THE OPEN

Bubba Watson wants PGA Tour fields chopped

Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson has called for a reduction in field sizes on the PGA Tour in an effort to eradicate slow play, which he believes makes golf ‘boring’.

Speaking at a media event with sponsor G/Fore ahead of the Open at Royal Birkdale, the two-time Masters winner also spoke about:

• Refusing to rule out retiring after his next win
• Why his golf game has suffered in 2017
• His desire to be Ryder Cup captain
• Why he feels Royal Birkdale may suit his game

Asked why he wore G/Fore gloves, which come in an array of colours, Watson quipped: “The coloured gloves I love. I mean, why not have some fun? Golf is pretty boring,” before going on to explain that he felt slow play was the main reason why.

Currently, the vast majority of strokeplay events on the PGA Tour and European Tour feature 156 players, with rounds in excess of five hours now normal and he believes the main problem lies with the amount of players teeing it up at each tournament.

Bubba Watson2

“When I say boring, slow play,” he said. “We made the cut last week at the John Deere Classic. There were around 80 players who made it and we still went round in five hours.  I’m like, ‘what are we doing?’ Who wants to play for five hours? I’ve got sleeping and stuff I’ve got to do.

“So first up, we’ve got to speed up and the only way I think we can do that in professional golf is to cut fields. 156 players in one field is just too many, you can’t do it.”

Watson also added that as well as reducing field sizes, he’s also get rid of the halfway cut. “I won a tournament and Steve Stricker almost won last week by making the cut on the number,” he said. “That one stroke can make me miss a cut and it can hurt that tournament, hurt your emotions, hurt your FedEx Cup points and in many other different ways.”

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Back in 2012, after achieving his maiden major win and adopting son Caleb with his wife Angie, Watson said he planned to retire at 40 before more recently saying that he would wait until he got to ten PGA Tour wins or world No.1. Currently, the world No.49 is on nine PGA Tour wins – so is he still thinking about retirement? He certainly didn’t rule it out.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I could be persuaded to play more golf but it’s one of those things – do you walk away when you get to that number or do you keep playing and grinding it out or do you become a tee-ball coach?

“I’m supposed to be a tee-ball coach in September for my five-year-old. I know which one’s more fun. I don’t three-putt when I’m coaching tee-ball.

“I think it just depends where life takes me so ask me after my tenth. Right after, I’ll probably say I want to play golf forever and then two weeks later I’ll be like, ‘I quit’. The beauty is I’ve got six more years of status on the PGA Tour.”

Bubba Watson1

With the current state of Watson’s game though, a win seems a long way off at this moment in time.

He has posted just three top tens on the PGA Tour this season and admits his priorities have changed and he’s struggling to juggle his role as golfer and doting father to Caleb and two-year-old Dakota.

“It’s been terrible,” said Watson’s when asked about his 2017 season. “What I believe happened is just life. Sometimes you get focused on something and it hurts something else.

“The whole approach for me this year is about family. How do you make your wife like she’s the queen? How do you make your kids feel like they’re the only thing in the world? My two-year-old is sleeping about two hours a night and my five-year-old just wants attention.

“So you’re going to have weeks, months, years when you’re better at something and not the other. I’m not smart enough to figure out how to do well at both yet. But it’s a learning process.”

Bubba Watson5

A learning process is what could be described of Watson’s first taste of Ryder Cup vice-captaincy at Hazeltine in 2016, when he didn’t do enough to make the team on merit or via a captain’s pick from Davis Love III.

But the American is not bitter about it – the complete opposite in fact – and has revealed he’s already told the PGA of America when he wants to be captain.

“I’ve told them the year I want to be captain and everything,” he added, but refused to say which year it was. “I’ve told them I want to be a vice-captain for life. The only problem with being vice-captain is you have to wake up before everybody and go to sleep after everybody and I love to sleep.”

And finally, the Open. Watson stressed his love of links golf but so far, the game’s oldest major hasn’t been kind, with four missed cuts in eight appearances and no top 20s. He’s never played at Royal Birkdale before though and, before heading out for his first practice round, he’s heard it could suit his game.

“I’ve been told that there aren’t a lot of blind shots which I feel could help me,” he said. “My whole golf game is about feel and with blind shots it’s tough for me because I can’t visualise the shot if I can’t see it. I’m not a target guy. So I’ve got to see it and I feel better for the fact there are few blind shots. Hopefully I like it as much as people say I should.”

Watson tees off at 3.21pm on Thursday alongside Scottish Open champion Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Aussie Scott Hend.

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