ON THE TEE
Q&A with the enigmatic Bubba Watson
After winning the Masters in 2014, finishing tied 38th this year must have been a bit of a comedown. What positives did you take out of your performance?
What I took from the tournament is that I’m hitting the ball well. I just didn’t make the putts, although I hit a lot of good putts that didn’t go in. They touched the hole, touched the lip. My driver was performing at a high level and I hit some good iron shots, but I just couldn’t make those putts. We know golf is about momentum. When you hit a great bunker shot or something to six feet and you miss the putt, it slows momentum. I went to Augusta with high expectations and just didn’t make any putts.
You must have been impressed with Jordan Spieth’s performance.
I think I shot one under the first two days. So I’m two under and he was… what was he? He was fourteen or fifteen under. When you look at that, I’m like, wow, you’re playing a different major championship than the one I’m playing! He played unbelievably… he became the first person to ever get to 19 under. Made all his putts. If you saw on the Sunday at the 16th, he sank that big breaking putt for par. It just shows how you go about winning big tournaments, by making those putts.
It looks like the baton is being passed to the younger generation because Rory McIlroy is ranked No 1 and Jordan Spieth No 2. What do you make of this baton change?
It’s good. It shows that the game of golf is where it should be. As the guys get older, it changes. The older guys are not as highly ranked as they were before, so it shows golf is in the right spot. That’s why we’re travelling to places like China — to grow the game even more.
Do you think the outlook is good for golf in China?
I think with the population in China, golf can grow, can double in size. If the young people get into golf over the next five years it could change the game here.
Playing the PGA Tour is what players must aspire to?
I always dreamed at a young age of playing on the PGA Tour. I always thought it was the best tour and had the best players. Growing up, you always dream about majors and winning them. So, yeah, I had the same dreams as everybody else. You always want to perform at a high level, but the first goal is to get on to the PGA Tour and then to compete there.
Tell us about your charities.
When I was growing up, my parents didn’t have that much money so some of the junior tournaments I played in were free. For me, I like giving back and sponsoring junior events so kids can play for free. It’s about trying to help kids in different situations, allowing them to see the game of golf, to learn and play the game. In 2012, I launched a Drive to a Million campaign to raise money for charities close to my heart. Earlier this year we auctioned a 1939 Cadillac that raised $410,000. Also, I’ve adopted both my kids. So I’m all about helping kids. It’s more thrilling for me to give back to charity than it is to win big golf tournaments. It’s just a passion of mine.
Golf in the Olympics. How much is that part of your plan?
I can’t wait and hopefully I’m on the team. I just hope I can qualify. It’s a thrill to represent your country, to represent the United States flag, or wherever you’re from. For me, it would be an honour, a thrill. Having golf in the Olympics is great for the game. I think when the world sees the sport it’s going to help grow the game. I think why they put golf back in the Olympics is because they realised how popular the game is.
One major has been played to date in 2015 with Jordan Spieth winning. How do you see the ones ahead?
I’m looking forward to them all. St Andrews, which hosts the Open Championship, is a great golf course, although you don’t know how it is going to be set up. It’s going to be interesting. It’s a long course, so it could be good for me if I can hit my driver straight. Then we have Whistling Straits, where I’ve finished second, so I’m looking forward to the challenge there. All the majors are about making putts, particularly when you’re coming down the stretch at the weekend. That’s the key to any golf tournament.