The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 2, 2014

A home court advantage

Bubba Watson looking for Classic success in back yard

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Bubba Watson came to The Greenbrier Classic in 2013 — on the advice of some of his friends like Webb Simpson and Scott Stallings — knowing nothing about the course or what to expect among the mountains of West Virginia.

A year later, the 2012 and 2014 Masters champion is preparing for his second Greenbrier Classic by sleeping in his own bed and looking out his window at the Greenbrier Valley.

“I’ve been living here for about a month off and on,” said Watson, who recently completed a home at The Greenbrier Sporting Club and now sports The Greenbrier’s logo on his golf bag at every tournament. “It’s nice being here, nice being able to sleep in my own bed. I’m excited about the week.

“Even if I didn’t have a house here, it would be great to win here. But having a house here, it would be really good to pull off a victory and rub it in (Greenbrier owner Jim Justice’s) face.”

Watson should know the course well. Not only has he played it — probably five times in the last two weeks, he said — he’s pulled fish out of the waters of Howard’s Creek, which runs through the Old White TPC, taken his 2-year-old son, Caleb, through the property on horseback and even received some advice from Justice, who may have played the course as many times as anybody not named Sam Snead.

“I’ve been able to see it and have been able to familiarize myself with it, just trying to see what shots I want to play,” said Watson. “That doesn’t mean when the pressure is on and the conditions are right I’ll play good. That just means I have a better chance of seeing the course a few more times.

“I’ve had some good practice here, so hopefully I can turn that into making some putts and having some good scores.”

In the end, though, Watson believes the advantage of playing in what is literally his own back yard is minimal.

“It’s just like every golf tournament and every course we go to — hit the fairway, hit the green, make a putt,” he said. “It’s pretty simple, it’s just hard.”

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Watson hasn’t been in his new home long enough to really entrench himself as a member of the community, but he doesn’t plan on hiding in the mountains like a bear in hibernation for long. He hopes on eventually becoming a full-fledged West Virginian.

“I like it so far,” he said. “So hopefully everybody likes me.”

And just as he’s done in his home state of Florida and at the University of Georgia, where he played college golf, Watson plans on giving back.

“We’ve been throwing around some ideas about how we can help the youth around here, so that’s big on my heart, knowing that (wife Angie and I) adopted,” said Watson. “Hopefully we can inspire outside of The Greenbrier and around West Virginia.”

Until then, Greenbrier County residents can get to know Watson by checking him out on the billboard on Interstate-64, where he’s pictured alongside NBA legend Jerry West in a Greenbrier Sporting Club advertisement that reads, “Live where legends live.”

“It’s pretty funny,” said Watson. “You’re talking about Jerry West. You’re talking about ’The Logo.’ You’re talking about a legend in his sport, and then there’s me.

“Basically, it’s like I won the lotto, and they put my picture up next to his. I should be on the other side of the street facing the other way where nobody sees it.

“But it’s very exciting. It’s an honor to be up there and be considered a part of West Virginia and The Greenbrier.”

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A side perk for Watson in residing in Greenbrier County is getting to see his favorite NFL football team up close and personal when the New Orleans Saints hold training camp at their new facility at The Greenbrier July 24 through Aug. 13.

“The Saints are the closest football team to my house (in Bagdad Fla.),” Watson explained. “So for me to be here where the Saints are going to practice is pretty neat. The football season is really the tough stretch of our year, so I don’t get to many games. I’m looking forward to handing out with those guys.”

Watson said he knows head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, who play a lot of golf, and he plans on trying to get them to take a break on the links during their stay.

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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