LYTHAM ST ANNES, England, July 16 (Reuters) - Bubba Watson mixed his quirky humour with some tactical talk after playing Lytham for the first time on Monday, proving his reputation as one of golf’s most colourful characters.
There are more than 200 bunkers on the Lancashire links and the American left-hander said he would have to fight his nature to belt the ball colossal distances, with accuracy at a premium in this week’s 141st British Open.
“I’ve got issues in my head,” U.S. Masters champion Watson said to a background of laughter when asked at a news conference if playing in a safer fashion came naturally to him.
“It’s something I’ve never done,” added the Ryder Cup player whose unique self-taught style was honed on hitting soft balls around his house and now regularly leaves fans open-mouthed in amazement.
“It’s only Monday right now so I‘m really calm. Golf is not my everything so there’s a lot of things running through my head,” said Watson whose life changed forever after a moment of genius from the Augusta pine straw in April landed him a first major title.
“This is a week that my wife is not here, my new son is not here, so it’s the first time out of the country away from them,” added the 33-year-old who adopted son Caleb just before his Masters triumph.
After a missed cut at last month’s U.S. Open and the very real prospect of foul weather conditions at Lytham, the kind of week that lies in store for the world number six is anyone’s guess.
“I’ve got to calm my mind down and focus on golf and try to get better. When I focus right I play pretty good and when I don’t focus right I miss the cut pretty quick.”
Watson, who wields a pink-headed driver which brings in money for various charities, said he learnt a lot at the U.S. Open where he played alongside Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
“I‘m just going to hit iron off the tee here so I can eliminate big numbers. After watching some of the great players at the U.S. Open, that’s what I have to do,” said Watson.
”I have to just figure out a way to lay back and just have a longer shot into some of these holes. That doesn’t mean I‘m going to be able to do that but that’s my goal.
“I might still hit it in the high rough with an iron.”
Former world number one and 14-times major champion Woods hit only one tee shot with a driver on his way to the 2006 British Open title at Hoylake.
In 2000, the triple British Open champion plotted his way around St Andrews in similar fashion, not once finding the sand.
Watson found just two bunkers on Monday but said the traps were effectively a one-shot penalty.
“There’s so many bunkers around here and if you’re in one you’re chipping backwards,” he explained.
“Not that I counted but there’s 17 on 18 and there’s nine on number one. I don’t understand why there’s that many but they didn’t ask me to design it,” he said to yet more laughter.
Whatever performance Watson produces in rainy England, in his previous three Opens he has twice missed the cut and tied for 30th, expect to see a vast array of strokes.
“Hitting shots with 30-mph winds coming across, trying to hit big cuts, big draws, bumping and running it from 200 yards, hitting a low bullet where it just runs about 70 yards is real fun,” he said.
“I think that’s why it gets so difficult for me because there’s so many shots you can play. But I love coming over here.” (Editing by Tony Jimenez)