WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Bubba Watson will tee off Thursday in the opening round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, marking the sixth time he has played the event at America’s Resort.
Before Watson begins competition to start the PGA Tour’s 2019-2020 season, the two-time Masters winner reflected on the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks from September 11, 2001.
Play in the pro-am was halted Wednesday at 8:46 a.m. for a moment of silence to remember the first airplane that crashed into the World Trade Center. Additionally, a trumpeter played “Taps” at the Old White TPC Course, followed by Makiah Brown of the New York Police Department giving a rendition of “God Bless America.”
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Watson said. “I cried out there just listening to the lady singing. When you think about the freedoms we have to be able to play golf, I can’t get even get the right words to say it. What an honor and privilege to be able to pay respects in a small way.”
Honoring the military was particularly meaningful for Watson considering his father, Gerry Watson, was a longtime member of it.
“My dad was drafted in the military and was in Vietnam,” Watson said. “When I think about the police, fire and rescue and the military itself, what a tremendous asset for us to have as a United States citizen. Anytime I hear the National Anthem or God Bless America, I tear up and cry. It’s for joy and thankfulness and how blessed we are.”
By design, Watson didn’t have much knowledge of his dad’s history in the military. Before Gerry Watson Sr., passed away to throat cancer in 2010, he didn’t reveal much to his son about his time served.
“He never told me places he was stationed,” Watson said. “He said he was overseas and that’s how he worded it.
“My dad always thought it was his job to do what he did. My dad also saw it as a need to know basis and I definitely didn’t need to know what went on. Maybe my simple mind couldn’t take what went on. I cannot take all the things that have happened in the military since then and my mind probably couldn’t fathom what went on behind closed doors.”
Watson’s play at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier this week marks the start of his 15th season on the PGA Tour. At 40, Watson is hoping to play well enough this fall to earn one of four captain’s picks from Tiger Woods for the United States’ Presidents Cup team.
Watson did not have a win last PGA Tour season after picking up three victories from February-June in 2018.
“When you think about a bad season, really was it a bad season? I kept my job and I get to play golf for a living,” he said. “So when I look at it from that perspective, it wasn’t a bad year at all. It was a thankful year and a grateful year.
“I learned a lot about myself last year. I started training a little bit this offseason. I’m getting older and I’m trying to get better. When you look at Phil Mickelson winning at age 49 and Tiger winning again, those are people winning in their 40s. Now I’m 40, and I’m trying to win.”
Watson also shared his thoughts on some of the PGA Tour’s new rules. Starting this season, players making the cut are reduced from the top 70 and ties to the top 65 and ties.
“If it’s about speeding up play, we’re not worried about speeding up play on the weekend,” Watson said. “We’re worried about speeding up play on the first two days. The weekend is not broke. It’s the weekdays that are broke.
The PGA Tour will also begin a more detailed procedure to test players’ drivers this season, which the 12-time winner on tour isn’t in favor of.
“It’s just more stress for the companies that are providing for the Pga Tour, USGA, PGA of America and the R&A. These companies are the ones sponsoring the commercials, paying their bills and keeping their lights on.
“For me as a fan of golf, I don’t see it as a benefit. As a professional, it’s stressful trying to get that driver to fit just right. We know it’s going to wear in. It’s not that you’re cheating. The more you practice with a driver the more it’s going to wear in and become the red light. It’s just more stress we don’t need. I already have enough stress trying to make a three footer.”