U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
June 11, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA
BETH MAJOR: Welcome to the 2014 U.S. Open At Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Here in Pinehurst, North Carolina. It's our pleasure this afternoon to welcome Bubba Watson. Playing in his 8th U.S. Open. In April he won his second Masters tournament. Very happy to have you here today. Can you talk about your impressions of Pinehurst thus far?
BUBBA WATSON: I got here Sunday, never been here before, so got out and played a few holes. It's a good test of golf. Very challenging. I think it's funny me and my caddie or maybe more me, but you can't define where the fairways are, so I guess this week I can hit a lot of fairways because we can't define if it's on the fairway or not. So that's pretty good for me. It's a second shot golf course, the greens are so difficult. There's a lot of times I'm going to be laying back, I'm going to have 200-plus yards into par-4s. But all-in-all it's a good challenge. It's a good test. That's what we want. We want a good test and a good challenge. So they produced that again. It's not really about score. We started saying that the last few years, it's not really about score. I don't care if I shoot 400 for four day, if I win, I win. I don't care what the score is, total is.
BETH MAJOR: We'll open it right up to questions.
Q. Get your thoughts on your opportunity this week to be one of a few people to win a Masters and a U.S. Open in the same calendar year.
BUBBA WATSON: Well obviously any time you have that chance it's been a good year, because that means you done well early. Coming here, I didn't know what to expect. My caddie was here in 2005, a lot different golf course in 2005. So he told me some things. But when he got here he saw it was way different. But again it's second shot golf course, it's all about making putts, every championship now is about putting and where they put the pins and how firm the greens get. So obviously I like my chances, that's what we are here, to compete, and have the best chance of any to have two Majors this year, since I've already got one. So again it's just going to be a challenging golf course.
Q. How do you think it sets up for you personally, do you like it and what about the chipping around the greens, does it offer you some different options?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, it's a tough test of golf. For me personally it's going to be -- it's all about the tee shots. I'm going to try to lay farther back than normal, because it's still iffy hitting in that -- I don't know what they call it, rough, dirt, sand, I don't know what they're calling it. But it's going to be iffy, you don't know what kind of lies you're going to get. So I'm going to lay back and have a lot longer shots into the holes. So for me it's the second shots what's going to matter the most. I don't see too many birdies around here, especially if they put the pins in the corners. Some of these par-3s are 200-plus yards just to the front, which makes it very difficult. Again, you can't look at par or a number, you have to look at just finishing. So for me, I mean, yeah, it's going to be a tough test of golf. In four days I'll tell you how much I really like it or how much I really hate it. And hopefully it's four day, hopefully it's not two days.
Q. Seems like at a U.S. Open more than any other type of golf tournament it seems like when you guys walk off of 18 you have this "I'm exhausted mentally, physically, everything" more than any other tournament. Can you talk about that, what a U.S. Open does to you?
BUBBA WATSON: Yeah, I can do hole-by-hole if you want me to what it does to you. The other day I hit a drive on 16, I think 16 it is. Yesterday I hit a drive to about 295 off the tee, dead center of the fairway. I had 247 to the hole. It's a par-4. So for me to hit a driver and me have a 3-iron into a par-4, it's a fun golf course. So it wears you down. It wears you down mentally. Because, again, you can't look at scores, you have to look at what's the best way to attack that hole. And attack, when I say attack, I don't mean attack the pin. I mean maybe miss the green over here to the right so you can chip up and make an easy par or an easier par. And so U.S. Open brings that out. U.S. Open is different than anything we ever play. This time they're doing it without rough, but they're doing it with the greens. The greens are built for slower green speeds than what we're used to and softer conditions. So a U.S. Open brings out challenges that we're not used to, challenges that we can only take once a year or we would all find new jobs if we had to do it every week.
Q. It's been almost six years since the same golfer won consecutive Majors. You are the defending Masters champ, obviously, do you think it is better for golf if someone like you or someone else gets hot, wins back-to-back three-out-of-five, six-out-of-eight or is golf better, is it more entertaining, when there's parity when any given person like we've seen the last five, six years, can win at any given Major?
BUBBA WATSON: Who cares about golf? I think it's better for me if I could win all those. Forget golf. No, when you look at it, Tiger's changed the game in many ways. But Tiger has brought a different mindset to the game of golf for us professionals. So about working out, eating better, the way we practice, the way we think about the golf course. So Tiger's brought the skill level around the world and brought it up a couple levels. So now there's younger kids playing, there's younger kids training, as Tiger calls it, working out in the gym, and having a trainer, having a nutritionist, having a therapist, all these things. So the game of golf has grown so much because of Tiger Woods in the recent years that the level -- it's proven that the level of golf is growing in the right way. It's harder because of the competition, it's harder because of media attention, to win multiple Majors or back-to-back majors. So that's really what it is. It's what Tiger's done to the game, growing the game, has made the 20-year-olds having a chance to beat the 40-year-olds pretty easily now. So anybody at any age can win at any time. So I think it's good for golf, because people don't want to see -- people might not like me so they don't want to see me win all the time. So it's good for golf to see the young guys up there. And it's good for golf to see some old guys. I'm right in the middle right now.
Q. You addressed it a minute ago. Talking about how you're going to lay back a little bit. Why is length not an advantage here? Can you discuss that a little bit? Obviously it's one of your usual advantages.
BUBBA WATSON: Well, length is an advantage if you can hit fairways, but not too many guys are hitting it 330 and hitting every fairway. So you have a -- you have some holes that get pinched in. 16 you get pinched in, it's 500 something yards. You get pinched in at 300 yards. I think it's 308 yards to the bunker, if I remember correctly. So you lay short. So you hit it 300 yards off the tee, middle of the fairway, you still have 230 to the front. It's a par-4. It doesn't matter how far you hit it, that's a long way, with a long iron. So there's like four or five holes over 500 yards I think. Par-4s. So length can be an advantage, but when they're pinching it in and making it where everybody goes to the same area, it might be a 4-wood for me and a driver for somebody or it might be a 3-iron for me and a driver for somebody to a certain area. But then we still have that same length into the green there. So it's about hitting fairways. I say hit fairways and the just go with a longer shot into these tough greens. Not saying it's the right strategy, hopefully in four days I can tell you it was a great strategy. But that's what I'm planning right now. Now if I make a few bogeys and doubles right quick I might switch to the driver.
Q. This past season you've had great statistics in your short game, obviously that's contributed to you success this year. What have you done this year to drastically change your stats and has it been a mental development or a physical one?
BUBBA WATSON: It's more mental. Looking at life differently in this whole year. We started last year, end of last year, talking about rejoicing. 2014 is about rejoicing. Rejoicing in all the blessings that I have in my life. My beautiful wife, beautiful son, my team around me, I get to play golf on the PGA TOUR. Sometimes not anybody else on TOUR but just me personally, I lose perspective of that and I lose perspective of how great we have it on the PGA TOUR, how great we have it to play golf for a living. I can tell my wife I need to go practice, I need to go do my job, so I get to play golf every day. Sometimes you lose perspective in that. And so now this year that's what I'm trying to do is always look at my son and remember how blessed I am and no matter what I shoot, how great my life is and how blessed I am to live in the U.S., but also to play golf professionally. That's how I'm looking at it and right now it's working. There's going to be days that I pout but right now it's pretty good. Even finishing -- missed a short put in Phoenix and I finished third in Memorial, when I had chances to win, it is still pretty good to finish second and third in some of those events.
Q. Two championships in the next two weeks, 2017 a PGA Championship comes to North Carolina. You've lived here some, what is it about North Carolina, other than the golf courses, that make this state such an attractive place to host Major Championships?
BUBBA WATSON: Well the golf courses, obviously. Around here it's a golf mecca. Everywhere you turn there's a new golf course, it seems like. And so around here, they love their sports in North Carolina. Obviously Michael Jordan is pretty well known from North Carolina. The football is getting a little bit better here. So when you start looking at all the sports, North Carolina sticks out in athletic neck of the world. So it's pretty neat. But obviously it's pretty cool to see two championships back-to-back weeks. We have heard different comments here and there, but I think that would be pretty neat to do that, to -- I can't wait to watch the LPGA get as mad as we're going to get on this golf course.
Q. You find any similarities between here and Augusta, especially around the greens? And how many tournaments have you employed that strategy of laying back and how did it work out?
BUBBA WATSON: No, there's no -- I don't see any, except it's 18 holes, that's about it. This reminds me a lot of Australia, playing golf in Australia, playing the Presidents Cup. Too many pine trees to say the British Open, but it looks like Australia. Obviously different golf courses, different conditions make you lay up and strategize a little differently. But this one I just feel like I should play a little bit safer off the tees and let my irons hopefully help me going into some of these greens.
Q. Historically not a great track record for you in U.S. Opens typically, but this year you've had some success in places again that you haven't previously done well, L.A., for example. What do you attribute that to? And then secondly, is this a different sort of U.S. Open venue for you, just because of the no rough and that sort of thing?
BUBBA WATSON: I think this U.S. Open is the toughest we'll play. So just being that -- well toughest for me. Care less about anybody else, but it's going to be tough for me, just because the greens are so unfriendly, I guess is the best way to say it. These greens were built back in the early days when green speeds were a little slower. So I believe that these green speeds we're putting them to and the firmness we're putting them to makes it unfriendly, we'll say. I think success is just -- my mental state is in the right spot. I'm focused on the right things now. I'm putting more energy -- when I get to the golf course I'm putting more energy into it. I'm learning to play less practice rounds or less time at the golf course, so I don't get bogged down and overtired. I think that just more consistent at the game of golf, because of all the other stuff, the mental side of it is in the right spot. Playing bad golf enough, you want to just change what you're doing. So L.A., that worked out. I love L.A. I love Riviera. I love Memorial. It's one of those tournaments that I'll miss. And I just played better. I played good at Oakmont, finished fifth at Oakmont in 2007 I think it was. So I've had success at the golf courses that are pretty tough. So like here, first time I've been here, really the first time for everybody since they changed the golf course a little bit. But no, who knows what it is. If I knew what it was I would be playing good every week. But right now I'm just mentally I'm in the right spot in my life and golf is way down the list. But when you start putting and making some good shots, golf becomes a little bit easier.
Q. That last question, was essentially mine, but how gratifying would it be for you personally to have a great performance at the U.S. Open?
BUBBA WATSON: Oh it's very gratifying. When you think back in 2007, getting to call my dad when I finished fifth, getting to call my dad, I get to play in the Augusta for the first time. So it was something I'll always remember. The U.S. Open is always that, I got to call my dad on Father's Day that we're going to the Masters. So for me, my favorite golfer of all time, Payne Stewart, watching his stuff around here, watching some highlights that he's created around here, it's obviously a U.S. Open is -- and it's the U.S. Open, so it's a big deal for me and all of us golfers. But, yeah, for me it would be great for success here. And success is different. Success, obviously, is winning, but top-10 is good, top-5 is good. Just challenging -- and the more you get in contention the better you'll be later in life. So I'm still trying to get better at the game of golf, even though I'm getting up in age, it's still, I still feel young and feel like I can do more in this game. So obviously any time can you have a good week and a good finish, will obviously, hopefully, jump start better and better tournaments.
Q. Did the U.S. Open get in your head a little bit and if so, how did you sort of work past that?
BUBBA WATSON: Well, it gets in your head because of you think you hit quality shots. This front nine today when I played the practice round, No. 1, I didn't hit any range balls. I stepped on the first tee, 7:29 this morning. I was a little late so 7:31 this morning. I hit 4-iron down the middle had 184 to the front. Second swing of the day, hit an 8-iron. Landed center of the green where on you're supposed to land it and it bounced over the green. So I hit two great shots, but it's 20 yards over the green because it decided that it was firm. So the U.S. Open plays -- certain golf courses and this golf course is very, very tough on the greens. Hitting the right spots. As long as they made it, a par 70 being 7,600 yards long is very difficult around these greens and the shape of these greens. You couldn't ask for a better golf course, but the greens are very, very unfriendly as I like to say. So the challenge is is how are you going to stay the course. And sometimes a five might pick up a shot on the whole field, even though it's a bogey, that's why you can't look at numbers. But, yeah, the golf course and the U.S. Open can frustrate you. Sometimes the greens are flatter, this course just happens to have some hilly greens.
Q. Last week Hideki won his first tournament in the United States. What do you see in his game and talk about it and also do you think he is someone who can compete against you in this weekend and in the future?
BUBBA WATSON: Yes, for sure. His game, these young kids, no matter where they're from, again when we step on the tee we don't look what country they're from or what country they're representing, we look at a great player or a good player, somebody we're trying to beat. So obviously a guy that young, with that much talent, obviously at an early age in his career, obviously he's going to be here for many years, and going to compete at a high level. So, yes, he can compete at any championship we play. He has a chance to win. He's shown that. He's shown week after week that he can compete at a high level. So, yes, he's a very good player.
Q. We have seen you hit a variety of shots in a variety of different places and use your imagination as much as possible. Just wondering, what you've seen playing out of the native areas here, I guess we call them, that leads you to believe that you couldn't play out of those and use your imagination and kind of bombs away, see where it goes and then try something different as opposed to -- what is it that's keeping you from wanting to do that?
BUBBA WATSON: Well first of all because the media writes bad things sometimes when you try to hit driver everywhere. For one out of four days you might hit a lot of fairways. You might get what we call good breaks or bad breaks. It might be a good day. But doing that four days in a row, you got to think that it's going to be more bad luck than good luck. For me personally, that's what I believe. So playing smarter, letting it be a second shot golf course just seems the law of averages the best way to go. But native areas, it's funny, I was talking to -- I've got a friend, Randall Wells, here -- me, Boo, Boo Weekley, Heath Slocum, we grew up at a golf course called Tanglewood in Milton Florida, looks like the same golf course I grew up on, a lot of pine trees, sand everywhere, we don't call it natural area we call it, not very good conditions where I grew up. So I'm used to hitting out of sand and hard pan with, again, we call it weeds where I grew up. So playing out of that stuff, I'm used to that. So when I'm in there I'm actually comfortable, I've grown up playing golf that way. So, but, yeah, so I'm just going to try to play -- I feel like it's a second shot golf course, why not position myself somewhat in the right spot. Try to, anyway.
Q. As a guy who reaches a lot of par-5s in two, when you see a layout --
BUBBA WATSON: Me or you?
Q. Both of us.
BUBBA WATSON: Okay.
Q. When you see a layout with only two par-5s is it disappointing?
BUBBA WATSON: No, it's never disappointing. What's disappointing is how tough the par-5 is. The one is on the back nine is what? 617 I think it says. You're going to have a lot of guys hitting an iron off the tee, which is weird for the longest hole on the golf course you're hitting an iron off the tee, which I don't like. So when you do that -- my caddy said it best, he said you lay up off the tee, now it's a 370 yard par-4 that you're playing with bunkers down there, which are really tight. So when you lay up, if I hit 3-iron, 3-iron I still have about roughly 160 yard shot to a par-5 for a third shot. Which is what we're not used to. But again, U.S. Open is challenging you at all levels. If you want to be a man and hit driver off that tee, you can. If you want to lay back and try to play smarter, you can. So there -- you have the ability to do it, now can you do it at that moment is what the key is. So I think the U.S. Open is doing that, it's just that's what they're trying to create, they're trying to create a challenge for everybody and you can play it aggressively or you can play it smartly, I guess you would say.
Q. You won two Masters, you're here at the press conference had 500 people following you yesterday, do you feel like you've almost arrived as a star on TOUR and have you felt comfortable with this. And secondly, and less seriously, is there a third Golf Boys on the way?
BUBBA WATSON: Well the third Golf Boys, the PGA TOUR has heard us because we started playing all year round. When the season ended we had a few months to time off, we get bored with two months of time off, so we did these videos, so the TOUR's kind of heard our golf boys because we don't have that much time off anymore and our schedules are a lot longer, all year round. The first one was, do I feel like a star? No. I just play golf for a living. I try to compete at a high level. This year, you know, I always want to be a role model for my son. And this year wearing the Green Jacket I wanted to inspire as much as I could. So I think you got to use your platform in the right way. And I'm trying to do that in the right way with what success I have and hopefully I inspired some kids down where I grew up. And whatever their endeavors are in life, hopefully I challenged them or I inspired them enough that they want to make a better situation for themselves.
Q. Following up on something you mentioned before, what this Major means to you specifically. I know every year at Augusta the conversation seems to be guys dreaming about playing in the Masters. When you were growing up what did the U.S. Open mean to you and what, other than Payne Stewart, what are some of the images that come to your mind about the U.S. Open?
BUBBA WATSON: Tiger Woods on one leg that comes to my mind real quick. When you think of the U.S. Open as a kid, again, and that's the same thing at like the question young man asked earlier, is about golf in perspective. As a kid, when you're 12 years old, or you're 10 years old, 15 years old and you're dreaming about making this putt to win the U.S. Open, win the Masters, win all these tournaments, the challenge of the U.S. Open is, you want to come here and compete, because you want to challenge yourself against the golf course that's tougher. So U.S. Open to me was always about challenging myself, not really competing against the other people, but challenging myself. They're trying to set it up where you don't shoot under par. So you're always challenging yourself to compete at a high level on a difficult golf course. So for me when I come here, it's about me and the golf course. The golf course is probably going to beat me every time at a U.S. Open, but I'm trying to beat the golf course. The golf -- it's a chess match. Even though I don't like chess it's a chess match where you have to plot it this way and that way and do the right things. So obviously, yes, as a kid I always dreamed about competing and playing in the U.S. Open and now I think she said it is my 8th U.S. Open, so I haven't beat the golf course yet in the U.S. Open so I'm still trying to get that one week where I can beat it.
Q. You made reference to the greens here as unfriendly with a little bit of a smile. It seems like you want to say unfair. I wonder, if in your perspective do you think that they are fair?
BUBBA WATSON: No, they're going to be fair to somebody, the top-10 this week are going to be happy with them. The guy winding up holding the trophy is going to be happy and the lady who wins is going to be happy with them. I wouldn't say unfair, I would just say that they're very difficult. And when I say they're unfriendly because what I'm saying is when the pin's tucked on the left we're used to attacking that pin, even if it's with a wedge. But now even with a wedge in your hand you might be like you know what let's go 30 feet over here to the right and not attack it. So when I say unfriendly is because they're trying to beat you, the greens are sitting there going, okay, here's the pin, you can hit it here if you hit the perfect shot. But more than likely most of these holes I'm hitting a five, four and 6-iron into. So those pins around the bunker or up on a mound are not really friendly. I don't know about your game, but my game I just can't hit the 4-iron with a little spin on it and stop it close to the pin. I don't think it's unfair, I think it's a different mindset of golf. I think it's just, it's a different mindset of golf, again, I don't play chess but it's again it's a chess match, you have to play to a certain spot and hopefully 2-putt from 60 feet or just off the green, get up-and-down to get your par and then try to attack on another hole.
BETH MAJOR: Thank you for joining us. We wish you well this week.
BUBBA WATSON: Thank y'all.