Joel Tadman caught up with Bubba Watson ahead of last year's Open, it made for a fascinating insight into the mind of the colourful two-time Masters champion
Bubba Watson Q&A: “I’ve Never Had A Lesson”
Bubba Watson will play in his fourth Ryder Cup later this month at Le Golf National because he was one of the eight automatic qualifiers for the event. He has won three times this year and 12 times on the PGA Tour in his career, which is made even more impressive given that he has never had a lesson.
As coaching has improved and prize money has ballooned, modern sport has become less art and more science. Where it was once a festival of raw, amateur talent, now professional sport involves support teams and statisticians pulling apart every aspect of performance in a bid to find a small but all-important edge. It is within these fine margins that Major Champions are made.
Thankfully, there are exceptions to this rule. As the number of golfing mavericks dwindles, there is one player who stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Bubba Watson is the antithesis of the identikit golfing graduate who appears on tour with a textbook swing and a bullet-proof mindset. He has never had a lesson. His swing is free-flowing and unpredictable, and his ball spends as much time flying sideways as it does forwards. From the colour of his driver and glove to the way he practises, there is nothing conventional about Bubba. Joel Tadman caught up with the 38-year-old ahead of last year’s Open to gain a candid insight into the mind of golf’s modern maverick…
JT: The dictionary definition of a maverick is ‘an unorthodox or independent-minded person’. How closely does that describe you?
That’s me! As a kid I played with plastic golf balls around the house. To hit the ball further I’d have to swing harder and that made the swing longer, past parallel at the top. And then hitting around trees, under trees, over the house – I had to figure out how to move the ball both ways, and high and low.
That’s how I learned to play golf. I’ve never had a lesson. I also watched some of the greats of the game – the first one that comes to mind is Seve Ballesteros. Watching him hit all these creative shots, you pick up things, learn from what he did.
When you look at the greats, no one played the same way as another or had the same teacher.
You look at Palmer and Nicklaus, they had swings that were completely different. Then you compare Seve and Tiger to those guys – completely different games again.
Not just the swing but how they got the ball around. Now you’ve got Bryson DeChambeau with his scientific approach.
Commentators sometimes suggest we should play golf one way, but there are many different ways to play well.
JT: How important do you think it is to entertain those watching?
I love to inspire kids and get more kids playing the game of golf. There are a lot of good video games out there so it’s about getting them outside to the course, on the range, and enjoying this great game.
It’s important to have fun while you play.
When you get a good pairing you know you’re going to have a laugh and play some good golf. There’s a handful of guys I know I’ll have a blast with. About 5% you don’t want to play with, but 95% are pretty good.
JT: Do you ever play golf just for fun outside tournaments?
Yeah, I play non-stop.
When I got to The Open I didn’t go the tournament course, I went to Formby Golf Club.
We arrived at the house and said, where’s the nearest course? I just wanted to play. It was a lot of fun. I love playing golf – I’ll play anywhere, anytime.
JT: We all know the importance of a strong mental game, but how does it work when you’re so reliant on feel and instinct?
I’d say amateurs, in particular, focus a lot on the negatives – what they don’t want to do or where they don’t want the ball to go.
When they focus on that, it more often than not happens.
I see the bad stuff too, but you’ve got to think about the fairway, the green and picture the good shots.
Some pro golfers close their eyes before they hit their shot, seeing the perfect shot in their mind so when they are over the ball they have positive thoughts.
Watson uses Ping clubs and a Titleist ball
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JT: You are renowned for your incredible shot shaping. Tell us about the process of picking the shot you are about to play.
When I get to a tee, most of the time I’m looking to hit my tee shots from right to left.
I’ve built my driver to cut from right to left rather than draw. I will hit a draw sometimes, but mostly with the other clubs.
With the driver it’s nearly always a cut. My game is all about feel. I like to see the shot, which is why typically I don’t play well on links courses because there are a lot of blind shots.
JT: And what about Bryson DeChambeau?
I think his approach to the game is awesome because it’s different.
We have the same mindset in that we’re trying to win tournaments, but he’s doing it his way. In his mind he feels like it’s the best way to perform and he’s proven that.
JT: It’s been a slightly disappointing year on the course. Can you pinpoint why?
It’s life. I’ve got two kids, a two-year-old who’s running around non-stop and a five-year-old who’s playing T-ball and starting school.
I don’t worry about playing badly. I’ve got my card for the next five or six years so I’m good.
Bubba Watson is a G/Fore ambassador, wearing a wide range of coloured gloves and shoes. Find out more at gfore.com
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