New-Look Bubba Watson Weighs in on Golf’s Long-Ball Debate
The 42-year-old talks about the state of his game and changing his look after investing in Linksoul
For two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, a lot of things on the golf course are different these days.
Once one of the PGA’s driving distance leaders (he led the Tour five times including three straight years from 2006-08), Watson is no longer in the top 20 in driving distance off the tee, behind young guns like Bryson DeChambeau, who leads all players with an average drive of nearly 330 yards.
Playing a bit differently than he did when he joined the Tour in ’06, 42-year-old Watson is also looking a little different on the course in 2021 thanks to a new partnership with lifestyle apparel brand Linksoul.
In a reversal of how most sponsorship deals work on the PGA Tour, Watson became a brand ambassador for Linksoul after he approached the California-based company about becoming an investor because he was such a fan of their clothing.
“I’m a billboard, right? Let’s be honest. Normally they pay me to put their logo on me,” Watson tells InsideHook. “When you’re a young kid on Tour, you’ll wear whatever from whoever pays you. You’re just trying to make money. When you get older, you look at it differently. This is a completely new thing for me because I actually paid them. I bought some products to test before I reached out to them. When you believe a product is going to help you perform and make you comfortable in many different situations, you’re going to feel better about that product. I reached out to Linksoul because I believed in their products.”
The brand’s clothes are good-looking and just stylish enough without crossing over into look-at-me territory — and they provide a particular kind of on-course comfort that inspired Watson to reach out.
“When you think about comfort, it can mean many different things. It means you can move. It means you feel good and believe you look good,” he says. “I’ve never had a lesson, so I’m all about feeling on the golf course. If I feel comfortable and everything feels loose, I can still swing at a full speed. It’s going to give me that advantage where I feel like I can play the best I can play. With every product you’re putting on your body, you’re trying to look for that advantage. You might be a big sweater, so you need clothes that take away the sweat. Whatever it is, you’re looking for that advantage. You’re looking for that comfort. If you think your clothes look good, move well on your body and keep you at the right temperature, then you’re definitely going to play better. So comfort means a lot.”
A situation Watson is less comfortable with? The notion that golfers like DeChambeau are hitting the ball too far and the suggestion by the USGA and R&A to implement new rules designed to cut down on driving distance off the tee, including chopping the maximum length of a club down from 48 inches to a max of 46.
“I’m a pro golfer, but I’m truly an entertainer. Sports are built to entertain. When I watch Bryson DeChambeau, I’m entertained,” Watson says. “I want to see what he’s going to do next. I want to see how far the ball is going to go. I want to see if he’s going to hit the fairway or not. I want to see him putt. I want to see all of that. If you dial back the equipment, however you dial it back, there’s still going to be a short hitter, a long hitter and people in the middle. You’re not going to make us hit at the same distance. It just doesn’t work that way. So I think we’re wasting a lot of time, energy and money on something that means nothing.”
As Watson points out, golf is the only sport that changing its playing field — by adding distances to courses on the Tour — to make the game harder.
“So you’re going to add yards to the golf course, but then make the ball go shorter? That’s not entertaining,” he says. “The NFL is not changing the dimensions of a football field because Patrick Mahomes is a phenomenal passer, right? They aren’t like, ‘Tyreek Hill runs faster than everybody so we need him to run longer.’ The only thing the NBA has done is adding the three-point line and they did that to make it more exciting for fans. We’re the only sport trying to dial back our players, which I don’t understand. We’re trying to sell the sport, not diminish it, so why not let these guys entertain us? When somebody has too many birdies, we’re like, ‘Hey, we need to dial back the golf ball.’ That doesn’t make sense. I’m enjoying that. I want to see heroics. I want to see records being broken. Let there be a lot of Happy Gilmores. We’re looking at things the wrong way.”
Watson also pushes back on the argument that the rising emphasis on driving the ball is turning golf from a game of skill into a a game of power.
“You can be as strong or as powerful as you want to be, but you still got to have skill,” he says. “Bryson is the longest in the game right now, but he still has a skillset. If you look at his stats, he’s a way better putter than Bubba Watson. Just because he’s more powerful, it doesn’t make him a better putter. He has a skill set I haven’t been able to produce to his level. I’ve been able to produce distance, and there are going to be days that I beat him and days that he beats me. That’s the beauty of sports, right? We want to see those moments and watch to see if somebody can produce under pressure.”
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