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July 16, 2012

Bubba Watson


LYNN WALLACE:  Ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to welcome the 2012 Masters champion, Bubba Watson.  Thanks for joining us.
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah, thanks.
LYNN WALLACE:  An inspirational win at Augusta earlier in the year.  How do you think this course is going to suit your game?
BUBBA WATSON:  You know, it's all about weather around here.  But the golf course is a good golf course.  There's a lot of long holes.  But a lot of bunkers.
My game, it can handle it.  I've got to play smart off the tees, hit a lot of irons, a lot of things just to get in the fairway, but it's going to come down to‑‑ it's all about short game with all these bunkers and hazards around the greens.  It's all about just trying to execute and somehow leave it on the right side so you can get up‑and‑down or hopefully make a couple putts.

Q.  Tiger said overnight that the course was almost unplayable in areas.  Would you go along with that assessment?
BUBBA WATSON:  Oh, the rough?  Yeah, if you hit it off line, the rough is pretty bad.  You know, it's like anywhere, though.  You hit it in high rough like that, hit it off line, yeah, it's very difficult.  Hopefully you can find your golf ball.
You know, the golf course, kind of like the U.S. Open, it's all about just hitting the fairway, hitting the right shot off the tee to avoid some of the bunkers, avoid the high rough and hitting some quality iron shots into the greens or close to the greens where you can get up‑and‑down.

Q.  It's wet and it's going to get even wetter by all accounts.  How do you look forward to playing in those sort of conditions?
BUBBA WATSON:  Well, nobody wants to play in those conditions.  You'd rather it be sunny and perfect.  But it's one of those things, it's just another challenge that the golf course is going to bring to you, and you just have to try to stay dry, take enough towels to keep the clubs dry, and try to make pars.  When the weather gets that bad, you've just got to make pars, and sometimes bogeys are good.

Q.  Does it give the British players an advantage do you think?  They're probably more used to these conditions.
BUBBA WATSON:  You know, it's whoever can control their mind and not get frustrated about the weather and the situation.  No matter where they're from, everybody has got to deal with this weather.  It's not whether you've played in the rain more than somebody else.  It's just about calming your mind and knowing it's going to be difficult.

Q.  How calm is your mind at the moment?  You had a lot going on in your life obviously Masters time, and getting back to golf, do you feel you're nearly there now or is there still a lot going on for you?
BUBBA WATSON:  Well, no matter if I've won the Masters or not, I have a lot going on in my mind.  I've got issues.  It's only Monday right now, so I'm really calm.  I saw the golf course for the first time today, played all 18 holes before the rain came, so yeah, it was good going out there and seeing it in good conditions where we didn't have to worry about the rain so I could focus and look at what I needed to look at.  We've got two more days to see the course, full view, to learn it, try to learn it the next couple days.
But right now, yeah, I feel good.  I learned a lot at the U.S. Open watching Tiger, watching Phil, learning about strategy.  You know, the game is a tough game so you've just got to learn and process this information and move on.  I missed the cut there, but I feel good.  I finished second the week after the U.S. Open.
My game feels where it needs to be, but it's all about executing the right shots at the right time and hitting them in the right place.  There's so many bunkers around here, you're a little off getting to a bunker, you're chipping backwards.  It's just about executing and doing the right shot at the right time.

Q.  There are 206 bunkers on the course.  How many were you in today would you say?
BUBBA WATSON:  In today, two.

Q.  That's pretty good.
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah, I hit into two.  Not that I counted, but there's 17 on 18, and there's nine on No.1.  I don't understand why there's that many, but they didn't ask me to design it (smiling).  They should have just threw one more on 18 and made it 18 on No.18.

Q.  You played with Tiger at Olympic and you saw how he was kind of hitting a lot of different shots off tees rather than drivers.  Out here do you think that's the kind of game plan that you need to employ more often than just hitting a driver out there and taking a chance with the bunkers and the rough?
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah, we're still learning.  The game of golf you can play for many years, so I'm still learning, and I watched him and Phil, watched other guys the weekend, watched how they went around Olympic and saw where I went wrong, some things I could have did better.  It's still about execution so you can hit iron and still hit a bad iron.  But around here it looks like we're going to hit a lot of irons off of tees, try to play safer, smarter, whatever you want to call it, and just have a longer shot into some of these holes.
The par‑5, No.7 I think it is, I'm going to hit iron off that tee even though I could reach it if I hit it in the fairway with a driver, but I'm just going to hit iron off that tee, just try and execute and have a wedge as my third shot, just so I can eliminate big numbers.  That's what I have to do.  After watching some of the great players at the U.S. Open, I mean, that's what I have to do.  I have to just figure out a way to lay back and just have a longer shot into some of these holes.
That doesn't mean I'm going to be able to do that.  That's my goal.  I might still hit it in the high return with an iron.

Q.  Does playing safer and smarter come naturally to you?
BUBBA WATSON:  No.  Again, I've got issues in my head (laughter).  It's something I've never done.  It's just I have to learn that.  I've done it in some places, but I have to really focus and concentrate more when it comes to that, really get my targets and my irons off the tees to make sure that I'm playing safe.  But also actually execute that in the right way.
You know, you've got to hit fairways around here so you can control your next shot, your shot into greens, because it's so demanding around with all these pot bunkers around the green, so you've got to try to execute and miss the greens on the right side.
So it's something I'm going to have to really work on, different mindset, different game plan.  I mean, it's something that you just learn over time.  It's not going to happen‑‑ you're not going to be the best at links the first time you come to links.  You've got to learn that skill over the years, and hopefully I start learning it pretty quick.

Q.  You played with Tiger for the first two days at Olympic when he seemed to be striking the ball very well, and you made some complimentary remarks about his game.  Obviously he fell away over the weekend at Olympic, but are you expecting a strong challenge from him here this week?
BUBBA WATSON:  A lot of people fell away at Olympic on the weekend, not just him.  You know, yes.  He's won three times this year.  He's won 74, 75 times in the U.S.  yeah, he's going to be strong any time he steps up, any time he tees it up.  Yes, he's the greatest player that's ever played, so yeah.

Q.  You felt at Olympic he was getting his game back to his best?
BUBBA WATSON:  He's won three times this year.  I mean, has anybody else won three times this year?  So I think he's doing pretty good.  I've only won once.  It just happened to be a major, so everybody thinks that's a big deal.  I'd rather win three times than one time.

Q.  When did you arrive?  Where have you played, and what do you like most about links golf?
BUBBA WATSON:  Let's go backwards.  What I like most about links golf is that it's fun.  I mean, this is the game of golf.  I mean, this is fun.  You can hit so many different shots.  Flop shots, not really, unless it's into the wind.  They don't really like a flop shot around here.  But it's so creative.  There's so many things, and I think that's why it gets so difficult for me is because there's so many shots you can play.  But I love it.  I love coming over here.  It's sad that it's one week out of the year to play links golf for us from the U.S.
But it's fun.  It's fun.  You can come over here and create shots, do shots that you don't normally do.  You can hit head high, you can try to hit it high into the wind.  You can try to draw it around bunkers, cut it around bunkers.  So many different things you can do.
Where I played, I played Royal Birkdale yesterday, and then I played some golf course right by here.

Q.  Have you hit a shot in the last three days that you've never hit before?
BUBBA WATSON:  You heard about my shank (laughing)?  No, I've probably hit them all bad, hit all those shots before.  There's no shot I haven't hit before.  I've hit them all.  I've been in trouble before, so I'm used to the trouble out here.

Q.  Is there not a danger that if you embrace strategy too much, it will take away from the natural strengths of your game?
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah, but strategy, it's all‑‑ that's the thing about the game of golf.  What I like about the game of golf more than the other sports is that the other sports are a set field.  Basketball is a set height of goal, there's no wind.  There's always challenges in golf.  There's all kinds of challenges.  There's rain, there's not rain.  And so for me, certain golf courses, certain tests that we have throughout the year are going to change your strategy.  They're going to change the way you play the game.
You go to a U.S. Open, you go to tough weather conditions of the British Open, it's going to be‑‑ it's going to be par is your friend.  You make a lot of pars, you're probably going to do well.  So there's a lot of challenges like that, and there's some golf courses, some tournaments where 30 under wins it.  So you've just got to play for birdie after birdie after birdie.
You have to just go with what the golf course is giving you, unlike other sports where it's always the same.  So you always have to change your strategy no matter what it is.

Q.  You're due to go out with Lee Westwood.  He'll be desperate to do well on home soil.  How good would you say his chances were this week?
BUBBA WATSON:  Well, obviously Westwood is either No.1 or No.2 in the world, No.3, whatever he is in the world.  He's won about 40 times over here.  He's a good player.  You always expect him to do well.  It seems like every major he's Top 5 in.  Obviously he plays great clubs, great equipment (laughing).  You're welcome, Ping.
No, he's a great player, he just hasn't won.  There's a lot of things that have to happen to win a major.  You have to play really good golf, but you have to have other people not play their best.  And he's played really good golf.  He's played great golf.  So every time he steps up in a major you know he's going to have a chance to win.  Even if he starts off slow, he fights back and has a chance to win.  His chances are always good.  He just hasn't won one yet.

Q.  You said you'd rather win three times than once.  You're not surely suggesting you'd rather take Tiger's three titles than the Masters, or are you?
BUBBA WATSON:  Well, at the end of the year, some people always look at how many wins you have better than a person that's won one time.  But what I'm saying is he's won three times.  It doesn't matter what tournament.  Each tournament is a big tournament.  A lot of money, a lot of charities involved, a lot of World Ranking points involved.  He's won three times this year.  He's the only person to win three times this year, right?  I think he's done pretty well.

Q.  At the end of your career would you swap‑‑
BUBBA WATSON:  He's got 14 majors, so I'm going to keep my little one that I have.  He's got 14 to spare, so I don't want to get rid of the one yet.  Next year I'll take three wins because I already have a major.  If I had 14, I'd give one up.

Q.  Did you know that in 1963 a left‑hander won here?
BUBBA WATSON:  1963, I was 15 years away from being born, so no, I did not know.

Q.  But that's a good omen.  How do you fancy your chances this week?
BUBBA WATSON:  Just like any week, it's good, if I can keep my mind in the right spot, execute the golf shots, hit the fairways and make some putts then I have a great chances of winning.  I've won some tournaments before, playing good this year, so my chances are good.  That doesn't mean I'm going to win, it means just as good a chance as everybody else.

Q.  Do you think the course sets up well for a left‑hander over a right‑hander?
BUBBA WATSON:  How many times has a lefty won here?  Once?  Obviously not as well as a right‑hander.

Q.  Not looking for personal details here, but how do you relax off the golf course?
BUBBA WATSON:  Just sit around and watch TV.

Q.  Will you go along the coast line here with tourism being big?  Do you hope to see any of the attractions?
BUBBA WATSON:  I haven't seen the water yet.  We're really close to the water, my house is close to the water, but the water seems like it's way away from the shoreline, like miles.  Why is the water so far away?  Like the beach goes for miles and then the water is way out there.  Can you answer that one?

Q.  If you look to the right while you're out there, you might see.  You're OB, though, if you see it.
BUBBA WATSON:  So I might see it is what you're trying to say (laughing).

Q.  15 different plays have won the last 15 majors‑‑
BUBBA WATSON:  And we're going to change that this week.  Keegan Bradley, he's going to win (laughing).

Q.  Is it because the players have gotten better or because Tiger has had to deal with injuries and issues off the course?  Is there any reason you think 15 different players, 15 majors?
BUBBA WATSON:  I think it's just one of those things.  You can't guess who's going to win every time.  You know, but I think the game of golf is growing, you know, with all these up and comers changing the game.  You've got Ishikawa, you've got Rickie Fowler, you've got McIlroy, from different parts of the world but young.  You've got all these young guys learning.  Watch Tiger.  The game is growing.  Tiger has made the game grow so much in every country, every part of the world, that people are getting better, they're practising more, they're training, they're working out, they're eating better, they're trying to get healthier, they're trying to get stronger at the game of golf.  Tiger has helped grow the game that much that as Tiger gets older there's more young people growing and getting better at the game, so the game is getting tougher to win.  There's more and more talent out there.  Every week everybody in the field has a chance to win the golf tournament, no matter how old or young you are.  So I think Tiger has just helped the game develop into that.

Q.  You've mentioned a couple of times that you have issues.  For those of us from a different culture, would you like to explain a little what you mean?
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah.  Golf is not my everything, so there's a lot of things running through my head.  This is a week that my wife is not here, my new son is not here, so the first time out of the country away from them.  And so it's just something different.  You know, my head is always racing about something.  I'm thinking about what meal I'm going to eat, what TV show I'm going to watch, what video game I'm going to play when I get home.  There's a lot of things going through my head, not just golf, so I've got to calm my mind down and focus on golf and try to get better.  When I focus right, I play pretty good, and when I don't focus right, I miss the cut pretty quick.

Q.  When you're out there playing Birkdale, and it was St.Annes the other day and you're out there with your friends, how much are you preparing and trying to get yourself ready to play the links golf, and how much are you just out there goofing off and having a good time with buddies, and how did you do at Birkdale?
BUBBA WATSON:  I'm just goofing off.  There's certain shots.  You know you hit the ball in the rough or you hit a shot and you're just trying to test the rough.  There are certain shots, I'd say about five, ten shots a round, playing with buddies I'm looking how to practise.  The wind is coming from left to right so I'm practising to try to cut it against that.  So every few shots you are really trying to try to pull something off to see how it's going to be.  I haven't played since last Monday, so it's been six days since I've played, and so I had to get that fell back a couple days ago, came in a couple days early so you could start getting practice and get a feel of the air.  The air seems thicker, so the ball moves more.  The ground moves different.  It's about just testing it but having fun with friends, so that's what we did for two days, and then today was a little bit more serious.

Q.  Real quick, have the final details been cleared in Caleb's adoption yet?
BUBBA WATSON:  No, it hasn't been finalized.  That's why I'm taking some time off so I can be with my family.  It's not court things, but there's a lot of paperwork and lawyer stuff and trying to get this finalized.  Instead of having that on my head while I'm playing golf, I want to stay at home and try to get that done as much as possible.

Q.  With all the different shots that links golf presents to you at any time, for creative guy, is that an advantage to you, or because your mind does race, is that a disadvantage to you?
BUBBA WATSON:  It can be an advantage, but so far it hasn't been, my career playing in the British Open.  But sometimes my mind just starts going, like there's so many different shots.  When you're playing with your friends you still try and hit flop shots out here even though it's not built for flop shots.  You can take it either way.  When I'm playing great, it's an advantage, but when I'm struggling that means I'm just thinking there's too many shots I'm thinking about in my head.  That's what I have to get away from.  I have to plan it out in our book and in our minds what we're going to do and just stick to that game plan.  Even if you make a couple bogeys in a row, you still have to stick to your game plan.  So that's what I have to learn.  I have to grow up in the game of golf and learn that part of it.

Q.  In that case, how important is your caddie to you this week in the sense that during practice you've said I'm going to hit iron here, and in the championship you might go to the bag and reach for the driver and he might say to you, no, you said that you'd only hit iron?  Will you be relying on him to help you do that strategy?
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah, that's what he does.  I mean, that's one of his jobs besides carry the umbrella and keep everything dry.  That's one of his jobs is to keep to help me stick to that game plan, but obviously the wind conditions ‑‑ when it was iron the day before and the wind switches, it might be a driver the next day.  But that's his job is to help me at every golf tournament, golf course, not just this one.

Q.  Do you recall the first time you watched The Open on TV and what your thoughts were?
BUBBA WATSON:  Yeah, I thought about wanting to play there.  I watched ‑‑ I would say the early '90s when I started watching golf on TV and realising what it was.  I realised that I wanted to play it.  It looked fun with the wind.  It looks fun playing with your buddies.  When you're playing in the Open Championship, in the British Open, it seems like it's very difficult and not as fun as it was when you were just watching on TV.
But playing with buddies, hitting shots with the 30 mile an hour winds coming across, trying to hit big cuts, big draws, bumping and running it from 200 yards, hitting a low bullet where it just runs about 70 yards is really fun.  So watching it on TV I knew I wanted to be over here, wanted to play.  So yeah, it's fun to come over here and play these events.

Q.  When is the first one you remember?  Who won, do you remember that?
BUBBA WATSON:  I don't remember that.  I always wanted to beat that person who won.  But I don't remember the first one I watched or who won because you always have your favourites and you want them to do good.  No matter if they win or lose, you still pull for them.

Q.  Who was your favourite?
BUBBA WATSON:  Payne Stewart has always been my favourite golfer.  So that was who I always watched growing up, so I wore the knickers like him.

Q.  You talked about safety, strategy, but with your enormous length, can't you overpower this golf course, especially if the sun shines?
BUBBA WATSON:  Well, yes, it's a trick question because yes, I can, but I've got to hit every fairway, and with the driver sometimes I get a little wild, as we know.  The high rough, this is high rough, it is not like our rough in the U.S.  This is hay that is 15 yards off the fairway, 10 yards off on some of the holes, and you might not find your ball.  You have to play smart.  This golf course and the U.S. Open, they make you play to a strategy and have to play a certain way, so you have to do that.  I mean, yes, there could be a day out of four days that I can just beat driver everywhere and play great golf, but four days in a row to get that lucky, to not have bad lie or find all my balls, I mean that would be tough to do.

Q.  What if the landing area is 300 yards out?
BUBBA WATSON:  I don't know.  I hit a lot of irons today.  I wasn't really checking for driver.  I was checking stuff.  To get it sunny and no wind at a tournament like this, it's probably unheard of.  I mean, to have that, you're going to have to‑‑ that's why irons are going to be the best thing.
LYNN WALLACE:  Thanks very much for joining us.  Good luck this week.

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