Pete Iacobelli, AP Sports Writer
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Bubba Watson has been texting Olympic champ Michael Phelps and joking with Mets ace Johan Santana. Now, the Masters champion says it’s time for more winning golf at the PGA Championship.
Watson believes the glow from his win at Augusta National last April is starting to fade as he enters the season’s final major at the PGA Championship. He’s focused on breaking through again this week at the Ocean Course
Watson’s played just 20 competitive rounds since winning the green jacket in a playoff. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open and his best finish the past four months was second at The Travelers in June.
Watson’s got a good excuse, though, as he and wife Angie finished the adoption process for son Caleb on Monday.
“Somehow it all worked out and now we’re parents,” he said Tuesday.
It’s been a landmark year for the big-hitting Watson, who says his first major title ranks way down the list of what’s driven him this season. Nothing tops the joy of seeing his 5-month-old son after a round, no matter how Watson finishes in a tournament.
“You know, if I never play golf again, I can still be a great dad,” he said. “So that’s the key and that’s where my life stands. Golf is there, but I’m not going to pout when I go home.”
Watson’s hasn’t had much to pout over away from the course. He’s got a text friendship going with Phelps, whose 22 medals made him the most decorated Olympian. Watson even sent Phelps messages in London during the games. Phelps has says he admirers Watson’s game and there’s a chance the two might soon connect in person.
Asked which sport they’ll play, Watson said jokingly, “We’ll be playing golf. We’re definitely not going swimming together.”
Watson met Santana In June, when he threw out the first pitch before a Mets game at Citi Field. The New York star threw the team’s first no-hitter against St. Louis that month.
Santana kidded with Watson, saying he wrecked his golf fantasy team by missing the cut at the U.S. Open. Watson came right back, saying he’d dropped Santana from his fantasy baseball team because he was pitching so poorly.
“Your no-hitter didn’t help me because I didn’t have you on my roster,” Watson said with a smile.
Watson’s ready to get serious about winning golf. He expects to have a shot at the Ocean Course, set to be the longest layout in major championship history at 7,676 yards. Watson’s excelled at PGA Championships over Pete Dye courses before, making the playoff in 2010 at Whistling Straits before losing to Martin Kaymer.
“Yes, everything about it, it feels like that,” Watson said. “But I think here, it seems like the rough is not as demanding here as it was at Whistling Straits. Now that I’ve said that, I’ll probably miss every fairway.”
Not that it mattered much to Watson at the Masters. He was nowhere near the fairway after his tee shot on No. 10 in the playoff at Augusta National and looked like he’d handed the title to rival Louis Oosthuizen. Instead, Watson hooked that memorable gap wedge some 40 yards and onto the elevated green, a shot that led to his first major title.
Watson has enjoyed the perks that come with success. He’s ready to add to the resume.
“Being a major champion, it’s great,” Watson said. “But I don’t know, that was like four or five months ago, so we’ve got to try to do something else now.”
Watson played just once in July, finishing 23rd at the British Open. He opened with a 66 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week before fading to 19th.
No one knows how difficult the adjustment back to solid golf can be than the PGA Championship’s last winner, Keegan Bradley. He said he barely slept the week after his triumph at Atlanta Athletic Club because he was so excited. His game was over the top at times, too, as Bradley struggled to regain the steadiness that won him the major.
It took him nearly a year to discover it again, when Bradley won the Bridgestone Invitational last weekend.
“It’s just a matter of getting back to what you’ve always done and that’s play golf and not put too much pressure on yourself,” he said.
Watson believes the pressure is off, particularly after completing the legal hurdles and paperwork to make Caleb’s adoption complete.
“We got that done,” Watson said. “And now we’re on to trying to win this tournament, trying to play good golf, trying to get better in the game.”
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