Nov 20, 2021
Welcome to the Fore Golfers Network Podcast Ep 285
This week's FGN Pod needs very little introduction.
We're talking 1-ON-1 with Bubba Watson.
And it's not all golf.
Enjoy this excerpt from "Up and Down":
When I was coming of age in the late 1990s, my golfing hero was
Tiger Woods. There had never been anyone like him: from the way he
paid attention to all the parts of the game, to how he maintained
his fitness and nutrition, to the incredible focus he had and his
ability to beat guys mentally before they even stepped on the
course. In February of 2006, I was playing at a PGA event at Torrey
Pines in San Diego, and I knew Woods was playing at the same event.
I told Teddy I wanted to see if I could play a practice round with
him. Teddy said, “Okay, Tiger likes to get up early before
everybody else to play his practice rounds. Let’s plan to tee off
at 6:30 a.m.” The next morning, with barely enough light to see, we
showed up, but there was no Woods. We waited a few minutes, and
still didn’t show up, we started our round.
When we got to the tenth hole, we passed near Woods, who, along with his caddie and a very large group of spectators for that early in the morning, was heading to the ninth. “Do you have room for me to join you?” Woods
shouted to me. Being the knucklehead that I am, I looked around and pretended to confer with Teddy about it before saying, “Sure, Tiger, there’s nobody here but me and Teddy.” He smiled and headed over toward the tenth, leaving the spectators to look for a way to snake around the fairway and find their way to us.
Woods and his caddie came over, dropped the ball, hit one, and we just kept playing out the rest of the holes.
After our round, Woods asked me whether I wanted to grab some dinner with our wives in the next couple of days. We traded cell phone numbers and enjoyed ourselves immensely.
Woods was used to people trying to line up practice rounds with him, so he was also used to turning people down.
That same year, I started reaching out to Woods’ people to see if I could get in some rounds with him and, to my
delight, they agreed to set something up. We ended up playing half a dozen practice rounds over the coming
months. Woods and I both liked to talk a little trash while we played, but try as I might, I couldn’t help feeling especially energized every time I played with him. I felt like I wanted every shot to be pure.
To this day I am not 100 percent sure why Tiger agreed to play those practice rounds with me. I was a pretty young player at the time who had not won on tour, nor had I really done all that much to warrant the attention of an all-time great. At the same time, I believe Tiger is a true golf nerd. I have never met anyone who seems to love studying the game as much as Tiger, and to some degree I believe he saw my approach to the game as a bit of a novelty and it intrigued him. Not necessarily because of my length, but rather my tendency to curve the ball in the air so much more than everyone else. Many casual golf fans may not realize that Tiger is known for curing the ball both ways, too, just on a lesser scale.
So we played, and over the course of several rounds, Woods asked me some questions about my swing and how I approached certain shots and a lot of other things. The fact was, he did most of the asking and talking, not because I was in awe of him or didn’t think I could learn from him but because I learn from watching, not talking. When I was younger, for example, I was watching Woods on television and found myself focusing on the way he brought his club head out to the right so that it looked like he was going to strike the ball over the top. I started making my
swing go way out like his so I could cut it, and I started cutting the ball better.
The next year, Woods resisted my pestering about playing more practice rounds. I took it as an opportunity to prank him on it. “Oh, come on man,” I’d say to him, “I know you’re playing at so- and- so next week. I can help you get around that course.” He laughed and then told me how crazy busy he was and so on. He knew I loved him to death and respected him 100 percent, and he was wise enough to know that our styles were simply too different.
Playing with the big boys was my lifelong goal, and Tiger Woods was the biggest of the big. Playing with him taught me that I could stand toe-to-toe with the world’s best, which I felt I had done during those practice rounds. I began
to realize that when I played my best, anything was possible. I also began to realize the true difference between Tiger and everyone else wasn’t just the quality of his play but also his ability to consistently rise to the moment
when his very best was needed. Having been on the Tour for a while, I also gained a strong appreciation for his uncanny ability to post a good score even when he wasn’t playing his best. Rather than letting one bad round take him out of a tournament, he managed to salvage a good score for the day and rebound the next day. That was something I knew I had to get better at. One topic I wish I’d thought to ask him more questions about is the mental side of the game. When it came to playing for fun, I felt nobody in the world was better than me. But when it came to playing for serious stakes, with the world watching, I was a boy and Woods was a man.
Maybe if I’d asked him just a few questions about dealing with the stress of playing golf and living your life in the public eye, I could have saved myself years of bringing my negative thoughts under control. My dad raised me to
be a leader, but being a leader didn’t have to mean you couldn’t ask for help. After all, there was no bigger leader on Planet Golf than Tiger Woods, and he knew when to ask for help.
One day in 2008 or so, Teddy and I got on the topic of my practice rounds with Woods. “Honestly, I don’t think there was a single hole he outplayed you on,” Teddy said. I know Teddy well enough to know he may have been
boosting my ego a little bit, but his message was clear enough. Those practice rounds with Tiger helped me develop as a player. I may have been slow to apply some of the lessons learned, as per my usual style, but I have
no doubt the experience helped lay the foundation for some of my success in later years.
Taken from Up and Down: Victories and Struggles in the Course of
Life by Bubba Watson with Don Yaeger.
Copyright 2021 by Gerry L. Watson. Used by permission of Nelson Publishing, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.