Watson Gets His Inspiration From The King


Reigning Masters champion takes cues from Palmer, eager to return to Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard

Masters champion Bubba Watson teamed in December with equipment maker Ping to donate $250,000 to the Phoenix Children's Hospital for use in the construction of Arizona's first pediatric gait lab. The money was raised as part of a fundraising campaign, called the "Bubba & Friends Drive to a Million." It was a unique campaign that included Watson's iconic pink driver. But for the idea on where to donate some of those charity dollars Watson drew from the inspiration another icon, Arnold Palmer.

"Watching Arnold Palmer and what he does for the hospital there in Orlando really inspired me," said Watson, who has become a popular player with his power, creativity and his heart-on-his-sleeves emotions, which he showed when he won at Augusta National Golf Club last April. "I gave some money back to the Children's Hospital in Phoenix. We also did something with a Medical Center in Kenya. Doing those things turned out to be something fun but also very meaningful for me, especially now that (wife) Angie and I have a child. They are things that I learned just watching him. Seeing what Arnold and other greats in the game do after they've stopped playing golf, they never stop trying to do things to help others. It shows all of us younger guys playing what we should aspire to both on and off the course."

Watson is far from finished learning from The King. That's why he is looking forward to returning to the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida, for the upcoming 35th edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. Returning to the Championship Course and seeing Palmer again are high on the list of priorities for the reigning Masters champion, who in the past year bought a house in Orlando.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard is scheduled for March 18-24. Watson doesn't really care when it is or how close to home he'll be when he tees it up at Palmer's Bay Hill Club. He promises to be there.

"It's a pleasure to play in his tournament. It's one that I can say I never want to miss," Watson said. "As long as they hold that tournament I'll play because I love that course and I love the atmosphere. Hey, I get to sleep in my own bed now (during tournament week). I guess that would be an advantage. But if I lived halfway around the world I'd show up."

Palmer is the reason for that, he said.

"It's special to play there. It's special to be there and be around Arnold and talk to him a bit," said Watson, 34, a native of Bagdad, Florida, who has won four times on the PGA TOUR. "You learn something every time you have that opportunity. You know, you can ask him anything. You ask him questions and he'll take the time to listen to you and then to answer, and it's always worthwhile listening to what he tells you."

Watson will be making his eighth start in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. Last year, the long-hitting left-hander posted his second top-10 finish at Bay Hill, shooting 5-under-par 283 for a career-best tie for fourth place. In his next start, he won the Masters Tournament in a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen. Overall, Watson has had mixed results at Bay Hill, with three missed cuts to go along with three finishes inside the top-25. But such inconsistency hardly dampens his enthusiasm for the challenging Championship Course. On the contrary.

"It's tough. And I like tough golf courses," he said. "You look, and the winner isn't going to be 20 under par. It's a challenge all the way through. You have to play golf around there. You especially have to drive it well, which is why I feel pretty good there and why I like to play there."

For tickets to the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard or for more information, visit the tournament website, www.arnoldpalmerinvitational.com, or call the ticket office at 407-876-7774 or toll free at 1-866-764-4843. Proceeds from the tournament benefit Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.