Bubba Watson takes panic attacks in stride

Ross Kinnaird

Masters champ says he’s been hospitalized for panic attacks.

Bubba Watson is prone to panic attacks, some so serious that he’s checked himself into hospitals for tests, the reigning Masters champ said Wednesday, ahead of this week’s Tournament of Champions.

With Charlie Beljan at Kapalua for his first start since panic attacks nearly forced him out of last fall’s Children’s Miracle Network Classic, and Watson an emotional person who has been outspoken about the pressures of professional golf, talk at Bubba's press conference turned to matters of the mind.

“I’ve had a lot of panic attacks off the golf course,” Watson said. “I actually went to the hospital three times thinking I was having something wrong with my heart and my wife is like, ‘What is wrong with you?’ So I've had some issues.”

Dealing with severe bouts of anxiety are nothing new for Watson, who said his last such experience happened two years ago in Los Angeles (he withdrew from the 2011 Northern Trust Open after a first-round 76). That episode led to what he said has become an every-other-year visit to the ER and a battery of tests indicating he was fine.

Later that season, Watson sounded like a guy who needed a break from his day job rather than one who shared the 36-hole lead. At the time, Watson was dealing with the “instant fame” of becoming a three-time tour winner, as well as the aftermath of criticism he took for ill-considered remarks he made while traveling in France.

“It’s just hard, it’s hard,” Watson told Golf Channel after the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship. “You take a lot of energy, your mental game goes, and I feel tired at the end of the day, I feel like I’m sick, I feel like something’s wrong with me and it’s just all the energy it takes to play on the top level every week.”

This week, Watson acknowledged the toll his work took on him but reported that doctors could find nothing wrong.

“I've done everything. I've done EKGs, we've done tests, all kind of things,” he said. “[A doctor] told me basically I need medicine...that calms me down...which I'm not going to. I don't take medicine, so I would never do that.”

Given the findings, Watson diagnosed himself: “I’m nuts pretty much.

“I’ve got issues,” he said with a laugh. “I don't have a therapist. If I did, the therapist would probably quit.”

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