Golf: Bubba Watson’s coming of age
M ASTERS champion Bubba Watson admits he has undergone a life-changing 12 months, but puts the transformation from buffoon to major winner down to significant changes in his personal life rather than his golf.
This time last year, the 33-year-old big-hitting American was being lampooned and lambasted for some ill-judged comments about France after crashing out of the French Open on his European Tour debut.
He blamed the organisers, the crowd, mobile phones and cameras, demeaned Paris’ famous landmarks as “that big tower’’ (Eiffel Tower), “an arch in the middle of the road’’ (Arc de Triomphe), “this building that starts with an ‘L’’’ (Louvre), and “that castle next to where I am staying’’ (Versailles Palace) – and pledged never to return.
Those comments won him few friends, but fast-forward a year and the misunderstood Watson is seen in a whole new light after his play-off win over 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen at Augusta.
But while his first major – and only his fourth professional victory – was a landmark in his sporting life, it was the adoption of his one-month-old son Caleb just a couple of weeks before which has made him see life in a whole new light.
“It has been fun. It has been life-changing, [but] golf has been, like, the last thing,’’ was Watson’s assessment of the last few months. “The best part is I became a dad, adopted a son. That’s the most important thing.
“Winning a Masters is great, but being a father is the best part. And being a better husband is a good part, too. I’ve talked to certain people and what I got out of it is when you win a major like that, golf is the last thing on anybody’s mind.
“You’re going to have more people wanting you to sign and your agent’s going to have more things for you to do. You’ve just gotta be able to say ‘no’ and do what’s right for you and your family – not what’s right for other people.
“Golf is mentally draining, but there’s other stuff in my life that’s mentally draining.
“I’m trying to learn from that, figure out how to say ‘no’ to people, how to get better at the game of golf, but also how to be a good father and good husband and balance my life in the right direction.’’
After his Masters win, Watson’s form understandably dipped, but with a major under his belt he believes he just needs to re-adjust his targets and not his game.
“You set your goal to play well in the majors. Now I’ve got to reset my goals. Now I’m challenged,’’ he added. “Hopefully I’m going to play well in the rest of the majors and hopefully make the Ryder Cup team.
“The media sometimes thinks I’m the monkey that hits the ball a long way, but I always thought I was a complete player. I have to keep doing things my way. It’s getting the mind right.
“Each year I’ve gotta find a way to improve. It’s all a learning process and it’s not going to happen overnight.’’
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