Q&A WITH BUBBA WATSON
What a stroke of good fortune for the Stadion Classic at UGA golf tournament. For months, they had Bubba Watson lined up to be the honorary chairman of this year’s annual Nationwide Tour event at the UGA Golf Course. It just so happened Watson arrives as the hottest American golfer and a top 10 player in the world.
Watson, who played college golf at Georgia, hit a 7-iron 210 yards out of a fairway bunker to the reach the par-5 18th hole in two and two-putt for a victory over Webb Simpson in a sudden-death playoff at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans on Sunday. It was the second victory of the year for Watson and third in his last 19 tournaments over 11 months.
Less than 24 hours later Watson was in Athens to donate $50,000 of his Ryder Cup money to start a chapter of the PGA Golf America University at UGA. I caught up with Bubba on Monday morning before he teed off in the Stadion’s celebrity tourney:
Q: So after not having a win in 121 PGA Tournaments, you’ve had three in the last 19 tournaments. How do you explain that?
A. “It’s just wild, with what all my family went through with my Dad having cancer and passing away. It was remarkable to win where he could see me in the Ryder Cup. I won again somehow, and now my Mom got to see me win this one. It’s been a ride; it’s been crazy.
Q: How has all this success affected you?
A: “So much stuff has happened, so much more media attention. I haven’t gotten over my first win; I haven’t gotten over my Dad passing. There’s just been a lot of stuff in a short period of time. I’m not mad at it; I love the attention. . . . But it’s just a little overwhelming for a small-town guy like myself.”
Q: It would seem winning once makes it easier to win the next time. Is that the case?
A: “No, it’s just as hard. This week, I win. I want to win in Charlotte. But I’ll be nervous. If I have a chance to win, I’ll be just as nervous. The [previous] two tournaments [before Zurich] I shot 78 at Bay Hill and The Masters in the final round. There’s no difference in those two days, yesterday it just worked out in my favor.”
Q: What’s more difficult for you, the mental part of the game or physically trying to get a ball to go where you want it to?
A: “It’s always mental with me. The physical game, I think I have the skills to play. But the mental part is the hard part for me, to stay focused on what I’m doing. These last 11 months it’s come together.”
Q: What about being asked to be honorary co-chairman (along with fellow UGA alum Chip Beck) of the Stadion Classic?
A: “It’s an honor and blessing it be a part of this tournament. For me to be honored in that way, that they want me to be a part of it, when they ask you to do something like that, it’s an honor. It’s a dream come true to be a part of it. For me to graduate here, it’s even more special.”
Q: After a long period away from UGA, you came back to complete your degree in consumer economics and kind of rekindle your relationship with the school. What prompted you to do that?
A: “When I came back and graduated in 2008, it was for the kids. I have two junior tournaments and I wanted to prove that if you work hard, if you don’t make it in professional golf, I got my education. It’s a big honor, a big deal to graduate from here.”
Q: It’s well-documented that you did not have a very successful college golf career at Georgia (one win at Schenkel as junior, no tournaments as senior). What about your college golf experience at UGA?
A: “The college golf part sucked. I didn’t play that good. I didn’t play as well as I wanted to play. But college itself was a great learning experience. I met my wife [the former Angie Ball] here, and she keeps me going in the right direction.
“That I graduated, that’s the ultimate goal. Normally people are doctors after that many years. But I finally graduated and I proved that you can do it. Learning experiences, I finally got married, now I’m providing for your family. I’m still goofy as ever.”
Q: What has becoming a world-renowned golfer meant to you personally?
A: “Golf is nothing. Hugging my mom was the most important thing. Hugging my wife is equally important. [Golf is] something I want to do. I just want to win. I don’t care if it’s for money; I don’t care if it’s for a trophy. I just want to beat whoever I’m playing. I want to beat whoever I’m playing here today. That’s the competitive fire that’s in me. But it doesn’t define my career.
“My tombstone hopefully won’t have how many wins and losses I have. Wins are great; I’m trying to win every week. But after it’s done, that’s not what life is not about.”