U.S. Open: Bubba Watson knows the mental strain of pro golf, and he wants to help Matthew Wolff

Bubba Watson is contending at the U.S. Open, but he's also keeping an eye out for up-and-coming players like Matthew Wolff.

U.S. Open: Bubba Watson knows the mental strain of pro golf, and he wants to help Matthew Wolff

SAN DIEGO – Professional golfers know that if they are asked to talk with the media after a round, they did something good and are probably in contention to win. After signing for his 67 on Friday at Torrey Pines, Bubba Watson did not know where he stood on the leaderboard at the 2021 U.S. Open, but being asked to talk with the media was a good sign. He was escorted to an area known as The Flash. It is a small area where, typically, reporters ask about birdies and bogeys and try to get insight into the round. 

Having started the day at 1 over, Watson was now 3 under, and two shots off the lead heading into the weekend. However, the first question the two-time Masters champion fielded wasn’t even about him. Instead, it was about a conversation he had with Matthew Wolff about the mental strain and stress of being a professional athlete.

“I love him. I love his family. I love his team,” Watson said candidly. “So I was just talking to them and just shared that I’ve wasted money, I’ve saved money, I’ve bought businesses, sold businesses, I’ve lost 20, 30 pounds because of struggles. I said, I’ve done everything you’re thinking about, I’ve done it all. So I said, so if you ever want advice, just call me, and so that’s what I said.”

On Thursday, Wolff shot 70, and in the same area where Watson talked Friday, he told reporters that he left the PGA Tour earlier this season because he felt he was putting too much pressure on himself. 

“I mean, I love these fans, and I want to play well for them, but right now I’m just really trying to be happy,” Wolff said. “I live a great life and I want to enjoy it.”

Wolff talked about trying to keep things in perspective, about wanting to play well but prioritizing his happiness and wellbeing more than a score. He said talking with people close to him helped. This week, Bubba Watson wanted to be sure that Wolff knew he could relate and that he could be someone Wolff could talk with, too.

“I was going to text him a few weeks ago, but I wanted to talk to him in person,” Watson said. “So that’s what I did. Obviously, he hasn’t called me. He did pretty good yesterday. He had eight birdies. I was just trying to give him my two cents. He didn’t ask for it, but I gave it to him anyway.”

The mental health and wellbeing of athletes has been a hot topic recently. At the recently completed French Open tennis championship in Paris, Naomi Osaka, the top-ranked female tennis player in the world, withdrew after a first-round win.

Before the tournament started, she said she would forgo media requests and interviews. She revealed that after winning the 2018 U.S. Open, she suffered from depression. Michael Phelps, a 23-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, has also talked about his struggles with depression and how therapy has helped him deal with personal issues. He came out in support of Osaka’s decision.

Watson has been. He told Golfweek in November, “I’ve sought help in many different ways, many different forms, trying to overcome (anxiety). It really comes down to me being nuts. I’m trying to make light of it because using humor helps. But it’s all in my head. It’s all anxiety. I think more people are speaking out about mental issues and I want to be one of them.” 

Watson is now 42. He has been married to his wife, Angie, for 17 years and points to that as a highlight of his life. Adopting the couple’s two children is another.

Eventually, Watson returned to talking about how much he hates three-putting, how much the course has changed since he won the Farmers Insurance Open here and what he needs to do to win.

“I’m just hitting big slices, trying to get the ball in play, but I can see this golf course a lot better, and I got some confidence knowing that some areas are patchy, where you can play out of the rough when you miss the fairway,” he said. “As long as you’re missing it in the right places, you still have a chance.”

Bubba seems very happy with that.

Source : Golf Week More   

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Lynch: The U.S. Open, the meanest major of them all, doesn’t do fairytales, but Richard Bland believes

Richard Bland emerged as an unlikely hero at the U.S. Open even though this championship has never really been an incubator of fairytales.

Lynch: The U.S. Open, the meanest major of them all, doesn’t do fairytales, but Richard Bland believes

SAN DIEGO — Despite the decades of ceaseless agitprop—Francis Ouimet’s upset, Ben Hogan’s comeback, Payne Stewart’s farewell, e pluribus unum marketing—the U.S. Open has never really been an incubator of fairytales. Of dramas, sure. And thrillers. But the previous 120 editions of this championship have witnessed more horrors than syrupy, feel-good fables.

That might explain why Richard Bland was beating balls on the range long after completing his second round at the top of the leaderboard at Torrey Pines. In U.S. Opens, nice guys with a great back story—the 48-year-old Englishman just won his first event in his 478th start—tend to meet the same fate as that kid in a slasher movie who decides to go investigate the noise.

We watch, hoping for the best but with a grim sense of foreboding.

Bland won’t be alone in feeling the vice tighten over the next 48 hours at Torrey Pines to where only one man (maybe) is still drawing breath. The U.S. Open is the most pitiless of the majors, each day a punishing gauntlet from which no competitor ever seems to emerge saying he shot the best score possible. Every round concludes with an official tallying of strokes, and a more private, rueful accounting of those left out there. By mid-afternoon Friday, the 156 players in the field had passed 1,000 bogeys made with the likelihood of a couple hundred more before sunset.

The South Course at Torrey Pines is the most architecturally prosaic venue the USGA visits and would be Exhibit ‘A’ in any malpractice suit against the ‘Open Doctor,’ Rees Jones. But it is adequate for what modern U.S. Opens are intended to do, which is expose every weakness from technical flaws to faintness of heart. Laudable design is immaterial to that objective on the logic that any course can be made difficult. It requires only fertilizer, green rollers and a dab of sadism.

Check. Check. And check.

The leaderboard at the 121st Open is bookended by men in their late 40s: Bland and, 22 strokes to his south, an Australian qualifier named Steve Allan. Until this week, Allan hadn’t competed in a major for 11 years and hadn’t made a cut in one for 16 years. He and Bland have combined for 13 career starts in major championships, just a few more than Phil Mickelson’s six victories in them.

Steve Allan plays a shot on the 17th hole during the second round at the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, Calif. on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Darren Carroll/USGA)

Unlike at the Masters, a U.S. Open leaderboard is where kings and cobblers collide. Just 34 days ago, Bland was unknown to even attentive golf fans. Now he finds himself being pursued by guys like Louis Oosthuizen, Bubba Watson and Brooks Koepka (who has won more majors than his prey has played). The elite and the everyman mingle at the other end of matters too. Allan was only four shots worse than Justin Rose, who has finished top 8 in both previous majors this year. On any given day, the talent gap between the best and the rest just isn’t that yawning.

Allan will have some well-known company at the airline check-in desk tonight. Will Zalatoris was runner-up at the Masters and hit as many greens in two days as the leader (26), but a balky putter condemned him. Webb Simpson had won the U.S. Open as many times as he had missed the cut, until today. Billy Horschel, Sam Burns and Garrick Higgo are all good enough to have won recently on the PGA Tour, but weren’t good enough this week to survive the cut. One troubled phenom returned (Matt Wolff) while a comparatively serene one (Viktor Hovland) departed early, WD’ing with an eye injury.

As the second round began to wind down, the north and south poles of the halfway leaderboard were separated by only nine shots. Like most Friday afternoons at U.S. Opens, players made progress long after they had completed their rounds. Rory McIlroy signed for a scrappy 73 shortly before 1 p.m. that left him 1 over for the tournament but he figured he’d be in the top 20 by day’s end. Within a couple hours, he was. Veterans of Open wars—in experience, if not in age— know that sometimes you just have to sit back and let the USGA do its work for you.

The man who spent much of the day in the lead, has only ever played one U.S. Open. But Bland has taken his share of gut punches. He lost several playoffs in qualifying. “I’m not going to lose any sleep over that,” he said cheerfully. “I’m just enjoying this one right now.” When you come across a 48-year-old man who believes in fairytales because he’s seen too much of the other side, it makes you want to believe right along with him. No matter how much we are conditioned to expect something else. Odds are that Bland won’t sleep tonight, but he will dream.

Source : Golf Week More   

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