Golf

Bubba Watson Opens up: ‘It’s OK to Not Be OK Sometimes’

The deterioration of his game was a frequent topic of conversation around the PGA Tour beginning in 2019 as Bubba Watson disappeared from tournament leaderboards and slid down the money list.

A two-time champion at The Masters Tournament, Watson hasn’t won since 2018. This week, Watson came forward to discuss what has been holding him back. He summed it up in a fashion that both made perfect sense and would make Yogi Berra proud: “It’s OK to not be OK sometimes.”

Bubba Watson had become a consistent winner

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There was no soaring to the top right out of the gate once Bubba Watson joined the PGA Tour full-time in 2006 at the age of 27. Watson would finish in the top 10 of tournaments 13 times over his first four seasons, but he didn’t break through and win until outlasting Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank in a playoff at the 2010 Travelers Championship.

There would be two more victories the following season. And then Bubba (his given name is Gerry) won the Masters title in 2012 in a playoff with Louis Oosthuizen. He earned his second Green Jacket in 2014 and posted a career-best second-place finish on the money list at more than $6.3 million.

Watson plummeted to 91st on the money list by 2017, but three victories and three other top-10 showings the following year brought him back to sixth place. When 2019 arrived, Watson became mired in what was presumed to be a slump.

The problem, however, was more serious than sliding from 57th to 97th in greens in regulation.

What happened with Bubba Watson?

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Bubba Watson had experienced periodic episodes in his adult life when he simply did not feel at ease around people. To some, he looked twitchy or impatient and may have come off as arrogant. Symptoms became worse, and it took a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and anxiety issues for Watson to understand what was happening.

“I thought I was going to die, and my mental issues had a good hold on me for a while,” Watson said this week in a story on PGATour.com. “I went down to 162 pounds and then I quit checking my weight because it was also stressing me out.”

Watson said he fought his way out of it, but not before he’d done some damage personally and professionally.

“I held things in for so long that it hurt me. It hurt when people would write things about me without knowing me,” he said. “Now I’m at a point where I can say, ‘Let’s just talk about it.’ I don’t need to hide that I’m a man who sometimes cries. I’m a man with issues just like everybody else. There’s ups and downs to life, no matter if you’re a tour golfer or a person that nobody ever sees.

“It’s OK to not be OK sometimes.”

This could be a confidence-building week

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The pandemic disrupted everyone’s 2020 season on the PGA Tour. Watson missed four of five cuts not long after play resumed last summer, but he was pulling his game together by late in the year. There were two top-10s before a disappointing week at the Masters, and then Watson ended his year with a tie for fifth at the QBE Shootout, which is not an official PGA event.

He closed strong two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and this week brings Watson back to his comfort zone: Los Angeles’ Riviera Country Club. The Genesis Invitational there is an event that he has won three times (twice under its previous name, the Northern Trust Open).

Winning the Genesis Invitational launched his comeback season in 2018, but success this time would still leave Watson far from his goal since making the Ryder Cup team is unlikely even if he works his way back into form. But Watson has other goals. He cherished assisting U.S. captain Davis Love III at Hazeltine in 2016.

“I’d really like to be considered as a Presidents Cup and or Ryder Cup captain and I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to be in that space,” he said.

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