On the Hot Seat: Bubba Watson
CROMWELL, Conn. -- Among the rank-and-file of the PGA Tour, you can see Bubba Watson -- he of the long sideburns and pink-shafted driver -- a mile away. And you'd better, since that's about how far his tee shots usually travel.
Watson currently leads the tour with an average driving distance of 319.3 yards, but had some interesting comments on the impact of such a number when I caught up with him during preparation for the Buick Championship and put him on ESPN.com's Hot Seat.
Q: You lead the PGA Tour in driving distance. How important is length off the tee in today's game?
A: It's not as important as they say. There are a lot of guys in the top 50 in the world who aren't up there in length, but some of the top-10 guys are pretty long. I'd rather hit it straight than long any day of the week.
Q: So would you rather lead the tour in driving distance or accuracy?
A: Accuracy. Easily accuracy.
Q: Driving accuracy or putting average?
A: Whew. I'd say putting average. Putting is what wins tournaments.
Q: Can anyone on tour -- John Daly, Tiger Woods, anybody out there -- hang with you off the tee?
A: I wouldn't say that. No, they couldn't. When I rip at one, I don't think they could keep up with me, out of those guys that you named.
Q: Would you be in favor of ever rolling back the golf ball to make courses more playable?
A: The sad thing about that is, there's a lot of great ideas out there, but the problem is, if you roll back the golf ball, you're still going to have the longest hitter and you're still going to have the shortest hitter. And there's nothing you can do about that. There's going to be a longer and shorter hitter, no matter if you all use the same clubs. There's always going to be a shortest and a longest, so it's not really going to affect anything.
Q: Do you think some courses are becoming obsolete now that players are hitting wedge into every hole?
A: There's a lot of great golf courses that we play that are tough and they're old golf courses. You think about the U.S. Open. All they did this year was add rough and the greens are fast. It wasn't tricked out, it wasn't sloped too much; it was just tough. Westchester is just tough, and Colonial -- a lot of the older courses are just tough and you didn't have to add any yardage, you didn't have to do anything. If you've got rough, some overhanging trees, it's a tough golf course.
Q: So would you be in favor of things like graduated rough like they had at the Open or furrowed bunkers like they had at Memorial?
A: The rough is great. I don't think the bunkers really do much. They figured out that the percentage only changed 1 percent. You can still get bad lies in regular bunkers, so I don't think the bunkers really affect it much, but the rough is what affects it. If you get bad lies, you've got to chip out, so that's what's really going to change the golf course.
Q: You've got a pink-shafted driver. Now I see a pink-shafted wedge in the bag. Is that new?
A: No, that's just for fun. They just made that for me for giggles.
Q: Gotcha. What's with the pink?
A: It just stands out more. If I have a pink-shafted driver and I hit it past you, you can't really say much about it. And it's just fun. It keeps the fans interested. Even if they're talking bad about me and making fun of me for not hitting it straight, they're still talking about me and they're still talking about the game of golf. So any little bit that can help the tour grow to its potential, that works out good for me.
Q: Ever get teased about it?
A: Oh, all the time. Then when I hit one, they're like, "OK, we won't say much more."
Q: The tour currently boasts one of the best rookie classes in a long time. Is there a certain camaraderie between all the first-year players?
A: The guys from the Nationwide Tour, since there's 21 of us this year [including Jason Gore, who received an in-season promotion last year], yeah, we all know each other from playing a whole year last year together on the Nationwide Tour, so we all know each other and we're out here supporting each other. When one of us is up there in the lead and I miss the cut or whatever, I'm pulling for that guy, just because we hung out for a year. J.B. Holmes, I'm starting to know him, I played in a tournament with him, but he came off of Q School. So I'm starting to know some of those rookies, because early in the year you play together. We pretty much all pull for each other to stay out here a long time.
Q: Who are some of your buddies you hang out with on tour?
A: Heath Slocum, because he's from my hometown [Bagdad, Fla.]. Let's see, David Branshaw, Roger Tambellini, you know, some of the younger guys that are basically first-year, second-year pros out here. And some guys I grew up with. I know Charles Howell. Lucas Glover, who I played a lot of junior golf with. They've just been out here longer than me.
Q: Can't let you go without one more distance question. Farthest you've ever hit the ball?
A: You know, there's a lot of 'em you hit really far, but you don't ever record it; you just say, "Oooh, that went a long way." But on the Nationwide Tour a few years ago, I hit one 422 yards that was measured on one of the measuring holes, so I know for a fact that it went 422. But there's some that probably went farther that we just don't know about.
Q: Can you top it?
A: Probably not. That's one of those one-time things. I might get another out there that might scare it because it's downhill, downwind or something. I'm hoping at Castle Pines [in Castle Rock, Colo.] later this year I can get one out there.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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