MARK STEVENS: We’d like to welcome Bubba Watson to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Bubba, talk about your thoughts coming into defend this year and then we’ll have some questions.
BUBBA WATSON: Looking forward to it. Being defending champ means I’ve played it well before. Looking forward to it. I haven’t seen the golf course, just flew in, so hopefully tomorrow I’ll get some good practice in for the pro-am. Playing good all year, so I am looking forward to the challenge. There’s some good par-3s out here with the water like No. 9 and 17 are pretty much the same holes, a little bit different distances. But tough holes for me. I made a double last year on No. 9. But I’m looking forward to it, looking forward to the challenge and hopefully can be near that lead again on Sunday.
Q. How is your life different today than it was the Tuesday before the Masters?
BUBBA WATSON: Not really much different. It’s the same, it’s just tiring, changing diapers. I’ve actually changed diapers now. Not that I have a count, but it’s only five I’ve changed, and they’ve been easy to change. So you know, that’s the — it’s more exciting since then because I’ve been home. We’ve had him — we figured out we’ve had him for a month, and I’ve been home, I think at the most, nine days, maybe eight days, so we’ve had him for a month, and I’ve only got to see him eight or nine days, so it’s not enough, not a lot. So it’s hard leaving him. It was hard leaving today, but that’s the change. That’s the excitement of waking up every morning no matter how tired you are, now matter how red your eyes are, just seeing him pretty much do nothing, just lay there. It’s just exciting.
Q. You’ve spoken in the past about having odd thoughts out there playing golf, extraneous. Coming down the stretch at the Masters, what were you thinking about? Were you focused entirely on golf or did anything else come into the mix?
BUBBA WATSON: No, you know, it was funny, coming down the stretch, the back nine, my caddie said, nine holes to go. If you shoot 31, 5-under basically, you have a great shot of winning. If that doesn’t win, you’re going to scare it. So I said, yeah, I’ve shot that many times. Let’s just try to do it today. And I kept my head down. I just kept focus. Even though I bogeyed — I hit it in the trees the same way on No. 10, still made par. Made a good par — and then I bogeyed 12, and after that bogey, I still was at ease. I was never nervous the whole tournament. I was just focused on what I had to do. When I got inside the ropes, I didn’t focus on my family. I didn’t focus on anything but golf. So the back nine that day, I just kept my head down. Ever since the first tournament of the year, Maui, I finished 18th there, and I haven’t finished worse than that yet. So that was my worst finish was 18th. My goal at every tournament now is to finish top 18. At the end of the year if I could finish every tournament top 18, that would be pretty good. That’s all I thought about. You know what, you bogeyed this hole, let’s try and make some birdies, you’ve got some par-5s coming up, and let’s see what happens. You can get a top 5, a top 10, something like that. Just don’t lose it. So I just stayed focused, and that’s all I thought about was golf. I wasn’t thinking about anything else. And then I birdied four in a row, hit a bad tee shot on 17, and I looked at my caddie, and I said, “we have a chance to win this thing,” and he goes, “yeah, you’re tied for the lead,” and I was like, oh, yeah. I never really thought about other stuff.
Q. How is it different for you going from being the hunter to kind of being the hunted these days?
BUBBA WATSON: No different. I mean, when we come to a golf tournament, it doesn’t matter what you did the week before or the year before. Everybody is trying to win. I don’t know how many is in the field here, but let’s say 156 people in the field here, they all have a chance to win because our motto is “these guys are good.” So it’s not about being the hunted or being the huntee or anything like that. It’s just about playing golf. If I go out there and play my game, I have a chance to win. If the other guys go out there and play their game and hit good shots, they have a chance to win. So we’re not looking at that, we’re just looking at trying to play good golf.
Q. Just after the Masters it seemed like you were a little unsure what the future would hold and you went on Letterman saying you’d be defending your title. Do you think you’ve had enough downtime to refocus, and also, how much did the opportunity to defend your title play into you coming back here?
BUBBA WATSON: No, I have not had enough time with my family, by myself or anything, but I felt obligated to my fans, to New Orleans, the city, that I should be here. I’ve lived three hours away, Pensacola, Florida, where I grew up. I felt like this would be a good opportunity for my friends and family from there to come over. I felt like being defending champ, it was an obligation that I should be here. I think I should be honored that I won here before, and I should be here. But yeah, I would love to be at home right now watching my little boy and spending time with my wife. But yeah, I’m here because I just felt like it was the right thing to do.
Q. Last year as you got more attention, you spoke at times of feeling almost overwhelmed. More people wanted to hear your story, wanted your thoughts on — your day-to-day thoughts. How do you deal with everything that’s going to come your way as a result of now being a major winner?
BUBBA WATSON: It’s weird that people want to hear me. But just make up more stuff. Just lie a little bit. They’ll fall for it. Start giving PC answers and then they won’t want to talk to me. Just try to trick them any way possible. No, it’s going to be different. That’s the learning I’m trying to do. Let’s just go back to the start of the year. This winter we teamed up with all my sponsors, all my partners, and we tried to raise money for charities. We did the Bubba and Friends Drive to a Million. We raised – I think we sold every outfit at the Masters through Travis Matthew, so we raised I think it was somewhere around $20,000, then they donated another $50,000, so there’s $70,000 just off those outfits. Ping is doing the pink drivers, raising money. There’s another — somewhere around $350,000 they’re trying to raise. So when you start doing that, that’s the most important thing. And then I realize that now and realize my platform is going to be put to good use. Somehow this year I’ve just played great. Now I’m Masters champ. But the other stuff is what I really want to be a big impact on and do, and we’re doing the Bubba Bash in Columbus, Ohio, where ten artists are coming in and putting on a concert to raise money to build a medical center in Africa called the Bubba and Angie Watson Medical Center. So that stuff is more important to me, but right now with this platform that I have of winning the Masters, it’s going to give me a better chance to raise good dollars for cancer, for the center in Africa and different things like that. So that’s what’s happened me with my golf all year is that I’m so focused on being a good character, being true to myself, following my belief system and not worrying about what the press says or anything like that, just not focus — I haven’t read any articles. I saw my shows because I’m awesome so I had to see those. But I just felt like that was more more important to me was doing that, and then golf just helps me get that avenue out there where I can raise more charity dollars.
Q. I’ve got a two-part question which is interrelated. I want your thoughts on this: Eight straight majors a first time winner has won, and also, it seems like the media, especially the national media, wants to anoint somebody as the next great champion or player, whether it’s Rory McIlroy or Graeme McDowell, someone who’s won a major impressively, yet no one has won another major since that’s happened. I want to get your thoughts on that. What do you think about that? Does the media put too much pressure on these guys when they win a major thinking that they’re going to just take off and win multiple majors, and why do we have eight straight major championships with a first-time winner?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, again, our slogan is “these guys are good.” You’re looking at the best players in the world. You’re looking at 150 players, Masters is 100 players, of the best players in the world. So the best players in the world are going to play great golf. Eight straight different winners, eight first-time winners, that doesn’t mean anything. Look at Lee Westwood, who plays unbelievable in every major. He’s right there, he just hasn’t got over the hump yet. But nobody out here considers him a bad golfer. None of us golfers. The media writes he can’t win, can’t do all that. None of us think that. We think that Lee Westwood is an unbelievable golfer. He’s won 38 times now on the European Tour, whatever it is, some big number like that. So you look at that stuff, we don’t sit back and look at who’s won, who hasn’t won, why haven’t they won, all that stuff. We just try and play golf. When it comes to media putting pressure, no, golfers put enough pressure on ourselves. The media don’t really — if you’re nervous, you’re nervous. It doesn’t matter what the media said about you. The media is going to say bad stuff anyway because negative sells.
Q. What memories do you have from your first appearance here in 2002? Do you remember way back there?
BUBBA WATSON: I think it was 2004, right?
Q. I think it was ’02. You won a qualifier to get into a playoff.
BUBBA WATSON: That was 2004, right? You can’t trust that media. Well, I had just turned pro. I just got out of school in December of ’01, so 2002 I was not here, just to let you know. I’m probably right. (Laughter.) But let’s go back to it. No, I don’t remember much about 2004. Yeah, I do. It was great, I played a practice round with Boo Weekley, Heath Slocum, my idols growing up. They’re from my hometown. We played at the same high school, but the media, again, said we played together in high school but they’re way older than I am. So Boo is five and a half years older and Heath is five years older, so I didn’t play high school golf with them, but we all went to the same high school. So I played practice rounds with them. It was my first PGA event. It was at English Turn, which I played many junior golf events at. Yeah, it was a blast. The golf course was rock hard, burned out, and I don’t know how, I think K.J. Choi won that week, like 18-under. I don’t know how he shot 18-under. I was like 19 over, and I didn’t think I was good enough to play pro golf. But that was a learning experience, and I got to hang out with two guys that I looked up to in high school, so it was cool. But it was 2004. Just throwing it out there.
Q. Would you like to see your son become a golfer?
BUBBA WATSON: Oh, that part, it would be great, obviously, because we’d play golf together and goof around on the golf course together. But just like my dad, my dad was dreaming, was praying, was wishing I’d be a baseball player, left-handed pitcher, and then he got really mad when I became a golfer, but when I won for the first time right before he passed away, very happy I was a golfer. So as a father, you just want him to excel at something, and whatever that is, whatever their passion is, you just want to support them, be there for them, and hopefully they can grow up and be better than you one day at whatever it is.
Q. Did you have a green jacket made for him?
BUBBA WATSON: No, I did not. It was that my clothing company Travis Matthew had the whole outfit made, the same white with pink striped shirt with the logos. They had the whole thing made for me, which I didn’t know anything about, and they sent it to me, and I thought it was pretty nice, so I felt like putting it on Twitter, and now I just found out I have another friend, just a friend, an individual, that had a jacket, a baby jacket made for him that is shipping, it’s on its way to Orlando to our house. So he’s going to have two green jackets and I’m only going to have one.
Q. Can you speak about the adoption process? Sounds like you went through a lot to get this child and were turned down in the past.
BUBBA WATSON: Well, four years ago we started the process. We were living in Pensacola, Florida, my hometown. We decided to move to Arizona to be at this church and to hang out with our best friends Aaron Baddeley and his family, his whole family with all their kinfolk that live there. So for us we started the process, but when you move states it’s a totally different process, so our home study got wiped away so we had to start over. So that winter we just moved into a new house, so we were getting adjusted to the area, so we decided not the right time, we’ll wait until next winter. So now this is three years ago. So my dad got cancer, so we stopped the whole — and we thought Angie had a tumor. We found out it wasn’t a tumor. So that winter was all hanging out with family, trying to figure out medical problems and how we could fix it. So then the season started. Then the following winter was Ryder Cup. My dad passed away, so we stopped the process there, dealing with family stuff again. And then this year was the first winter that we could really go through the process and do everything we had to do. So we were halfway through the process, but when you’re halfway through the process, you can still get a baby even though you have to finish up. And this lady was kind enough to grant us our wish and signed off where we could be the guardians. The dad just signed. So we’re still going through the process. The baby still can’t leave Florida because of Florida laws, has to go through the process first. So we’re close to being able to leave Florida with the baby. That’s why it took four years and that’s why it took a long, drawn-out time because of all the stuff that’s happened in my life, in our lives. Then this year we had two babies, two moms turned us down that went with other families, and then this one, the Wednesday night right before Bay Hill is when we got the word that Monday we’d pick the baby up. So I played Bay Hill and then picked the baby up. So just – that’s the whole process in a nutshell. Just takes a while to get it all done.
Q. Can you please talk about the shot again at the Masters, and where do you think you get those, for lack of a better term, improvisational skills to kind of get out of things that don’t seem like you can get out of?
BUBBA WATSON: Let’s just go back to in Bagdad, Florida, where I grew up, the big, tall 100-year-old trees, I had plastic golf balls, so I just learned to hit in the trees, throughout the trees, over the trees, under the trees. So when it comes to the creativity on the golf course, that’s just who I am. That’s just what I’ve done. So that doesn’t scare me. It thrills me because then I can pull off some shots. That’s more exciting. I don’t care if the fans were there or what, just to pull that shot off – if I was just playing with my buddies I’d want to pull that shot off. The shot, again, was roughly say 40 yards. Could have been more, could have been less, but we’re going to go with 40. Just off the pine straw, knew it was going to come out pretty hot. I could make it come out hot, just rolled my wrist over and hooked it about 40 yards, but somehow it got closer to the hole. We were looking at the front of the green. It was 135 to the front of the green so we were just looking at getting to the center of the green. It just rolled up. For me it was just something as a child I’m used to seeing shots like that, so I pulled it off. To get that close was very special. I mean, made it work out. I was expecting front of the green, maybe center of the green at best because you never expect it to be that close. But it came off and I couldn’t see it. I ran to the fairway and I heard them roar, and I said, “where is it,” he said, “you see it about 15 feet,” and I couldn’t see it at first, and finally, he’s got real good eyes so I couldn’t see it. So I saw it, and I go — I go, “whew, I’m pretty good.” That’s how it all went down. But yeah, the shot was just something – those shots, I draw – try to pull off the amazing shot, just like we’ve seen Mickelson pull off shots, Tiger pull off shots, everybody that’s won you’ve seen pull off shots like that. It’s something you want to try to pull off, and somehow I did.
Q. Can you tell us the coolest or strangest thing that happened to you after you won that made you realize, hey, things are going to be a bit different now because I’m a major champion?
BUBBA WATSON: You know what, truthfully I haven’t thought about being a major champion. I got home at 3:00 in the morning, went to bed around — woke up my wife, talked to my wife for a little bit, went to bed around 3:30, and then that was early Monday morning. Baby woke up around 7:30, so I had the bottle, I was feeding him around 8:00. I haven’t had any time to myself, haven’t had time to — it’s all about my son and being a better husband. I haven’t seen the green jacket. The green jacket has been hanging up in the closet since the Wednesday of all the media stuff so I haven’t seen it since then. I hung the baby jacket up next to it for the Twitter photo but I haven’t touched it. So I haven’t even thought about winning. I thought about coming here because I felt I owed it to the fans being defending champion, not about being a Masters champion or anything like that. It’s another win. It’s four wins. We’ll try to keep getting more wins. Hopefully get another one this week. Like I’ve always said, winning a tournament, no matter if it’s a major or not, it’s a big deal. It’s a major event for that city because it is about raising charity dollars for the local charities, especially around this place. They would love some charity dollars to build this city back up to where it used to be.
Q. I think I heard you on the Dan Patrick Show saying a radio station called you 40 times on the Monday morning and you had to change your cell number, so that might be an indicator?
BUBBA WATSON: My manager who flew home with me that day, so Monday, his job was to change my cell phone number. My wife got a new cell phone number. Yeah, some radio station. It’s nothing I’ve ever heard of, but they called me about 40 times, maybe more, starting at 6:30 in the morning, and I don’t know how they got my number. So the people that don’t have my number, there’s a reason why I blocked you and y’all don’t have my number anymore.
Q. What kind of advice would you give one SEC guy to another, John Peterson from LSU, who won the NCAA championship last year, gets a sponsor exemption to come and play and get a chance to kind of show off his skills at the highest level. What advice would you give to him as he’s making the transition to I guess kind of be where you’re at one day?
BUBBA WATSON: The first advice I’d give to anybody is we don’t — the media sometimes says it should happen right away. My career, I’ve been out here, this is my seventh year, I’ve played three years on the Nationwide Tour, one year on the mini-Tours. Golf you can play a long time, and just take your time at it. Don’t get overwhelmed, don’t get frustrated, just keep playing, keep doing your thing. You’ve obviously won big tournaments, you obviously can make it out here, you’re getting spots out on this tournament. You’re good enough to play, so now just be yourself, keep playing. Don’t let other people influence you in different directions and cause you to take a step backwards because you don’t want to step back, you just want to slowly keep going forward. Some people take a big leap forward, but slowly going forward is not a bad idea.
Q. Just a quick follow up on that. I think when you visited with us a month ago you said you don’t like people telling you what to do.
BUBBA WATSON: I hate it.
Q. You’re kind of a self-made champion. For people who get bogged down with multiple swing coaches and stuff like that, are you kind of a different way to do things?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, I just play golf. I just enjoy playing golf. Anybody can hit range balls on the range. It’s a wide-open field. You never hit one out of bounds on the driving range, you always feel like you’re pretty good. So when I leave the golf course or leave the driving range, I love — I just love playing golf, so how I prepared the last couple days, I’ve been playing the last couple days and just playing golf. You’re hitting every shot, you don’t just sit in one spot and keep hitting with a perfect lie to a big field. That’s just how it works for me. It’s not going to work for everybody because my mind is obviously way different than a lot of people’s. No, I’ve always said that for me swing coaches are out, but obviously you need some kind of fundamental things to help you grow in the game of golf, but don’t take it too far. When you start staring at video every day I think it goes too far, I think.
Q. Completely respecting the privacy of everybody involved, including the child, can you elaborate on the process, did you go through a ministry of some kind, an agency of some kind, and is there anything about the child’s background that you can share with us?
BUBBA WATSON: He was born two months ago. He is a boy. His name is Caleb, and he is home with his new mom in Orlando. We used — there’s so many different resources out there, but we used this organization that we talked to about four years ago. A couple players have used them. It’s called Chicks in Crisis out of California. I think Kirk Triplett has used them, not that I should be telling you, but Jerry Smith that used to play, still plays, has used them, and it’s a nice lady, nice organization. I really believe in what they do and what they’re accomplishing. So that’s who we happened to go through. They had the avenue for us and had the resources to help us out.
Q. And as a follow-up, a lot of players have frequently talked about new fatherhood helps them play better because there’s a sense of perspective. You were playing very well before you even knew you were going to be able to get Caleb and everything, so do you think you might even take off more because of the fact that you have a family and Caleb and your wife is what’s important, and do you think it takes a little pressure off playing golf?
BUBBA WATSON: Hmm. Well, again, how would I answer that? It doesn’t take pressure off, you’ve got to pay for diapers. Maybe I need a diaper sponsor, I don’t know. It seems like you go through a lot of them. No, the pressure, it’s all placed on yourself. For me, knowing that I am going to come home to my beautiful wife and my beautiful boy, again, it’s — yeah, it might take a little bit off, but I’ve never been that way. I’ve never let golf ruin my life, so I don’t really — again, you’re talking to a guy that’s goofy and messed up in the head. So I’m different than everybody else. Yeah, I can see where some people would do that, would ease some of the tension from themselves, their mental grind on the driving range. For me it’s going to be a little different, but my goal is still to finish top 18 every week this year, so hopefully it does take some pressure off and I can start finishing better.
Q. Two questions, one on the tournament itself. Do your attributes as a big hitter and a guy who can really shape it, how does that help on the TPC Louisiana?
BUBBA WATSON: I hope good. If I hit it dead straight, it would help out on any golf course. If I shape it the way I want to shape it, it works out, too. It doesn’t make me a better chance of winning because I shape the ball. It’s just what I do. A guy that hits the ball dead straight, that’s just what he does. The hole is a dogleg and I shape it the right way, then I’m probably going to be pretty good at, but the holes I shape it the wrong way, I’m going to be bad at. It’s kind of a tough question. It’s kind of a weird question. I don’t know how to answer it the right way. But obviously if I’m hitting the ball good, no matter if I’m curving it or hitting it dead straight, yeah, the golf course sets up well and can set up well. Every golf course sets up well. Sorry I didn’t answer that better.
Q. Question also about length. Some players have not been real thrilled about it.
BUBBA WATSON: Let’s go back to that. Again, length, same thing. If I’m hitting the ball straight, unlike this shot on No. 10 off the tee at Augusta, if I’m hitting the ball straight in the fairway, then obviously length is a big factor. It’s going to help out a lot. Makes the par-5s a little bit easier, makes the shorter holes that much better, makes the medium holes that much better. Anytime you’re hitting a ball straight and hitting it far, yeah, it’s going to make any golf course seem easier, but the key is when you’re hitting it that far, it’s not easy hitting the fairway. Nobody has ever led distance and fairways hit. Then you’d be really good.
Q. You qualified for the Masters for the first time in ’09, didn’t get in the next year, and I was just curious, has there been any point that you realized you get to play that tournament the rest of your life?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, as soon as I got home. I think there’s a new rule where I can take a guest, play Sunday before the Masters. My wife said that she will be glad to play Sunday before the Masters next year. That’s when I realized that every year I get to take a guest. I’ll have a bunch of new friends. My cell phone number will bechanged many times.
Q. How many mulligans did you need on your first diaper change? Or did you get it right the first time?
BUBBA WATSON: Listen, I hate to be graphic, but they were pee-pee diapers. They were very easy. They were very easy, and I think the number is five right now, and I’ve made a deal with my wife right now that that’s all I have to change is pee-pee diapers.
Q. Your victory seemed to be really popular. It struck a chord with even the casual sports fan. Do you have any — do you understand why you are so popular with just the average Joe sports fan or the weekend duffer, why they seem to enjoy your play?
BUBBA WATSON: I think you answered it yourself. The average Joe. I’m just Bubba from Bagdad, Florida. Small town, play golf because I love the game of golf. I play golf because it’s fun. Every day is different. Some days it’s windy, some days it’s not, some days the ground is firm, some days it’s wet. You wake up, it’s always a challenge. So you always challenge yourself, you always set goals for yourself. For me, I think I — that resonates with everybody. It resonates with everybody because I’m from a small town, I played public golf courses growing up, and I think that everybody can see that. Everybody can see that my swing is homegrown. That means everybody has a chance to do it. Hard work, dedication, practice and the drive to do it and not worry about what other people say. You know, the thing is you always – when you’re on the range, you don’t make a bet with somebody that swings terrible but somehow gets the ball to go straight. You’re always watching out for that guy because for some reason he owns his swing and he knows how to play the game of golf. I think that’s what a lot of people see, a lot of weekend golfers see, a lot of average Joes, as you call them, see that, and they see that that’s just me and I am passionate about the game because I love it and now it’s helping me raise charity dollars for good causes.
Q. What either event or series of events or situations led you early in your career to believe that belonged out here and could win?
BUBBA WATSON: See, again, that’s a tough one. You come out, if you say the wrong answers, people say that you’re cocky. You say the bad answers, they say you’re just blowing smoke. But for me, I shot 62 at age 12, started shooting under par early, could hit it far at a young age. I’ve always hit it far. But the way I believe, being a Christian, I see it as just a blessing. I cried pretty much — pretty much every day I cry. I cried this morning when I was leaving my boy. But when I got my Tour card, when I was on the Nationwide Tour and I got my Tour card because of Jason Gore winning, doing all that stuff, and I was just 21 on the Money List so that bumped me up to 20, I couldn’t get an interview out. There was an interview and I didn’t get an interview out because my goal in life at that time was to make the PGA Tour. That was a big goal of mine. That was one of my goals. So that’s what I strived to do. And then when you get there, then you change your goals. But my goal was always to keep my card on the PGA Tour. That’s my first goal every year. And now that I’ve won, I’ve got five years guaranteed. But my goal is to keep my card and then my second goal was to win. I’ve never had a goal to win multiple times on the Tour, I’ve had a goal to win. And once I win, then you go, let’s win again. You never think about the first win. So I’ve always felt blessed to be on the PGA Tour, I’ve always felt blessed to be here, always felt blessed that people want to actually hear what I say. So I don’t really think there’s ever a time you’re good enough to make the Tour. I always say that you’re really close to making – falling off the Tour. All it takes is one mental thought, bad mental thought, get what we call the yips and everything. So I always just see it as I’m just on Tour. I never really look at it the other way. I always look at worst-case scenario, not that that’s an issue, I’ve never really looked at am I good enough to play here. You always have those thoughts, but it’s never been something I’ve really like dwelled on. When I miss the cut I always think about I’m not very good at golf, but that goes out real quick because stuff don’t stay in my head very long.