Turns out winning your first major really takes it out of you -- all that trophy lifting, green-jacket wearing, media whirlwind and, oh yeah, golf.
An emotionally spent Bubba Watson said he would be happy just to make the cut at this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans after the “mental grind” of more than two weeks of celebrations, a charity golf tourney, talk shows and diaper-changing following his Masters win on April 8.
“I can't hit shots that I want to hit. I can't hit it and make putts. I'm struggling out there,” Watson told reporters following an opening-round 1-under 71 at TPC Louisiana outside New Orleans. “Just exhausted. Mentally exhausted.”
Even a drained Bubba can put on a show, however. Just ask playing partner Steve Stricker.
“It's really unfair at times, you know, how far [Watson] hits it,” said Stricker, whose 6-under put him in a tie for third and one shot back of 18-hole clubhouse leaders Ken Duke and Cameron Tringale. “It's usually about four clubs' difference ... He's hitting an 8-iron, I'm maybe hitting a 4-iron. Utility club I hit one time, he hit an 8-iron.
“It's just bizarre distance that he hits it, but he shapes it, too,” Stricker added. “He's fun to watch and, you know, the gallery we had out there was pretty cool to see.”
That would be music to Watson’s ears, since he has made a point of noting that the fans were the reason he was in New Orleans this week and not home with his wife Angie and their new baby boy, Caleb. Even so, Watson complained a bit, in his stream-of-consciousness way, about all that goes along with winning a big one.
“The sad thing is, it's overwhelming what happens when you win a big event like that,” he said. “The mental grind of making sure you treat everybody the same, making sure you sign everybody's autograph, special things for my fans, too, for the people that pull for me, special things for me to sign all their autographs and flags and stuff and say hey to people and old friends, new friends and so it's just time-consuming.
“Energy just gets drained really quick, especially with the new baby,” Watson said. “Just haven't had time to rest yet and take a deep breath. Just exhausting, but being the defending champ, I had to be here.”
The reigning Zurich Classic champion hoped that “some naps,” a little therapy and a lot of hydration would help him out on Friday, because Thursday he said he had no focus and was sucking wind all day -- literally.
“Hitting the ball full bore tires me out,” said the tour’s longest hitter, who averaged 333 yards in his first round. “I have to take deep breaths trying to get some energy.”
Watson said he was able to plod along after a quick bogey on his first hole (No. 10), another on his seventh, and not posting a birdie until his ninth, because of the knowledge that nobody could take away his green jacket.
“My caddie said, ‘The [worst] thing that's going to happen, you're going to miss the cut. You miss the cut you're still Masters champion,'” Watson said.
In his self-deprecating, Bubba way, Watson said he enjoyed watching playing partners Stricker and Webb Simpson (68) play.
“I was just there to fill the spot,” he said.