Bubba Watson made headlines a few years ago when, not long after winning the 2014 WGC-HSBC Champions, he said he would consider retiring from golf if he got to 10 PGA Tour wins.
“I’m going to keep trying until I get to 10, and then I’ll switch it from there,” Watson said, according to the AP. “Or retire.”
Curiously, when Watson won the Hero World Challenge in December 2015 for his ninth professional win in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event, he said it didn’t count toward the tally because it happened in the Bahamas.
“Ten U.S. victories,” Watson clarified after the 2015 Hero. “I don’t count this as a PGA Tour victory. It counts as a victory. It’s very big for my career personally, but I don’t see it as 10.”
Then he added a retirement stipulation to his stipulation.
“But I will give you this, though,” he added. “If I ever become No. 1 in the world, I’m walking away. I’m going to walk away on top. But let’s be honest, nobody here’s voting on that, right? Everybody thinks I’m not going to do that.”
When Watson picked up his second victory at Riviera in 2016 — two years after winning in 2014 — the press asked Watson then if he was walking away from golf because he had won for the 10th time. He backtracked that evening, falling back on previous statements about finding a new goal.
“I never said it’s going to be it,” Watson said after his ’16 win. “I said I would change my goal. If I became No. 1 in the world, I would think about moving on, because then everybody is going to write bad things because all I can do is go down from there.”
Watson, who told David Feherty in 2012 that he wanted to retire when he was 40 (he’s 39), was still on nine wins, then, from the 2016 Northern Trust Open.
Two years and a new title sponsor later, Bubba Watson is a 10-time PGA Tour winner. No qualifiers needed. No way around it. And no reason to want to get around it. The left-hander won at Riviera for the third time in his career, picking up an unexpected two-shot win after he experienced one of the worst years of his career in 2017. Watson dealt with an illness that caused him to drop 20 lbs. and lose some of his prolific distance. He erratically changed balls from the Titleist Pro V1 X model he’d used with success for years to play a Volvik ball he hadn’t much tested before he signed the dotted line for lots of money (a reported $1 million). Bubba Watson considered retirement because of his illness.
Watson is a weeper as it is, but this win clearly meant a lot to him. He told CBS Sports afterward the same thing so many players say after ending a long streak without a win: You just don’t know if it’s ever going to happen again, and, after a while, you become convinced it probably won’t.
It’s not like 24 months is a long time, but for a guy who likes to fidget and doesn’t like to sit still, that had to feel like an eternity. Throw in being a dad and the worries that come with that, his health troubles last year and the struggles inside the ropes, and, well, it must have seemed even longer.
What may have also sent Watson into a tailspin was not getting picked for the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2016. At that point, Watson was No. 7 in the Official World Golf Ranking but had not made the team on points — an anomaly, for sure. Meanwhile, Ryan Moore had just made a great run in the FedEx Cup playoffs, nearly beating Rory McIlroy in a playoff for the Tour Championship. Moore got the pick. Watson volunteered on his own dime to go to Hazeltine and help out however he could. Perhaps he was trying to mask the pain, but his words on Sunday demonstrated that didn’t work.
“So from that downfall of the letdown of not making the team and then to get sick, to lose all this weight, just family drama of my son starting school, my wife having surgery — five screws and a small plate in her leg — just all these things added in, never knowing if you’re going to make it again,” he said. “You don’t know. We can’t predict what health is going to come around the corner or what’s going to happen around the corner. So you never know if that was going to be the last time. You don’t want it to be because I’m an athlete, I want it to keep going. The emotion was just that, like wow, I still have a chance in this game, so it was very emotional. ”
So, now that Watson has 10 PGA Tour wins, is he going to retire? No, of course not. It’s a ruse. Always was. He’ll keep playing because he can set new goals like anyone else. Just as he did at Riviera two years ago, Watson walked back what he said. Actually, this time, he was defiant.
“I’m not going to retire,” he said. “I’ve got two more years guaranteed now so I’m going to last two more at least. And I’m going to be at Augusta until they kick me out.”