Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson’s ability to hit the long ball and radically curve shots around a golf course make him one of the most interesting players in the world to watch — there’s his pink driver, of course, and the fact that he’s one of just a few left-handed players on the PGA Tour. Known as one of golf’s most creative players, Watson heads into this week’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills with a bit of extra confidence after working his way into contention and an eventual T6 finish during his last tour stop at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament. We had a chance to speak with him during that crucial week of major preparation.
How did you come to the game of golf?
My dad played on Saturdays. When I was six years old, my mom said, “You need to take your son.” Mom was obviously the boss, because I started playing golf right after that. My dad and his friends would play and I’d be right behind them walking, just hitting balls up the fairway and I fell in love with it.
So this week you’re playing in the Memorial. How’s your game and what do you need to do to win?
The key is focus. Getting my mind right, getting my mind to take on the right things and not negative things. Working on ball striking. The putting is coming along nicely. Im looking forward to the challenge. That’s what we are all out here doing, challenging ourselves, challenging a golf course, and challenging other players. You have to focus on the right things and hopefully good scores happen.
Looking a couple weeks out, how do you like your chances at the U.S. Open?
I think this U.S. Open is going to be a good one. It’s such a new course. I haven’t seen it and I don’t think many others have either. So it will be fun. They are going to set it up so challenging. It’s a U.S. Open, so even for the best players it’s going to be very, very difficult. You gotta learn to manage your energy. You’ve got five-and-a-half-hour rounds and you have to manage to stay energized for that long and stay focused as you’re looking at your shots.
What do you do when you go to compete on a golf course you’ve never seen before?
The first thing you do is you look at the tee shots. How do you get the ball up to the area you want to get to. Iron play, if you’ve never seen a golf course, is pretty much the same everywhere. If you have to hit a seven iron, you have to hit a seven iron. It’s really about the tee shots and looking at the green complexes. Thinking about where the pins are going to be, you don’t want to miss it on this side of the green or that side of the green. So you’re always looking at where the best place is to get up and down, the best place to miss the shot. Those are the two key components, places to miss it and what is going to get you the best position off the tee.
What do you need to do in order to improve?
I need to focus on the right things. When I’m with the family, focus on the family; when I’m with my wife, focus on my wife. When I’m at the golf course, focus on the golf course. It’s about putting things in the right compartments.
The tag line in your new Oakley video is “Cant Stop.” What does that mean to you?
It means you’re always focused, you’re driving forward, you’re always trying to get better.
What has been the most important moment in your career?
That’s a trick question. I have to say meeting and marrying my wife. She has helped me tremendously on and off the course. Because she was a professional athlete, she understands the grind, the dedication and drive to be successful.
You’re a two-time Masters Winner, but what other tournament do you want to win the most?
Any of them. I can honestly tell you it doesn’t matter which ones you win, whose name is on the trophy, or how big it is. You just want to win. If it was this week and it was my last one, that would be awesome! If it was three weeks from now, that’s just as awesome.
Many athletes believe very deeply in luck and streaks. Are you superstitious? Do you have a good-luck charm?
It’s funny, if I’m using a coin to mark my ball, it always has to be on heads. I don’t know why, it just does. And I have to have three tees in my pocket. If I break one, I go straight to the bag and get another. Why do I do it? I do not know. It doesn’t help me play better, it just makes me feel better with three tees in my pocket.
You are the proud owner of the General Lee, but as I understand it, once you’ve bought your dream car, you find another dream car. What is yours now?
Oh, man, I’m biased. I own a Chevy dealership. Right now, there’s a new Corvette they’re testing. There have been photos leaked. It’s supposed to have 750hp. So really want to get my hands on it.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
From my dad: Just be you. No matter what you do in life, just be you and enjoy whatever it is you’re doing. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
If you could only play one more round of golf, where would you play and with whom would you play it?
My wife, my dad, and Payne Stewart. My dad’s favorite player, and my favorite
player, was Payne Stewart, and I never got a chance to shake his hand. Of course,
my dad is my dad and my wife is my wife, so those choices would be easy. And we
would have to play Augusta National. I love playing at Augusta. It’s a beautiful
place, and the history behind it is wonderful.