Bubba Watson is shaking things up lately and the results – at least in Round One of the Northern Trust – are hard to argue with, if you like shooting in the red.
On Monday, Watson began working with a breathing coach via Zoom. That’s right, Watson, who is self-taught, is trying to find a state of Zen at TPC Boston this week. Is Watson dancing around a putting green like Ty Webb of Caddyshack fame, putting to a chant of “Na–na–na–na–na?” Not quite.
“Have a thing hooked up to my finger, have a computer and have a belt around my stomach. And we’re working on it, trying to get my breathing, my heart rate to match up in a relaxed state,” he explained. “Off the course, I’m even-keeled. I can kind of relax, but on course is where I get headless and I start going, ramped up going too fast and so we are trying to slow down to where I am off the course and so that’s what we are working on trying to do that. And then finally I guess as I get older I get smarter, I realize maybe I should work on it. I work on putting and chipping. Maybe I can work on the mental part.”
Watson, 41, carded seven birdies on Thursday en route to posting an opening-round 6-under 65 and trails a quartet of players by one stroke. Watson entered the first event in the three-week FedEx Cup Playoffs ranked 66th in the points standings.
As for the golf swing, Watson had just begun working with instructor Claude Harmon III three weeks ago in Memphis at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, calling him his “life coach,” but that experiment apparently was short-lived.
“He fired me. He said, ‘Man, you’re so mental, we can’t even work together,’ ” Watson said. “Claude is such a good friend. I reached out to him and I said, ‘Hey, is there any way you could just watch me for a few weeks and see if you see anything?’ Again I always thought it was not physical, it’s the mental and after two weeks I said, ‘Hey, it’s mental?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, it’s mental.’ That was it. It wasn’t a thing that it was a long-term deal anything like that. It was asking a buddy if you could just look; see anything that me and (my caddie) Teddy are missing, and that’s what it was.”
Watson’s search for a better version of his golf game didn’t end there. He also consulted the engineers at Ping and switched from an Anser putter he’s used for most of his career to a B60 model with less toe hang, and it paid quick dividends: Watson gained more than a stroke and a half against the field in the Strokes Gained: Putting category.
“My first putter ever as a child was a B60,” he said. “Got it when I was eight years old and so I used that up till probably, gosh, 2004 or something. So, I used it until a little after I turned pro. So, to get a B60 back in the bag just feels like an old friend and it was nice to go out there and putt and be confident over it.”
Add it all up and Watson is confident that he could be on the cusp of something special. He earned the last of his 12 PGA Tour wins at the 2018 Travelers Championship.
“I’ve dabbled with some putters, and now I’ve got my breathing down so hopefully we’re off and running,” he said.