KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Winning a first major championship comes complete with a whole new set of distractions for anyone, but Bubba Watson has been groping through uncharted territory of red tape since donning the green jacket.
Perhaps this week at Kiawah’s Ocean Course, Watson can finally focus on golf and trying to win the PGA Championship.
“Monday was a great day for us with our son,” he said. “The adoption is final, so that’s the most important thing. We got that done. And now we’re on to trying to win this tournament, trying to play good golf, trying to get better in the game of golf.”
Since winning the Masters Tournament just two weeks after adopting 1-month-old Caleb, Watson’s home life has overshadowed his career on the course. The past four months have been a process of jumping through sets of jurisdictional hoops from Florida to Arizona to make sure all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed to make Caleb a permanent member of the Watson household.
It didn’t make for the best work environment to build on his Masters triumph. Watson played only once in the seven weeks after Augusta. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open and faded from the leaderboard on Sunday at the British.
“I missed some tournaments this year because I’ve had some law stuff I had to do,” Watson said. “So I missed some tournaments that I didn’t want to miss, that I normally don’t miss.
“So I chose to do all those things, and then golf obviously is way down the list of priorities. That came first. Just a lot of paperwork. A lot of people go through it, but trying to travel across the U.S., trying to travel outside the country and playing golf made it a little bit more difficult.”
The payoff, however, was worth it.
“Somehow it all worked out, and now we’re parents, I guess,” he said with a smile.
With all that behind him, Watson can start focusing on golf as the season hits the crowded home stretch. After this week’s final major comes the PGA Tour’s playoffs, immediately followed by the Ryder Cup.
Two years ago, Watson said he was more excited to have earned a last-minute spot on the U.S. team than he was having a chance to win the PGA in a playoff against Martin Kaymer at Whistling Straits. This time, with a green jacket already in his closet and a Ryder Cup spot already assured, he has bigger goals.
“Looks like I’ve locked a spot up for the Ryder Cup, so right now I’m worried about winning the PGA,” he said. “Maybe one day I’ll get picked to be a Ryder Cup captain. I’ve got different goals all the time.”
His experience at Whistling Straits in 2010 should be helpful at the Ocean Course. Tiger Woods called the two seaside Pete Dye courses the most comparable to each other in terms of major venues. Other than the fact the PGA has declared all sandy areas at Kiawah to be “through the green” and not played as bunkers as they were at Whistling Straits, the general design DNA of each course is the same.
“It’s true, Whistling Straits is just like this,” Watson said. “That lake (Michigan) at Whistling Straits felt like an ocean. … It’s pretty much the same golf course with the heavy wind off the water, makes it a little bit thicker, makes the ball travel a little bit more, curve a little bit more. Yeah, it does feel just like that one pretty much.”
That should certainly suit Watson, right?
“If I putt and chip and hit the ball as good as I did (in 2010), yes, I do like my chances,” he said.