, check them out, they're exactly the same, initially there's going to be consternation, nobody is going to believe it. But if you come in and stretch and pull, as Bubba did a year ago in our store, who wouldn't buy the $100,000 house? You'd be foolish not to. That's the whole concept Steve & Barry's was based on.
Q. Was there rationale behind the lowercasing the name?
BUBBA WATSON: It was hard for me to spell Bubba with a capital (laughter).
Q. Big boom guy sounds like a capital letter.
BUBBA WATSON: We actually talked about that. For some reason it just fit better, just looked better like that. That's how we came up with it.
MICHAEL COLLINS: You're not guaranteeing that people are going to hit the ball further if they put your shirts on, though?
BUBBA WATSON: No, no. Maybe, though. I'm not saying they will, but I'm not saying they won't.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: At this time we'd like to thank Howard and Michael for your participation. I'm going to come over and we'll talk a little bit about the golf and John Deere Classic with Bubba.
BUBBA WATSON: You're not going to make me cry, are you?
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: I will not make you cry. You've got a lot going on off the golf course with the introduction of bubbagolf(tm), but you have a lot going on on the golf course, finished tied for 5th at the U.S. Open. You're known primarily with the public as the longest driver on TOUR, but to finish in the Top 10 and contend all weekend at the U.S. Open, maybe talk about that and show that you have some soft touch around the greens and a great putting stroke and some other qualities that the public probably hadn't seen before. Talk about your experience at Oakmont.
BUBBA WATSON: It was good. I played two solid practice rounds and I hit the ball really well out on the golf course. I got to play with a nice guy two practice rounds in Tiger Woods, got to listen to him and see what he goes through and see what he thinks about, see what he charts down on the card.
My caddie, we've always said if I can get my mind ready and focus on all the golf tournaments, I should be there in the top 50, top 30 in the world, maybe top 20, top 10. So, you know, I stayed focused and we made a game plan.
If you talked to all the veterans that are considered greats in the game, they always tell you to make a game plan and stick to it. For some reason that week I said let's do this, let's show them that we can play a major. It was my second time so I knew how difficult it was.
My problem is I make a lot of mental mistakes during a golf tournament. Out there if I'm going to make my same mistakes, everybody else is going to start making mistakes because of the Open and how tough it is. Now we're on an equal playing field without me having to bear down harder then I should. I hit a lot of irons, hit the ball crisp off the tee and hit a lot of fairways.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Talk about your season. You're 24th on the FedExCup points list, so you're in a really good position heading into the final stretch before the Playoffs. Maybe just talk about your season and kind of what's in store for you down the stretch.
BUBBA WATSON: You know, last year I missed a lot of cuts but I had three top 10s. This year I've had five top 10s, four of them which are top 5s, and I've still missed a lot of cuts. So my goal this year was to try to limit my cuts and stay in there and stay in the moment and stay focused on just trying to make the cuts even when I know I'm out of it. I still struggled with that. Last week I missed the cut by one. I putted atrociously. I had 33 and 32 putts, so that's never going to get it done.
But for the most part the year has been great when it comes to top 10s, and last year I finished 90th so we're ahead of the game as of last year.
The Playoffs are coming up so I'm trying to figure out when I'm taking time off. There's so many good tournaments that I don't want to take time off, so many relationships I've built. It's going to be hard. I'm hoping too play all four and stay in the top 30. Who knows, my win or two wins could come during the Playoffs and I could still get the first Cup.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Talk a little bit about the John Deere Classic, TPC Deere Run, maybe a little bit about the golf course and your expectations for this week.
BUBBA WATSON: I have good expectations. I putted good here last year, had some mental mistakes, but I came in 17th last year. They've changed like ten holes.
They put in our lockers that we've done some changes here and there and made some of the fairways tighter and made some tees longer, and today we played early this morning and it was wet. I'm guessing the rain hit here, too, just like where we were last night. The course was playing really long today. I mean, I hit 8-iron into No. 18. Two guys I played with had to hit long irons, 3-irons, maybe a hybrid. So that will add 10 or 15 yards, and making the fairway tighter just made it that much tighter. With water in play hitting a 3-iron or hybrid into that green, nobody wants to do that no matter what you are.
So I think 19-under won last year, and I finished 12-under last year, so I think this year if the weather stays the same as it was last year, it's easily going to be 15-under unless somebody goes crazy out there. It looks like the course is going to be a little tougher because of the little modifications, made it a little bit longer and tightened up some of the holes.
Q. You talked about having a game plan. What's your game plan this week?
BUBBA WATSON: Putt good. You know, putting is -- last week I just struggled. The greens were a little bumpy, different kind of grass. I worked yesterday on putting, just some short putts and getting the feel down. So today I really worked mostly on putting. I didn't chip around the greens as much because I get to play tomorrow, too, in the Pro-Am.
Just putting. If you putt good -- out here it's putting. Whoever is leading putting into the week usually putts pretty good. It's rare to see somebody finish dead last and putt really well. That's the key out here. The big names, they putt well it seems like all the time. Furyk putts really well all the time it seems like.
So that's the thing, if I can get my putting down to where it should be, and this year it has been. That's what's made this year better for me so I've just putted a lot better.
Q. Have you always been longer than everybody you've played with, or was there a point in your career --
BUBBA WATSON: No, I've been long since I started. My dad taught me back in the day, wiffle balls around the house, just hit it as hard as you can. If you play good or learn how to play the game we'll try to straighten it out after that. So I always swung it like John Daly growing up, way past parallel, and to just hit hard. To hit plastic golf balls farther, you learn how to play with your toys so I learned how to hit it farther with a plastic ball. It's because I swing harder, took my club farther back, never having a coach or anything, that's what I do. I don't try to do it, it's one of the things that come naturally to me.
Q. When you're playing the TOUR with all the best players in the world, all of them are long and you're significantly longer than them, how do you account for that difference? Where do you get your power from that they don't have?
BUBBA WATSON: It's just, again, from the guys -- I think Furyk actually -- I don't want to be misquoted but I'm pretty sure that he said he learned how to -- he wanted to hit it straight. When he was growing up that's what he learned. He didn't learn try to hit as hard as you can and then try to figure out the game. He learned hit it straight and hit the fairways, so you're learning the finesse part. Any kid coming up like that is learning the finesse part of the game.
You can't really teach the length for that. Your swing is already at a certain level. If you have a shorter swing it's going to be harder to hit the ball far or kill it or whatever you want to call it.
So with me I've got a long swing, so what that does is creates lag. I use all my arms. I think one of the telecasts one time said that my arms are stretched out all the way back and all the way through. Even on follow-through my arms are stretched out, so I use my arc in my swing, and arc is where I get power and speed.
Q. They've said that the new technologies and golf balls benefits longer players more than the shorter players. Did you gain a discernible advantage when the 460 heads came out versus what you were playing like 10, 15 years ago?
BUBBA WATSON: I didn't notice anything that really surprised me.
Q. Were you hitting it 340 when you were 15?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, we didn't have people that measured it for us in junior tournaments, but yeah, there was par 4s I was still trying to reach. I think I was more wild back then because I swung harder. Now I'm trying to calm it down a little bit.
But I like to watch old highlights and stuff, and I saw the Masters in '97 where Tiger won, and they showed Jack Nicklaus, some of his shots back in the day where he was from, what irons he hit into holes, and they're pretty much comparable. They talk about technology, but it's not -- I really don't feel like it's that big of a difference. If you give me a wooden club and everybody is hitting a wooden club, I'm still going to hit past them. I'm not going to change my swing because it's a wooden club. I'm still going to hit it hard. Except it might shatter (laughter). John Daly has got it on record he shattered a wood.
Q. Your tee ball, you have a little step back sometimes.
BUBBA WATSON: When I'm trying to hit it harder.
Q. What is that, to counteract the weight shift?
BUBBA WATSON: I'm a little chubby now, so when my weight shifts, it doesn't want to stop sometimes.
Q. Can you take a shadow swing for us and show us what that move is or what that move does?
BUBBA WATSON: I don't like to show off my secrets. It's hard to do when you don't have a club and a ball in your way. It's hard to shadow swing at 100 miles an hour without a ball in your way.
Q. If you had the length all along, at what point and in what way did you start adding other stuff in to make you a more complete player, and do you find yourself thinking more in terms of finesse and shaping your shots more than you ever did before? Is that part of your success?
BUBBA WATSON: You know, it's wiffle balls, again. I went around the house left and I went around the house right. We had left-handed going left -- I learned how to hook it around the house, and with a plastic golf ball, if you get it to move this far (indicating two feet), you feel like you've hooked it a long way. I'd be like, Mom, look how it hooked. I thought I was cutting it so far because it would go around this little limb. I learned how to hit it high and low, if you want to go over limbs or under limbs at different times.
I'd play an imaginary tournament, and the fire pit would be my hole, I'd play to that hole. I played it par 3 sometimes. In my head instead of hitting a putt ten feet, I was hitting shots. So when I come out here I can't see straight shots. When a pin is tucked in the side, I feel like I should be able to cut it in there or hook it in there and hit it close. I don't see middle of the greens. Some of the bigger names say, Bubba, you need to see middle of the green. I want to fire at flags. That's what I know. I see flag and I don't think about anything else.
Q. A swing as long as yours, is it more a chance of it breaking down under pressure? Are you so dialed in it doesn't matter?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, I've never won, so I guess my dialed in isn't very good. Again, it's just one of those things where the telecaster is going to say his elbow is out here, he did this, he didn't swing fast enough on his follow-through. I don't know any of that part of the game. I know if I make putts I'm going to beat you, if I hit the ball as good as I think I can hit it.
If there's a day I walk off the golf course and say, I played good today and I didn't beat you, then you played really good. So there's never been a time where, man, I played my best tournament. I came in 2nd in Houston and came in 5th at the Open and everybody thinks I did really good at the Open. That was three places worse than my 2nd. So I look at it as I didn't play good at the Open. That wasn't my highest finish ever. I see it as another tournament.
So breaking down, I don't look at my swing, I never analyze my swing so I don't see it breaking down under pressure. Pressure is pressure. No matter how perfect your swing is there's going to be a time when you're going to have a bad swing no matter who you are. Tiger just seems like he has less than anyone else.
Q. Given the way they set us a U.S. Open-type golf course versus the type of game that you play, I think a lot of people were surprised you contended as well as you did at Oakmont. Should they have been?
BUBBA WATSON: I say no because this is only my second major ever. Nobody has got to see me in major competition to know how tough it really is. I've never really gotten that experience.
Again, what I was saying earlier about the mistakes, I'm going to make mistakes, everybody is going to make mistakes, but at the Open my mental mistakes, if my game isn't as good as everybody else's, it's now equal. You're going to hit the center of the green, it's going to bounce over the green into the rough. You're going to hit a shot in the fairway and it's going to bounce into the rough, and if you have to chip out you're going to have a decent lie and reach the green. I believe with my swing speed I can move the ball farther than everybody else.
We've seen Tiger hit some shots out of rough that amazes people. That's what I think I can do.
I've never been in a major situation. I've only been in two now. So I'm 50 percent in top 10s and top 5s, so I guess I'm all right in majors.
Q. Do you ever see yourself having to rely on a swing coach, somebody there to help you?
BUBBA WATSON: I've always said this, and I haven't lied too much in my life, I guess. My parents say I've never lied. But if there came a point in time where I thought I was bad enough where I needed to get a swing coach, I would find a new job. It's not fun. If somebody said you write bad stories, you're not going to get a coach, are you (laughter)?
Q. Let's not go there.
BUBBA WATSON: Exactly. You know, it's one of those things where I love the game too much and I love it -- I want me to be good. I'm kind of selfish. I want it to be because of me. I want it to be because my parents helped me and then I learned the game and I figured out the game good enough to win one time or keep my card for so many years, than having to thank somebody for helping me with my golf swing. That's no fun for me. I want to be able to say I did good for me but try to be nicer in my speech afterward.
Q. You were talking about earlier about trying to figure out your schedule and the FedExCup and how that has come together this year. Talk about your thoughts on the FedExCup and your schedule. How have you worked that this year?
BUBBA WATSON: You know, this week I told them last year I couldn't lie, so I told them last year I'm not going to miss this tournament for anything so I had to be here again this year so it was on my schedule. Canada is always on my schedule because my wife is from Toronto. That's the other part of my family, so that one I'm definitely going to.
Greensboro, the tournament director there is a great friend of mine from junior golf, and it's going to be hard to get that one in. I told him, look, I'd love to be there. With me having a chance to be top 30 and having a chance for the Cup, having a chance to win that, it's kind of a week I need to take off. It's right before the PGA and it's a week before a Playoff. That one is real sad that I'm more than likely not going to go to. I'm not going to count it out yet in case I start missing every cut.
I started out the year playing the first six in a row, and I did well enough where I could say I need some time off. It's not smart for me to keep doing that many in a row, so I've been playing three, two in a row, taking a week off and then sitting back and evaluating what I need to work on, my practice. My chipping is off, my putting is off, my driving is off.
So each week -- after this week I'll go home for a week unless I make it to the British and then get ready for Canada, then go home for a week and get ready for the PGA Championship and then go home for a week and get ready for the four in a row Playoffs. It's just hard.
There's so many great tournaments and so many -- I don't like to upset the sponsors. They put up this kind of money for us to have a living and play golf, it's hard to turn any sponsorship down or any tournament down, putting out that kind of money for us to come play and wanting to see the better players there. It's just hard for us to do. For the mental grind it's just hard to do.
Q. You said you weren't going to miss this tournament. When makes it so special?
BUBBA WATSON: My mom grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi. She was a farmer, her family, and they had to pick their food to eat that night. They didn't go shopping at the big grocery stores like we do now. So whatever they grew and she cooked, that's what they ate.
So she's used to John Deere products, and for them to have John Deere -- my mom drove up here last year, I don't know how many hours. I said, I'll fly you. She said, no, I'm going to drive. She drove up from Pensacola, and I got to play with her favorite player until I came along, Paul Azinger, all four days. John Deere and me and Paul Azinger in the same group, she was pretty happy with that.
Q. So will you come back?
BUBBA WATSON: I'll come back. They've tried to make everything so nice for me and sent me great notes last year and sent my mom a package from John Deere just thanking me for the quotes I gave out about John Deere.
I've got a little redneck in me. I like the tractors and stuff. The Big Dig is tonight at 5:00 o'clock, so I'm hoping to be there for the first time and see -- last year it rained so I didn't go. It was sprinkling and I didn't want to get wet (laughter).
Q. You said a couple times you don't analyze your swing or worry about what the commentators say. Would you describe yourself as a player who plays by feel? And does it mess you up when someone tries to make you think too much about your swing? Do you just try and play by feel?
BUBBA WATSON: I play by feel. To cut it, I couldn't tell you how to cut the ball. I couldn't tell you how to do it. I look at it and where I want to hit it towards and where I want it to end up, and I figure that's what I need to do. For some reason it clicks in my head, this is what I need to do with my swing. I can't tell you where your elbows are, I can't tell you anything about it. I can't tell you how to hook it. When I do is when I pick a target, me and my caddie, I say I'm going to start it at that tree and it's going to end up over here. Okay, whatever you think.
So that's what I do. I don't know why, I don't know how. I know the basics where my hand is this way and that way but I couldn't explain it to you. My wife asks me how to play the game. I'm like, just go hit balls, you'll learn it.
Q. Is the golf more fun playing it that way do you think?
BUBBA WATSON: I believe it is. It's fun for me. When I go home I'll play four or five days with the guys back home. We have a $20 game, $25 if you're in the skins, and I'm always in the skins. $25, and you just play. We pick teams and go play. I get to play the white tees sometimes. It's fun. Me and the white tees, it's pretty good. I just love the game.
So it's just all feel. Around my house golf courses aren't as lush as this. I mean, it's got roots in the fairways sometimes and you've just got to play around it. That's how I learned to play the game. So when I come to these kind of golf courses, this is easy. Me and Boo, this is easy compared to where we came up from.
Q. Being left-handed was there a degree of difficulty getting started in golf?
BUBBA WATSON: It was good because my pro there was left-handed and he had an old 9-iron. My dad cut it down with a saw and put a grip on it and I started beating away on it. My parents bought me the first set of Pings at age 8. They had a junior set, and it was -- you buy the odds one year and then when you grow into it you buy the even numbered, so then you had a full set in two years. That's what we did.
So I had my first set by age 8, started playing in tournaments, and went from there. So we never really had to worry about getting clubs.
Now I have to worry about it more because Ping comes out with new equipment but left-handed is not for two weeks or three weeks. Everybody tells me how great it is and I have to wait for it.
Q. Did anybody ever try and switch you around?
BUBBA WATSON: No. My dad could barely break 100, but I would watch him. Phil talks about his dad, it was like a mirror. Because Phil is right-handed but he plays left-handed because he used the mirror effect. And I used it just to start the game. But then when I got where I could beat my dad, I really didn't. He still tells me about that. He was like, you don't listen to me anymore.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Bubba, thanks. Good luck this week.
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