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April 26 2012

9:55 PM

‘Exhausted’ Watson shoots 71

Interview: Bubba Watson

Following his opening-round 71, Bubba Watson talks about his play in the 2012 Zurich Classic of New Orleans with John Maginnes from SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

AVONDALE, La. -- Usually after an early morning tee time, Bubba Watson would have done his post-round interviews, grabbed a bite to eat and hit the fitness trailer or headed to the practice range.

On Thursday, though, after Watson shot 71 in his first competitive round since winning the Masters, he was looking forward to a nap. Maybe two or three.

"My body is not where it wants to be," Watson explained. "I can't hit shots that I want to hit. I can't hit it and make putts. I'm struggling out there. Just exhausted. Mentally exhausted."

Watson, who leads the TOUR in driving distance, said hitting a shot "full bore" right now is draining. He finds himself taking deep breaths trying to summon up some energy, too. Since he's the defending champion at TPC Louisiana, though, Watson knew he needed to compete.

"I had to be here for that and I'm here but mentally I'm not here," he said. "I'm so out of it right now. Golf is a hard thing to do right now."

Watson started on the back Thursday and was 2 over after seven holes. But he managed to play his next nine in 4 under before missing a 4-footer to save par at No. 8. He only found seven fairways but managed to hit all but three greens in regulation. 

Watson's caddy, Ted Scott, gave his boss a pep talk early in the round.

"After a couple holes, he was like, 'If you miss the cut here you're still Masters champion. Don't get down on yourself.'" Watson said. "He said a good week is going to be making the cut, then a great week is going to be anything in the Top 25. So, that's what we looked at.

“That's what I kept grinding about and somehow I had a few birdies. I had a little hiccup the 17th hole. All in all, under par is good."

Watson played with Webb Simpson, the man he beat in the playoff a year ago, and Steve Stricker on Thursday. The group teed off No. 10 at 7:30 a.m. local time, and given the hour a surprisingly large contingent of New Orleans fans turned out to offer their support.

"They had some great golf to watch," Watson said. "Steve Stricker and Webb Simpson make birdies every hole seemed like. I was just there to fill the spot. It's always good to have a big crowd like that, especially people pulling for you."

Stricker, who won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions earlier this year, ended up shooting a 66 that left him one shot off the lead held by Ken Duke and Cameron Tringale. Simpson was tied with Stricker with one hole remaining but settled for a 68 after a water-logged double bogey at No. 9.

"We had a big following right away starting on No. 10 and rightly so," Stricker said. "Everybody wants to come out and see (Watson) and watch his game. And, you know, he brings a lot of attention to our game which is nice to see other than Tiger and Phil, and that's good for our game, too. It brings some extra spotlight at the tournament, brings more people out to watch.

“It's all good when Bubba is playing."

Stricker played with Watson in the first two rounds a year ago as the eventual champ shot rounds of 66 and 68. Stricker, who remembers Watson picking the TPC Louisiana apart during the first two rounds in 2011, went on to tie for 13th.

"Really it's fun anytime you can go out with Bubba and watch his game," Stricker said. "He plays such a unique style. He hits it forever. It's really unfair at times, you know, how far he hits it. 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 a 8-iron.
   
"It's just bizarre distance that's he hits it but he shapes it, too.  He's fun to watch and you know the gallery we had out there was pretty cool to see him."

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