Bubba Watson hits the Hamptons with a sizzling pink driver, a recreational vehicle, and dreams of winning a U.S. Open title. The two-time Masters champ opens up about overcoming the worst year of his life, the keys to his success, and "playing in the 118th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills."
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Bubba Watson is an original when it comes to his golf game, his personality and his business. The 11-time PGA Tour winner and two-time Masters champion will blow into town to play in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton with two PGA Tour wins so far this season and a renewed passion for the game after a 2017 season that he describes as "the darkest time" in his life. In addition to his exciting contributions on the course, the 39-year-old from Pensacola, Fla., is giving back to his community in a big way. He coowns a car dealership, Sandy and Bubba's Milton Chevrolet, and a candy store named Bubba's Sweet Spot; is a minority owner of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds; and is involved in various real estate ventures in the town he grew up in. He also contributed over $2 million to the Studer Family Children's Hospital-located on 1 Bubba Watson Drive-in addition to many other organizations. We caught up with the golfer known for creative shot-making, long bombs off the tee, a unique personality and Bubba speak.
What are your thoughts coming into the U.S. Open at Shinnecock and about playing the course in your very first U.S. Open in 2004?
BUBBA WATSON: I'm looking forward to it. Shinnecock is a fun golf course. You've got to hit the ball very accurate, especially on a U.S. Open course. They've changed the course a bit; they've widened the fairways. Any chance you get to come up to that beautiful area of the country, the golf is well-respected in that part of the country. I'll probably venture out and play a few other courses just to see 'em.
What do you remember about your experience on Shinnecock in the 2004 U.S. Open?
BW: I went through all stages of qualifying and I made it through. That was the year the whole course turned brown. It was unbelievably hard. I didn't know what to expect. I was a new pro. It was overwhelming when I saw how brown it got, and I ended up missing the cut because it was just so difficult.
How have you been preparing for this U.S. Open at Shinnecock, knowing what you know about the course and conditions?
BW: It's all about the short game. It comes down to getting the speed right on the greens. It comes down to your chipping. Because more than likely with this rough, you're going to hit some shots, with the speed of the greens, that don't stay on the greens. At a U.S. Open, your short game is key. So you'll practice a lot of chipping. And when you get to Shinnecock, you check out the different grasses, the different lies and bunker shots. And if you watch the practice rounds, that's what most guys are doing. They're looking at where is their miss? If they hit in the rough over here, where is their miss by the green so they have a chance for par? So everyone is going to be working on their short game that whole week.
Have you had a chance to visit the Hamptons and play some of the other great courses on the East End?
BW: I've snuck up there a few times. Last year, I played Friar's Head. That front nine and back nine are two different golf courses! One nine is like linksy and the other nine is in the woods, and then that bridge by the water is amazing. It's beautiful. Matt Kuchar's teacher is at Friar's Head, and that's how I knew about Friar's Head. When you start naming golf courses, they are so beautiful in that area. I don't know if the grass just grows better in that area or what! Or maybe there's a little bit more money flowing in that area, I'm not sure. [laughs]
You bought an RV this year, and that has become your new mode of transportation and accommodations for you and your family during tournaments. How is that going?
BW: We wanted to do it years ago, and I just couldn't pull the trigger. It's a home away from home. And as I get older, having the same bed, the same mattress, the same pillows, all the time, from my house to the bus, is better for my body.
And you don't have to deal with traffic and you get a phenomenal parking spot!
BW: Yes! At the Masters, my first Major with the RV was with Jason Day, Jimmy Walker and their families. We played soccer, football, the
kids could run around. It was like our own little compound where we all do things together.
You were an assistant captain at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. The way you've been playing this season, it looks like you'll qualify as a player this year.
BW: One of my other career goals would be to be a Ryder Cup captain. That would be phenomenal. And so I talked to Jim Furyk before this season about maybe being assistant captain again, and he told me that I was too good. I need to be on the team as a player, not as a vice captain. Then I [went] out and [won] twice (this season), so I guess he motivated me the right way.
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You have said that last year was one of your toughest years ever. Can you talk about what happened healthwise and how you managed to turn it around?
BW: My body wasn't feeling right, muscle mass, you know, everything started changing and then the stress of my son going to kindergarten, how are we going to travel as a family... do I need to keep playing golf to have the family that we want, to help my kids, to be there for my wife? So it's just a lot of unanswered and overwhelming questions from myself personally. There are a lot of people who can handle that pressure and handle that stress, but it all added up. And then my team around me kept talking to me, kept pumping me up, and we got the doctors involved and we figured out what was going on, and my wife, being an athlete herself, basically said, 'You're an athlete. This is what you are born to do. You never had lessons, so obviously you're good at the game.' And I just started feeling better, getting some weight back. It took a year and a half to lose the weight and gain the weight, and so now here we are, feeling right around 100 percent and loving life and loving my career-a revamped career.
What do you think is the key to your success?
BW: My key to success is to dream I didn't ever see failure until last year, until I thought I was done with golf-my dark hour. That's the only time I've ever seen failure in my life. [But] when I say failure, I learned from it. It wasn't really a true failure. I was still making cuts, I was still earning my card. There's a lot of people who wish they were in my shoes. And of all my dreams, [they] have always come true. There hasn't been a thing that I've wanted that hasn't worked out, so I don't know. My [trick to] success is that I always dream, and I dream big! And somehow I always reach those goals, those dreams.
What's next on Bubba's wish list in terms of golf?
BW: If they said you could only win one more time, obviously I'd pick a Major and call it a day. Maybe a U.S. Open, that's one of the toughest to win, one of the most grueling tests. As an American, winning the U.S. Open would be an unbelievable feat.
Photography by: Photography by Elliot Liss/Styling by Kelly Martin