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Bubba Watson Gets Candid About His Mental Health Struggles

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Four years-ago Bubba Watson hit rock bottom when he stared at the screen on his bathroom scale and saw just how much weight he had shed. At 162 pounds, the 6’3 golfer’s withering physique was an outward expression of the severe anxiety he had been wrestling with for years and keeping bottled up inside. The two-time Masters champion feared he was dying of a terminal disease, reminded of his late father who passed away from throat cancer going from 190 pounds to 92 pounds in less than year.

“Golf was killing me. I was letting my position on the money list, world rankings, and Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup standing eat at my soul,” he writes in the opening chapter of Up and Down.

Reflecting upon the lowest point of his life when he was overwhelmed by negative thoughts and debilitating anxiety in the process of putting together the book was a cathartic experience for Bubba Watson. 

“It’s weird to think about it because now I feel like I’m in a good spot. Tomorrow I could be in a bad spot, I don’t know yet. Going back and looking at it, I think ‘how was I there, how did I get there,’” Watson says.

Opening up and talking about his mental health struggles, beginning with his wife, his closest friends and his management team kickstarted the recovery process for him. 

“Then I felt why not share it with the world and try to help people in my situation,” Watson says.

Coping mechanisms that have worked well for Watson include everything from cutting out chocolate cake, making an effort to get more sleep, working out at least three times a week and making sure he stays hydrated. Taking ten seconds to just breath in moments when he feels his stress levels spike up has also been a positive psychological balm.

“So, there are some key things that I’ve tried to put into practice now, and my wife is there to help me ensure I’m doing these things and we’ve been able to manage it. It’s going to come up at some point in my life when I get off track, but hopefully we can manage it now and stop it before I get to that dark place again,” Watson adds.

It’s been three years since the shot shaping maestro’s last tour win but things are looking up for Bubba. Late last year Watson signed a ‘lifetime’ contract extension with Ping whose clubs he’s been swinging since his Divot Derby playing days when he wore Payne Stewart-esque knickers. This past February he became an investor and brand ambassador in apparel brand Linksoul.

“I love John Ashworth and what he’s produced over the years since the late 1980s so for me it was a no-brainer. It wasn’t about me getting money up front, it was about longevity and I like to partner with people I can be with for a long, long time. They make cool but more grown-up clothes and so it was an easy fit for me. I just had to make sure they agreed,” Watson says of the deal.

Bubba’s a longtime booster of the Pensacola area, which he says is home to the whitest sand beaches in the world. Watson’s business interests in the Westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle include a driving range, candy and scoop shop, and a Chevy dealership in nearby Milton. He is also a part-owner of the Blue Wahoos, the Double-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. 

Investing in businesses with which he has a deep personal connection has been the Bubba way for years so if Tanglewood Golf and Country Club, the course he grew up honing his hook shot prowess on ever came on the market, he’d have to seriously consider making an offer.

“I would love to one day but the thing about that is I’m not really good at how to mow grass and how to find somebody that knows how to upkeep a golf course,” Watson jokes.

“If that came available, I would love to sit down and really focus on it and see if there is something that I could do because that is my home, that’s where I started. Thinking about it, if I can, I’d make sure that that place is always up and running because it is near and dear to my heart,” he adds.

Watson has teased in the past that a mayoral run may be in the cards down the line but he’d first have to get his family aboard and even then, the pursuit of the office would probably wait till he’s no longer swinging a club professionally.

“Yes, I’ve always thought of running. Considering is one thing, actually putting my name is another thing,” Watson says.

“My wife is vetoing that. You’d think she’s mayor because she is vetoing that right away. The more I’ve dug into it, the more I’ve learned, just dealing with the city of Pensacola now with some of the things we do—our driving range is on airport property—there are a lot of things that I didn’t know about that I’m learning about. So, it’d be years down the road and it’d be a lot of work if I did make that decision,” he adds.

For right now Watson is on the lookout for a new caddie after amicably parting ways with Ted Scott who had been on his bag for all 12 PGA Tour wins. The game plan is simply to try out multiple candidates and see who gels best.

“That’s what you have to do. If you play well one week you may go ‘well, I guess this is my guy’ but then you learn something about them the next week, and you go ‘this isn’t our guy,’ Watson says.