SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Bubba Watson’s theme for the year is to rejoice in all circumstances. So when he found his ball lying under a bush on the 13th hole at TPC Scottsdale, he rejoiced in finding a burrowing hole there. A rules official granted Watson relief – one club length’s worth – and Watson escaped with par, allowing him to take a two-shot lead after three rounds at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
“If you’ve ever heard about Bubba Watson’s career, you know I’m in trouble a lot,” Watson said. “I have gotten practice from many of those locations.”
Watson, 35, spent plenty of time in the desert on the closing holes Saturday, hitting only one fairway out of the last six, yet managed to play that stretch in 1 under. He posted a 3-under 68 for a 15-under 198 total to lead Kevin Stadler (67) by two strokes.
The atmosphere was electric in Scottsdale as a record 189,722 attended the third round. Watson described the atmosphere as “chaos,” and said his wayward shots helped him to bear down and focus at the Tour’s biggest party.
“Today wasn’t about a golf swing or anything,” Watson said. “It was about manufacturing something and getting into the clubhouse.”
Watson, a four-time winner on Tour, hasn’t snagged a title since he slipped on the green jacket at the 2012 Masters. This is the seventh time he has held the lead going into the final round of a Tour event. His final-round scoring average this season is 70.
Ted Scott, the caddie who once threatened to quit on Watson if the boss didn’t learn to control his temper, said he’s pinching himself inside the ropes because what normally would set Watson off, now isn’t.
“The best thing he’s doing is thinking,” Scott said. “He never got frustrated or overreacted to anything. That’s really the key, you know.”
Watson said his mindset this year is to rejoice in what he has been given. Rejoice in what he has accomplished both on and off the golf course. Watson explained that it’s about trying to become a stronger, more devout Christian. He quoted Philippians 4:11, which says “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
Golf, Watson said, just happens to be what helps him fuel his charity endeavors.
On Friday, Watson tweeted that he and his team packed 1,000 snack packs at the Desert Mission Food Bank for hungry kids in Phoenix. On Saturday, Watson was on hand at Highlands Church for “Rockin’ the Open,” a Christian concert featuring rap artist THI’SL.
Scott, a fellow Christian, said Watson came up with this year’s mantra with his best friend, Judah Smith, pastor of The City Church in Seattle. The pair met on Twitter.
There’s no doubt fatherhood has given Watson even more reason to clean up his act. Watson and wife Angie adopted a son just before he won the ’12 Masters.
Off the course, Watson said he’s a cool guy. But inside the ropes his anger often has gotten the better of him.
“That’s not the way I should be portraying myself,” Watson said. “I don’t want my son to see stuff like that. So right now I have a few years before he knows what I’m doing, so I have a few years to practice and get better.”
On weeks like these, Scott said he tries not to take the paint brush away from the artist. He tries to encourage, count correctly and get of the way.
“He’s such a freak athlete,” Scott said of his boss.
“You can’t really describe some of the stuff he does. It’s not normal, but for him it’s beautiful to watch.”