TOUR Insider: Watson learns to beat others, not himself

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Bubba Watson's dark side on the course went away, and a major champion emerged.
April 11, 2012
Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

Bubba Watson is going through the media car wash. The Masters champion exchanged hugs on Golf Channel's "Morning Drive" and yucked it up with David Letterman.

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Dave learned Bubba's golf game is "awesome."

It wasn't always this way. Bubba had a dark side that would come out on the golf course. He wouldn't yell at fans or kick clubs or curse. He would get mad at himself.

As announcers on Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio the worst thing we can do is "back" a golfer off a shot by talking too loudly. It should never happen but it does on occasion. The wind blows, your voice carries, the sound reflects back to the player.

When that happens, it's embarrassing for me and distracting for the player. I always make it a point to talk to the golfer after the round to explain and apologize.

Different players react differently. Some get mad. Some back off the shot and shoot you the "evil" look. Some will finish the hole and tell you to be more careful.

It happens to me maybe once a year and one time it involved Watson.

Two years ago, Bubba heard me talking, backed off his shot and ended up making bogey.

I was there at the end of his round, braced for an uncomfortable conversation.

It never happened.

Bubba accepted my apology, said it was just part of tournament golf and no hard feelings.

Watson would not lash out on the golf course, he would internalize the frustration, berating himself until finally it affected his game and attitude.

When he bogeyed the first hole on Sunday you could see him getting mad at himself but part of the maturation process on the PGA TOUR is not just learning to hit shots, it's learning to control your emotions.

A very frank conversation with his wife Angie and his caddie Ted led to a major attitude adjustment two years ago.

Bubba learned how not to beat himself up emotionally and in the process leaned how to beat others on the PGA TOUR.

Now let me quietly whisper some observations from the RBC Heritage.

Playing favorites: When Golf World asked PGA TOUR players to rank their favorite courses, Harbour Town Golf Links came in second only to Augusta National. I did my own unscientific survey and found similar results. Players told me they love the atmosphere the tournament creates. Raved how fun it was to take the family to Hilton Head for a working vacation. Some described it as the most relaxed week on TOUR. The RBC Heritage is a combination of a great golf course combined with a great location that creates a good vibe amoung players.

Tiny greens: Hilton Head is a shotmakers golf course. Everyone points to the small greens as being hard to hit but it's not just their size that makes things difficult. The fairways bend so much this week and there are so many trees and hazards, it's not just enough to hit the fairway, players must position themselves for the correct angle into greens. Players love to shape shots and part of the charm of this week is creativity.

Beware the 14th: The 18th hole at Harbour Town, running next to Calibogue Sound, gets all the beauty shots this week but the 14th hole gets players' attention. It's a 192-yard par 3 with a small pot bunker, but the real trouble is overhanging trees that make it difficult to challenge hole locations. Last year the 14th gave up 40 birdies and a whopping 102 scores of bogey or higher.

Puttering around: Isn't it time for Matt Kuchar to win again? He finished third at The Masters and broke par in all four rounds. He has posted four straight top 10 finishes on TOUR. Why hasn't he won this year? Putting. Kuchar is ninth in GIR, seventh in scoring but a disappointing 110th in Strokes Gained-Putting. That's coming off a 2011 season in which Kuchar ranked 26th in SGP. In 2010 he was ranked eighth in putting. Kuchar has changed both his grip and the length of the shaft in his putter but the numbers are not working in his favor.

Winner, winner: Bryce Molder is putting together a solid season. He's 44th in FedExCup Points and the numbers show why. Mulder is third on TOUR in GIR, hitting more than 72 percent of greens in regulation and combines that accuracy with good putting. Molder is fourth on TOUR in SGP. He is hurt by distance averaging just 275.9 yards off the tee but distance is not the most critical factor at Hilton Head.

.red Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio and is inside the ropes this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, [click here].

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