AP News

Bubba Watson struggles with focus, not game

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — Bubba Watson has every shot in the bag. He just may not have the required patience and self-restraint to hit them all the time.

"My goal every week is just to stay focused," he said Thursday after shooting a 6-under 66 to finish a shot behind leaders Sean O'Hair, Rod Pampling and Nick O'Hern in the opening round of the Memorial. "I'm not worried about hitting shots."

Watson hates to wait or kill time - two things professional golfers have to do 18 holes at a time. He'd prefer to do something, anything, other than just standing around.

For Watson, patience is certainly not a virtue.

"Going out there for five hours, I can't sit still," Watson said. "When I'm at home, on my week off I play golf with everybody back home. I might go out there for 36 holes. I've got to do something. I'll go play basketball, play tennis. I just get bored, so going out there in the heat and waiting on the group in front of us - I've got a weak mind, I guess. I've got other thoughts going through my head, like what movie I'm going to watch tonight. Just random stuff."

One of the longest hitters on tour, Watson is off to a strong start this season. He has four top-10 finishes this year and ranks 29th on the money list. He's already made more money than he did all of last season, when he finished 90th on the list as a rookie.

When his mind wanders, Watson takes chances.

For instance, a year ago in his first trip to the Memorial, he was 5 over for the tournament when he came to the 14th hole on Saturday. Now the 14th is a simple hole, a long iron off the tee and a wedge to the narrow green which is surrounded by bunkers and water.

Yet Watson pulled out driver on the 363-yard hole. And he drove the green.

"That was just immature stuff compared to now," he said. "I'd already made the cut, so I figured why not get somebody to remember who I am?"

Mission accomplished. The gallery went wild when it realized that someone had driven the green. After accepting applause at the green, he two-putted for the birdie.

Even moments that like have taught him that he needs to rein in his racing thoughts.

"I've just got to keep grinding away and keep trying to stay focused - somehow something has got to click when I stay focused," he said. "That's what I have to learn. The physical part of the game, I have all the shots. I'm not saying I'm going to be No. 1 in the world, but that's my goal. If I can stay focused, I have a better shot at it."

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NICE PAR: The cheer behind the 12th green was loud enough to signal a hole-in-one. Jose Coceres had to settle for par.

Coceres hit a 6 iron into the water right of the 184-yard, par-3 hole off the tee, so he had to go to the drop area. His 99-yard third shot with a sand wedge took a hop and disappeared into the cup for a par, although the Argentine celebrated as if it were an ace. He raised both arms in the air, removed his cap and took a bow.

"Very nice. A very good par - with no putter," he said with a smile.

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NO MORE ZACH: The first round of the Memorial tournament started with word that Phil Mickelson was withdrawing because of a wrist injury. It ended with another top player leaving the course.

Masters champion Zach Johnson withdrew due to strep throat after hitting his drive on the 16th hole.

Johnson got a ride to the clubhouse, where he consulted with a doctor. Then he slowly walked to his waiting car.

"I can hardly talk," he said before departing, pointing to his throat.

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DEFENDING CHAMP: Last year's Memorial winner, Carl Pettersson, actually improved on his first-round score from 2006. He shot a 68, a stroke better than a year ago, when he finished 67-69-71 to get to 12-under 276 and win by two shots over Brett Wetterich and Johnson.

Unlike a year ago, he was recognized as he moved around the course.

"Yeah, it was nice," he said. "A few guys shouting 'Go champ!' and stuff like that. It was nice to play well and get off to a good start."

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: Phil Mickelson, after withdrawing because of an injury to his left wrist: "I'm not really worried yet, no. It's never happened before, so I'm not really sure what to think of it."

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DIVOTS: The Memorial hadn't had three or more players tied for the first-round lead since 1998. ... Wetterich, tied for second a year ago, shot a 77, tied for worst on the day. ... Mickelson's withdrawal was only the second of his career. He bowed out of the 2004 Las Vegas Invitational because of food poisoning. ... Lucas Glover also withdrew, because of back spasms.

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