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Interview with Bubba Watson; Interview with Rory McIlroy; Interview with Guan Tianlang

Aired April 4, 2013 - 05:30:00   ET


BUBBA WATSON, MASTERS CHAMPION, 2012: This month, the Masters -- we're the defending champion.

SHANE O'DONOGHUE, HOST: Bubba, Rory and a 14-year-old get set for Augusta.


Welcome to the Alamo in Texas, scene of one of the most famous last stands in history.

On this month's program, the remarkable Bubba Watson on his green jacket shootout, parenthood and shaping shots.


WATSON: Making a decision was the easiest part. Now, pulling it off was the hard part.

O'DONOGHUE: We're here with Rory McElroy, as he makes a last minute switch to tune-up for Augusta.

RORY MCELROY, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I know what I'm doing and I know what I'm working on on the course and, you know, no one knows, you know, what I'm trying to do more than me.


O'DONOGHUE: And we travel to Southern China to meet the new boy wonder, 14-year-old Guan Tianlang, as he prepares to make Masters history.

Every now and again, golf gives us a shot that seems to distill the very essence of a player Seve's approach from the car park at Litem, Jack's birdie put on the seventeenth at Augusta.

Well, in last year's Masters playoff, Bubba Watson clinched victory with an approach that really summed up his unique character and skill.


WATSON: To me, it was just about seeing that shot, making the decision was the easiest part, now pulling it off was the hard part. It was made for me, which is the perfect draw. My caddy just kind of stepped away, told me the numbers. I told him what I was going to do and he just stepped away and let me create it. He always says, use the golf course like a canvas and I just paint a picture.

I had about 165 yards, 52 degree and poked it about 40 yards, roughly.

The celebration was about -- was about me respecting my parents, the hard work that -- the blood, sweat and tears that they put in for me to be there. The emotion, the crying, the weeping was all about, you know, losing my dad two years before, my mom sitting there, you know, 42 years she was -- she was with my dad and he wasn't there anymore.

And then seeing three professionals, Aaron Bradley, Ben Crane and Rickie Fowler and their families there, watching me. My manager was there and my trainer was there. So when you -- all these people that have supported me throughout the years, all those people that have brought me to where I am, I mean that's what it was for, is it was for them. I mean it was just how much they -- they meant to me and how much they put into it to get me where I was.

O'DONOGHUE (on camera): So, Bubba, life has changed since that incredible day.

WATSON: Yes, you know, before -- before the Masters, we adopted our child, Caleb. He just turned it -- it's been almost a year now. So he just turned one. We got him at a month old, so it's -- we just had his birthday party.

And then being a Masters champion is a little overwhelming, too. But, you know, going home I -- I won the Masters, didn't get home until 3:30 in the morning. And by 6:00 in the morning, I was feeding Caleb. I only spent three days with him before I left to go to Augusta.

So for me to get back there, the Masters' win was great, but -- but having a child, being a family was the best part. I mean I'd give up Masters, any tournament, I'd give up my job to have a -- have a child, for us to have to go through the adoption process and know that we couldn't have our own child and we, it's a blessing. It was a dream.

And so for us, I mean that's the -- that's the biggest thrill of the year last year, even though we won the Masters. And, you know, the biggest thrill is having our son.

O'DONOGHUE: And we're going to have a little bit of fun. We're going to see Bubba playing and executing a variety of different shots with different clubs but from the same point.

What iron have you got there?

WATSON: I've got an eight iron...

O'DONOGHUE: Eight iron from 189.

WATSON: The first thing I see is that the left side is wide open. So you want to start it from the left and try to draw it in. For me, being left-handed is a draw for me.

I try to land it in the center of the green and hopefully it (INAUDIBLE) the hole.

O'DONOGHUE: Right. Can we try this with another club then, perhaps?

WATSON: Yes, what -- what...

O'DONOGHUE: The 189.

WATSON: What do you want, like a five iron or something?


WATSON: Is that good?

O'DONOGHUE: Why not?



What I'm going to do with a five iron is just take a little off, choke up a little bit. So I'm going to choke up a little bit, open the club face up so it goes a little bit higher and a little softer, a little shorter. Um, and this one, because it's -- if you draw, it's going to go too far.

Perfect. And what you're going to do there is just the same thing I did on my eight iron, but a softer swing because it's too much club. A softer swing, just staying out of trouble.

O'DONOGHUE: Could you play a hook shot there with the five iron just to show us how you do that...

WATSON: Yes, for sure.

O'DONOGHUE: -- from here?

How far out left are you going to aim this?

WATSON: You tell me.

How far do you want me to aim it out?

You want me to hit it with a wedge and show you?

O'DONOGHUE: From 189 yards.

WATSON: Yes, nine iron. The nine iron is good. I'm going to show them that I can get it there and hook it.

O'DONOGHUE: OK, all I can say to you is do 40 yards left and hook it back or...

WATSON: Yes, so...

O'DONOGHUE: -- you could go even further.

WATSON: Yes, you see these trees?


WATSON: The dark green ones?


WATSON: Like the two little trunks just on that side of the (INAUDIBLE)?

I'll aim it right at those.


WATSON: And I'm going to hook it all the way back to the pin. And I could hook it all in the water if you really wanted me to, but I'll try to hit a good shot.

O'DONOGHUE: All right.

WATSON: So a nine iron, 189, a little -- with a little draw.



WATSON: That's pretty good.

Any questions, anybody?

I've got answers but you all need some questions.

You know the one shot we haven't talked about though is the cut, though.


WATSON: I mean we should aim one over the water and cut it back, shouldn't we?

O'DONOGHUE: Why not?


Let me get that six iron.

O'DONOGHUE: You like either shape, though, don't you?

I mean...

WATSON: Yes, I -- there's not a shape I'm not worried about.


WATSON: It's more fun, you know, hitting shots. Obviously, if I was -- my go-to shot would be a cut because it's going to -- it's going to land softer. It's not going to run into trouble.

So well, I aim it at, um, you see the tower or the white house?


WATSON: Well, we're going to aim it at that white pole almost in the water...


WATSON: -- and cut it back to the fence.

Very simple, huh?

With a cut shot, if you look at my divots, you know, the cut shot was coming from -- obviously, from the left to the right. And then my draws were all coming from right to left and getting the ball to start on that line and then -- then the club faces open. I'll leave it open at impact on the cut and then I close it at impact on the draw so it creates the spin and -- and hopefully the right shot.

O'DONOGHUE: Bubba has been moving this ball in every sort of direction, right-left, left-right, in quite extreme fashion, as well. So let's get a handle on the way he's been shaping these shots and bring in Justin from Trackman just to give us an indication on the numbers...

JUSTIN PADJEN, TRACKMAN: Pretty impressive.

O'DONOGHUE: -- the statistical analysis.

PADJEN: Pretty impressive. I mean if we look at, in particular, the nine iron that you're hitting, I mean you were moving that ball 50 to 60 yards. So I mean if it ended up 50, 60 yards left of your target, it wouldn't have curved back. I mean that's extremely impressive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bubba is also going to be hitting the charts, I have no doubt, and raising a lot of money for charity with Golf Boys. You've brought out another record.

WATSON: Yes, we did. You know, it was -- golfers all have (INAUDIBLE) to raise money for charity. So for us, we wanted to bring a different light to the game of golf. A lot of people say golf is boring, um, slow, boring. And so for us, we wanted to bring a -- make a boy band with -- with top players.

And so for us, we come out there and try to raise charity dollars with a song, make fun of ourselves, wear some funny outfits and then we had a blast doing it.

And for me, like the part of my song where Bowa (ph) to Bubba, button up, it's all about me buttoning my top button.


WATSON: Hunter is like mountain man because he was always has the beard. And so we all put on the fake beards and try to look like Hunter.


WATSON: Ben Crane is, you know, because his last name is Crane, so he looks like a bird.


O'DONOGHUE: Is there an album in the offing, is there?

WATSON: You know, we -- we -- it's -- the hard part is these tournaments keep getting in the way of our band. And so for us, we can only do like one a year.

O'DONOGHUE: Yes, right. OK.


O'DONOGHUE: Well, it's been an absolute pleasure with Bubba Watson, the defending champion at Augusta National.

The very best of luck in the upcoming matches, my friend.

WATSON: Thank you very much.

Thanks for having me.

O'DONOGHUE: 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson.

Still to come on LIVING GOLF, Rory McIlroy on why Haiti had to wait.


RORY MCILROY, U.S. OPEN CHAMPION 2011, PGA CHAMPION 2010: I thought it was -- it was the best thing to do to get ready for the Masters is to be a little more competitive (INAUDIBLE).


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF and the Alamo in Texas, where Davy Crockett and his men fought in vain against vastly superior Mexican forces back in the 1800s.

Now, no one expected Rory McIlroy to be playing golf just up the road from here, until a few days ago.


O'DONOGHUE (voice-over): McIlroy was intending this week to be in Haiti in his role as a UNICEF ambassador. Instead, he decided at the last minute to come to San Antonio and get some more competitive golf in before the first Major of the year.

(on camera): So when did you decide to play here?

RORY MCILROY: Decided basically after I played my second run in Houston last week. (INAUDIBLE) mentioned it to me and then I, you know, I just thought -- I didn't really think about it much. And then I thought about it a little bit over lunch and -- and, you know, came up but I mean I -- I felt like it was a good idea. It sort of -- it took me a little bit of time to think about it. But I thought it was the best thing to do this, to get ready for the Masters, just to get a little more competitive golf.

O'DONOGHUE: Briefly on the schedule, I mean you can never really get the perfect schedule. You've got to get lucky some weeks and whatever.

But what went into the -- you know, the thought process behind the start of this season?

MCILROY: Yes, I guess I -- I got quite tired last year. I got quite tired toward the end the last year. And I felt like I just needed a bit of a rest. So I played Abu Dhabi and then took four weeks off, thinking that that was sort of like I'll play one tournament in my prolonged off season. And then, you know, I'll start -- start in earnest in the -- in the US.

You know, in hindsight it would have been maybe good to play one more in the Middle East, maybe one here -- more over here somewhere, just to -- to get a bit more competitive golf. But I feel like my game is coming into shape at the right time and four more runs this week is -- is going to be a great leap into the Masters.

And then after that, there's a -- there's a busy stretch.

O'DONOGHUE: These are the famous clubs. So we met you in Abu Dhabi when it was all announced.


O'DONOGHUE: A settling in period, I presume.


O'DONOGHUE: Everything is cruising now?

MCILROY: Yes, everything is pretty good. I mean nothing is -- there's been a couple of changes since Abu Dhabi. So basically everything is the same. The wedges and the irons are the same. I actually just put a new lob wedge in the bag this week. You know, I'll sort of break it in this week and it will be -- it will be nice and ready for Augusta next week.

O'DONOGHUE: Do you feel happier, as well, now that you've kind of settled in because obviously it was a -- a strange start to the year after such incredible success last year?

MCILROY: Yes, I mean there was a lot of hype at the start of the year with, obviously, the switch to Nike coming off the back of such a great year last year.

And it's nice now that everything has just sort of settled down a little bit and I can just focus on my game and focus on -- on the task at hand, which is trying to, you know, play a good golf in the golf tournament.

So, it's nice that this is a -- it's an -- it's a bit of a quieter time for me, and, you know, I can concentrate on what I need to.

O'DONOGHUE: You've been working with Michael, your full-time coach, and also Dave Stockton, obviously on the parting bud (ph).


O'DONOGHUE: Are you done with that now ahead of the first Major?

MCILROY: Pretty much. I mean, you know, before I decided to come here to San Antonio, me and Michael had planned to spend a week with me in Palm Beach. He's got the family over there. So -- but I thought, you know, I don't really need him this week. I just -- I will need to go and play golf.

And, you know, he can't do that for me. So, you know, I said just go spend the week with the family, enjoy yourself and, you know, I'll go to San Antonio.

So, and, yes, and I thought (INAUDIBLE) from last week in Houston, too. And, you know, I'll see them. We'll both be at the Masters, but more as...


MCILROY: Exactly.


MCILROY: If anything...


MCILROY: -- happens to go wrong then -- then they're there. But, you know, as I said, I feel, you know, comfortable with my game, you know, going into this week. And obviously into the Masters next week.

O'DONOGHUE: Briefly with regard to the -- the Masters and Augusta, it's obviously, you know, a cherished place for all the golfers. But there are certain holes that have a -- have a magical quality about them. I mean there's plenty more of them at Augusta than most other courses.

But for you, what would be one of your favorite holes?

MCILROY: I think there's a lot. I mean everyone, you know, thinks of Augusta and they think of (INAUDIBLE) 11, 12, 13. For me, 13 is my favorite hole in the course. You know, I love the T shot. You know, I love the second shot. I could empty 200 balls on that fairway and just hit shots into that green all day. It's a -- it's -- it's such a nice backdrop with the azaleas and everything.

So, yes, that's probably my favorite hole. But there are so many great holes at Augusta. I mean it's, you know, it's sort of a shame to just pinpoint a couple of them because...


MCILROY: -- because altogether, they're so good.

O'DONOGHUE: Do you ever take it for granted, do you think -- I mean you went there as a teenager, you were in the top 10 in the world the first time you made your debut there, you know, to have a -- all the experience that you have now, I mean what's -- what's it like?

What does it mean to you, going down Magnolia Lane?

MCILROY: It's still the same...


MCILROY: Yes, I mean, OK, I might not be quite the same as the first time I went down, but you still get a special feeling and a special excitement whenever you drive down Magnolia Lane and you get there, you know, for the first time, um, the week of the Masters. You know, there's just a -- there's just a different atmosphere than anything else in golf. And, you know, it's something that we cherish. It's something that we -- if you're lucky enough only to experience once a year and, you know, you want to make the most of it.

O'DONOGHUE: You do keep in touch with what's being said and what's being written, though. And there's obviously scrutiny all the time, especially when you get to the top of the rankings and stuff like that.

How do you block it out?

Or do you continue to read it and analyze it and then just...

MCILROY: No, you don't...


O'DONOGHUE: Compartmentalize it?

MCILROY: Yes. No, I mean I -- I know what I'm doing and I know what I'm working on on the course. And, you know, no one knows, you know, what I'm trying to do more than me. So, you know, there's -- for me, there's no point in reading it. Of course, you see some things sometimes, but, you know, you try to just block it out and just have faith in what you're doing and believe that what you're doing are the right things and, you know, sooner or later, it will -- it will come good for you.

And, you know, I feel like it's -- it's starting to come good for me now.

O'DONOGHUE: (INAUDIBLE) working out, because I mean it's something that you've embraced and obviously Caroline has been an influ -- influential with regard to her fitness regime, because she needs to be super fit for her job.

But I mean how much of a change has it made to you, do you think?

MCILROY: I think it's more of a lifestyle than anything else. You know, you just can't go in the gym and think that, you know, you do a bit in the gym and it's going to make you stronger and -- I think it's a whole lifestyle...


MCILROY: -- just getting healthier in general, in terms of, you know, going in the gym, eating healthier, you know, stretching and just the whole thing.


MCILROY: You know, I've really embraced it and I feel like it's helped me. I think I've improved in a golf -- as a golfer because of it. But I think just my overall general well being has, you know, has improved because of that, too.

O'DONOGHUE: Just to finish, Tiger has had to win three tournaments to knock you off the top spot in the world rankings. He's back at number one. You know, he's so much experienced at that level and with that ranking. But I'm sure it's Majors that are all that is on his mind.

MCILROY: Yes, for sure. I mean he's on 14 and he wants to get to 19, I guess. But he's played great golf this year. You know, he's had -- he's had three wins, as you say. And, you know, he's played very consistently.

And I mean it would come. And you could see last year that he was very, very close and, you know, he still -- he won three times last year, as well.


MCILROY: So, you know, he's -- he's playing very well and, you know, he's been cutting very well, which is a -- a big key. And, you know, if he cuts like that for -- for the rest of the season, he's going to be -- he's going to be difficult to beat.

O'DONOGHUE: Well, hopefully, we'll see a showdown at Augusta National a little bit.

MCILROY: It would be nice, certainly exciting.

O'DONOGHUE: Rory, thanks, as ever, for all your time.

MCILROY: Thank you.


MCILROY: No problem.

O'DONOGHUE: Still to come, the boy about to take on the world's elite.


O'DONOGHUE: Welcome back to LIVING GOLF at the historic Alamo. Now, at least one piece of golfing history will be made in Augusta this year, as the 14-year-old Guan Tianlang of China becomes the youngest ever player to compete in the Masters. Fourteen.

We met up with him at home in Guangdong Province in Southern China as he prepared to travel to the biggest tournament of his short life.


GUAN TIANLANG: I started playing golf at about four years old. At first, I found it really fun to play. Gradually, I started to play better and I felt that I could improve.

Both my mom and dad influenced me because they both played golf back then.

GUAN HANWEN, TIANLANG'S FATHER: When we played, we were just practicing but he had a goal in his mind. For example, when he saw a 50- yard sign, he could keep practicing for one hour just to hit the same target. He really wanted to hit it. He wouldn't lay down the club until he hit it.

LIU HONGYU, TIANLANG'S MOTHER: He started competing in tournaments at five years old.

TIGER WOODS: (INAUDIBLE) swing the shot, everything. He was -- he was pretty impressive.

HONGYU: Mainly in and around Guangdong, Province, where we could drive. We went to the U.S. when he was six years old to play in the Junior World Golf Championship in 2005.

He was very happy traveling to places to compete and getting to see the many friends he'd made at the tournaments.

TIANLANG: Normally on a school day, I start just after 7:00 a.m. and finish school at about 4:00 or 5:00 p.m.. On a school day, I practice for two hours and more than half a day on weekends.

HONGYU: We would take his school work with him to the course and other places. When he is tired from playing golf, we will let him read his books during the break. He's adjusting quite well.

His life is definitely different from other kids. We would try to let him play with his friends when possible, let him have more opportunities to have a normal childhood.

TIANLANG: I like playing many other sports, such as basketball. The kid that played basketball today is a very good friend of mine.

The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand was the biggest tournament I've won so far and it was quite tense. I knew what I should be doing on the final hole. I wasn't nervous with the last putt. I just followed my normal routine.

HANWEN: He played so well in that tournament. It is encouraging to young golfers in China and for us, as well. It makes us realize that golf is a suitable sport for the Chinese. There will be more famous players from China and they'll be from this younger generation.

For a while now, I've been working on my physical strength. I've been playing a bit more than before, preparing in every area.

HANWEN: My son's advantage over other players is that he doesn't overthink things too much. His only concern is how to perform better.

TIANLANG: My biggest dream is to win four Majors in a year.

O'DONOGHUE: The ridiculously precocious Guan Tianlang.

Well, that's it for this edition of LIVING GOLF.

Don't forget, all our reports are online and you can keep across what we're up to on Twitter.

But for now, from the Alamo here in Texas, where Davy Crockett and his men fought for the last time, thanks for watching.