Moments before Francesco Molinari rinsed his ball from the 12th tee at the 2019 Masters, watching a two-stroke lead disintegrate in the process, Bubba Watson buckled a legendary charge from back nine – one that saw him go birdie-birdie- eagle to get 10 cents for the tournament.
For Watson, the pressure was immense. He began to think about the potential of the playoffs, whether he could stir the nerves of those right ahead of him in the standings, and whether he might have to win a third green jacket.
As he went from 15th green to 16th tee this Sunday, Watson’s state of mind changed, and not for the better.
“I panicked,” Watson told Augusta this week. “I told my caddy Teddy (Scott) that if I birdie-birdie and post, maybe I could scare the win or a top two or, you know, force a playoff or whatever. I have become bogey-bogey. Because I started to think about it, right? Instead of just playing the game I was playing.
“Then it worked out fine because we wanted to see Tiger win over me anyway, so you know – that’s why I did the bogey-bogey.
All kidding aside, the pressure from the Tour can be overwhelming, enough to piss off even those with the strongest nerves. Watson, once world No. 2 and 12-time PGA Tour winner, has long been known to wear his heart on his sleeve. Between family and social responsibilities, the pressure was mounting.
One of the ways Bubba had handled stress earlier in his career – video games – took a step back when he and his wife Angie adopted their son almost a decade ago.
Recently, Angie suggested that she remove the game console and use it to mentally cope.
“I stopped for a few years, then my wife finally said, ‘Hey you gotta start playing video games again, your mind needs a rest.’ When we adopted Caleb I took a few years off and she said ‘no, I think you have to start playing video games again,’ ”Watson said. “You know, I play Xbox a lot. I come home, put on my helmet and people don’t know who I am. They don’t know my name and I’m playing Call of Duty against these people. It’s just pulling the breeze. It’s just fun and so it’s my way of getting away from it all.
Watson’s involvement with Golf Clash, a mobile video game with nine million downloads, therefore seemed like a perfect match. This weekend, those who download the app can play the Bubba’s 9-Hole Cup, a three-round tournament that takes place on the beautiful Southern Pines virtual golf course. A practice mode is currently available and those who want to pony up can purchase a Bubba, Bubba Hole Explosion, Bubba Emote animated icon, and Bubba Chat Message themed tee.
There’s also Bubba’s One Shot Challenge, a pin-like style event based on the popular Golden Shot feature, which runs through April 11. Watson said he plays it with his son, who thinks it’s cool the game presented after his daddy.
And for the two-time Masters champion, it gave him a way to unwind. As he prepares for another week in Augusta, Watson said it has helped his sanity immensely.
“I mean we can sit here and I can lie all day and say I’m perfect. This is not true. You are going to take two steps forward and take a step back, ”he said. “You’re going to have a hard time. It is about learning to catch it, to face it. Like my wife who says play video games. You know, play games like Golf Clash. He’s trying to find something that works and I’m trying to put it the right way – to be positive. It’s always about finding the positive way that it’s always good for you and good for everyone around you. So for me, I found video games.
“I worked hard on it and I’m going to have bad days. And I will have a good day.