Bubba Watson is leading the FedExCup standings and has won three times on the PGA Tour in the last year. But the long-hitting left-hander says he’s not ready to become the face of American golf.
Watson spoke Tuesday at the TPC River Highlands, the course where he won his first PGA Tour title last June. Since then, Watson has won twice more: at Torrey Pines in January, and at the Zurich Classic in April.
The 32-year-old Watson said while his golf game is “steam rolling in the right direction,” he doesn’t see himself following in the footsteps of Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods as the next great American golfer.
“I do have a pretty face,” he joked in an interview with the Associated Press. “But I hope the Tour is not going to bank on me being their poster child. I think it’s going to be harder to dominate, like we used to see, like Tiger has dominated for so many years. I think it’s going to be harder to have one guy stand out like that, because the talent is so much deeper in each tournament that it’s harder to dominate the whole world like that.”
Watson took some heat recently after being quoted as saying that Woods was “going the wrong way.” He said Tuesday that those remarks were taken out of context, and he believes Woods will come back strong from his injury.
“I’ve never dogged a man that’s better than me, that is the world’s best golfer,” he said. “I would never say I was better than that guy. He’s the best ever. Bubba Watson is never going to be considered the best ever, unless a miracle happens in a short period of time.”
But Watson’s game is on the upswing, nonetheless, and it began to take off after his win at the Travelers Championship last June. His father was dying of cancer at the time, and he had received another scare, when doctors told his wife they thought she might have a brain tumor. It turned out to be a pituitary gland problem.
Perhaps those trials helped him mature as a man and a golfer.
“The golf was a way for me to get away from all of that,” he said. “My wife could watch me play golf and not think about what was going on with her. When my name was up there close to that lead, they could watch that and not have to think about what was going on with them.”
Watson’s father died in October.
“It meant a lot that I could show my dad that his time, and energy, and sweat, and tears helping me grow up in this world, that he was a good dad and that what he did paid off in the end,” he said.
He will be back to defend his Travelers Championship June 23-26, after the U.S. Open. He would like to add a major championship to his resume soon, but said that is not his main goal. He simply wants to continue to improve, and would like to have at least 10 career wins before he retires.
Watson said he used to feel that golf owed him more, and became angry when he didn’t have the success he felt he deserved. He said still feels pressure, and still gets nervous, but now sees things in a more appropriate context.
“I guess,” he said, “you could say I’ve matured.”