With his season over, a jovial Bubba Watson questions everything—and nothing at all

August 10, 2019
Bubba Watson at 2019 Northern Trust

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — What a difference a year makes. Last year, around this time, Bubba Watson—packing three 2018 PGA Tour titles and a collection of wash-and-wear golf shirts without a single missing top button—boarded a charter plane in Atlanta. He and his teammates were heading for the Ryder Cup in Paris. On Friday at Liberty National, in the first tournament of the three-week sprint called the FedEx Cup Playoffs, Watson’s season ended not with a bang but with a whimper. A bogey on the last with his trademark yellow ball. A missed cut. A jovial card-signing for his second-round 72. And soon after he was gone.

At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, prepare thyself for what you are about to encounter: Six Questions: Gerry Lester “Bubba” Watson Jr. and his final interview of the 2018-’19 wrap-around PGA Tour season!

1. You had a T4 finish at the Waste Management Open. Was that the highlight of your 2019 West Coast Swing?

[He thinks for a moment.]

“Gosh, that’s a great question.”

[More pondering.]

“I’d have to say seeing my buddy J.B. Holmes win in L.A., at Riviera. It was kind of out of nowhere, and on a course me and him both love. Also, hanging out and doing some Hollywood things is always fun. I hang out at Warner Brothers a lot, watching them tape the TV shows and other things.”

2. What do you remember best about the 2019 Masters?

“Well, coming off 16 [on Sunday] I was one shot off the lead. Now I had two holes to go and Tiger had nine holes to go. Still, if I could somehow go birdie, birdie on the last two, who knows? But I went bogey, bogey. I finished 12th.”

3. What do you remember best about the 2019 Masters dinner?

“I sat with Danny Willett. Our thing is, ‘What are we doing here, with all these legends of the game?’ Now if I win another five or six majors, I’ll be a legend of the game. But that’s not too likely.”

4. There’s been a lot of discussion in 2019 of the swing-your-swing movement on the Tour. But you’ve been swinging-your-swing all your life. What’s your feeling about the movement?

“I think it’s always been there. Just look at some of Butch Harmon’s students. And now his son, Claude. Fred [Couples]. That’s a unique swing. Rickie Fowler, I don’t know what you call it—laid off or what—but that position at the top, it’s his swing. DJ, with that [bowed] wrist. Brooks Koepka, doing it with straight power, swinging it from outside to inside to hit the cut. All those swings are different. Swing coaches aren’t really instructing so much now. They’re coaching. They’re building you up in the head and making sure you’re thinking the right way. Let’s go back to J.B Holmes. Nobody would teach that swing. Nobody would teach Jim Furyk’s swing. Or John Daly’s. We’re not trying to build robots. We’re not trying to build beautiful swings. We’re trying to build swings that can shoot 68. The beauty swing is the last thing to worry about.”

5. What was your best family moment off the course in 2019?

“I’d have to say fly fishing with my son in the freshwater rivers and ponds at The Greenbrier. Well, it’s all freshwater. For years, I’d hear these veterans of the game talk about fly fishing. And I’d never been fly fishing in my life until I started going to The Greenbrier. Standing in those rivers, about knee-deep, cold water hitting you, with Caleb, who’s seven, those are the moments you have to take in. Fishing with him is the best.”

6. What do you take from this 2018-’19 wrap-around season when you didn’t win?

“That’s what we talked about all the way around today. [Watson was referring to his longtime caddie, Ted Scott.] Let’s call this a bad year. Now there’s a lot of guys who would like to have what I call a bad year. They lost their cards or whatever. But it was a bad year for me. I can say I didn’t give up. I played good enough golf to get to the playoffs. So today we talked about the process, the process of getting better. What do I need to do to get better? To improve? I’ve got to get better mentally. When I’m away from the family, I’ve got to focus on golf. When I’m at a tournament, I’ve got to focus on golf. I let that slide a little bit, after winning three times last year. The process is to move in the right direction. I’ve got to figure out the highlights. I’ve got to figure them out and go from there.”

And with that, Bubba Watson was gone. But he’ll be back soon enough. Watson will start the 2019-’20 wrap-around season by playing in the first event of the new season, which begins on Sept. 12, at a tournamentr called A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. Yes, Watson has a vacation house there. But he’ll be there for the golf.

Michael Bamberger may be reached at [email protected]

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