The Players Championship: Bubba's challenge
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – It’d seem Bubba Watson’s ability to make golf balls curve like a David Beckham penalty kick would make Watson a good fit for any course.
That’s not the case, though, at TPC Sawgrass, the tight, turning Pete Dye design that hosts The Players Championship this week. “The golf course is too hard for me,” Watson said Tuesday. “I don’t like the look off the tee.”
At 7,215 yards, TPC Sawgrass isn’t considered long by modern standards. But Dye installed enough illusions to make the world’s best uneasy, especially on the tees. Mounds obscure parts of the fairways. Many fairways run diagonally to the tee, forcing a player to factor in carry yardage when choosing the correct line. Penal pot bunkers can monopolize a player’s focus quicker than a blonde in a sundress.
“You’ve got a lot of things ... taking your eye off of what you should be thinking about,” Watson said.
So leave it to Watson, the southpaw who swings a pink-shafted driver, to take an unconventional approach. Watson, who’s missed the cut in three of four Players starts, isn’t playing a practice round this week.
“I’m trying not to play it that much, to not think about how tough it is for me,” Watson said. “There’s no trick to it. I’ve just got to man up and figure out how to play it.”
Another lefty, Phil Mickelson, said a more conservative approach could help Watson here.
“As long as he hits the golf ball, he’s hitting it mostly into tighter spaces,” said Mickelson, the 2007 Players champion. “The widest part of the fairway is probably 25 yards short of where his drives end up. I don’t even know what hole he can really hit driver on. Maybe No. 9? I’m not sure.”
Watson could adapt to Dye’s devilish design, though. He’s become increasingly successful as he’s become accustomed to life on Tour.
He has won three of his past 20 PGA Tour starts after once being a player whose shot-shaping abilities made him more of a sideshow than a star, and who was known for having a petulant side. He’s now a social-media star and fan favorite. He leads the FedEx Cup points list and is 11th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“It’s just staying focused and knowing that one bogey doesn’t ruin your day, your tournament, your life,” Watson said. “That’s where I’m at right now.”
Whether that mind-set will help him conquer TPC Sawgrass for the first time remains to be seen.