Bubba Watson on dealing with anxiety: ‘I thought I was going to die’

On many sleepless nights, Bubba Watson thought he was going to die.
 
Alone in the darkness with only his thoughts to keep him company as he dealt with crippling anxiety that kept him up at night, Watson contemplated his mortality and often thought back to the passing of his father and namesake, Gerry, a former Green Beret who battled post-traumatic stress disorder and died in 2010 after a long battle with cancer. Not even wonderful memories of his wife, Angie, and their two adopted children, Caleb and Dakota, gave him comfort enough to sleep.

 
His days weren’t easy, either.
 
“I had a lot of noise in my head,” Watson told Golfweek in a recent phone interview about some of his darkest moments some two years ago. “I thought I was going to die. It was rough.”
 
So, too, were the three times in recent years he was rushed to the hospital thinking his life was going to end from a heart attack. Or when he just didn’t feel like playing and wanted to withdraw from a tournament. Or the time 18 months ago when he tipped the scale at 162 pounds, some 30-35 pounds below his normal weight, because the fear raging through his body made eating nearly impossible.
 
“When I started losing the weight and was getting skinny, it gave me flashbacks to my dad,” Watson said. “So that gave me more mental issues, more anxiety.
 
“So I quit weighing myself.”
 
The Memorial
Bubba Watson talks with his caddie Ted Scott on the ninth hole during the first round of the 2020 Memorial Tournament. Photo by Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports
 
But the severe anxiety attacks persisted and his mind kept racing and he kept suffering. As did his work inside the ropes. Once ranked No. 2 in the world, the two-time Masters champion with 12 PGA Tour titles fell to No. 65 earlier this year. He has rarely contended since his most recent win in the 2018 Travelers Championship.
 
During this troubling time, Watson, who turns 42 on Nov. 5, sought professional help and was in frequent contact with doctors. He’s the first to tell you he has issues, plenty of them, and he’ll readily admit he’s on the jittery side and self-diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. He jokes about his zany sense of humor and his quirky ways, being a left-hander and all with a pink driver that sends missiles into the horizon. Remember the “Golf Boys” videos? The Instagram video posts of numerous trick shots, including blasting a golf ball through a watermelon? How he talked of the joy of playing video games hours on end?
 
But the big kid from the Florida Panhandle town of Bagdad, who played on the same Milton High School golf team as fellow PGA Tour winners Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum, never let on to the serious nature of what he has dealt with and continues to cope with. He was reluctant to fully discuss his issues during numerous interviews, especially when his weight loss was clearly visible and his game was in tatters.
 
But Watson has emerged on the other side, saying he’s feeling as good as he has in a very long time. And helping him battle the anxiety is talking about it.
 
“I’ve sought help in many different ways, many different forms, trying to overcome it,” Watson said. “It really comes down to me being nuts. I’m trying to make light of it because using humor helps. But it’s all in my head. It’s all anxiety.
 
“I think more people are speaking out about mental issues and I want to be one of them. I think it’s the only way to get through it. We’re designed to talk to people, to air it out, and get help. I am old enough now to realize my life is a waste if I don’t share, if I don’t try to get better myself so I can help other people.”
 
Over the years, Watson has often said he needs help, that he fears many things, including flying, crowded spaces, the spotlight, and now COVID-19. He worries about being a good father, good husband, good Christian, a good friend. He continues to stress about living life as a celebrity, about being a two-time Masters champion, about what is said and written about him in newspapers and on social media, although he admits his actions at times have made him an easy target.
 
“The Bible says life isn’t easy. Life just builds,” he said. “People writing articles that make me look bad. People saying bad things about me. That’s built in my head, that I’m not a good person, I’m not a good golfer, I’m not the husband I need to be, I’m not the friend I need to be.
 
“So I put my own expectations on myself and it keeps building and building. And sometimes you go to a breaking point. Luckily for me, my breaking point has never driven me to drinking or drugs.”
 
Waste Mangement Phoenix Open 2020
Bubba Watson plays his third shot from a bunker on the 14th hole during the second round of the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Photo by Rob Schumacher/The Republic via USA TODAY NETWORK
 
When confronted with breaking points, Watson instead turned to family, faith and friends. His wife is his voice of reason. And his tight inner circle provides a strong support group, including his longtime caddie, Ted Scott.
 
“I’ve always known he’s had fears and worries,” Scott said. “But when he started losing all that weight, I knew that wasn’t good. Especially because he kept going to the doctor and the doctors were telling him he was fine. They kept running tests. When you get to that stage, something had to be going on with his brain. And he wasn’t thinking correctly, and that was causing him stress.
 
“But Bubba has a tremendous faith in God and a tremendous support group, two things that help you no matter what comes down the pike. His speaking out is empowering. When I read my Bible, it talks about keeping sin in the dark and that’s where it manifests. It’s like mold, it grows in the dark. But the sunlight can crush that stuff, so any time you have issues, and we all have them, when you can express it to someone who cares, that’s empowering.
 
“He may be able to help others, to tell them there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
 
Watson also finds that breathing exercises and cbdMD concentrated herbal extracts help him find that light. Watson recently began working with a breathing coach and developed exercises that help calm his mind and heart rate.
 
And about 18 months ago he began taking products produced by cbdMD, the only American CBD company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The products help with common aches and pains and the oil tinctures he uses to calm his mind and help him sleep. The products are THC free, but Watson nonetheless sent urine samples every week for six months to a WADA lab. Every test came back THC free.
 
“That gave me more anxiety, worrying about the tests,” Watson said. “The oil is not a prescribed medication but it helps me.”
 
While Watson and his golf game are in a much better state these days, he continues to take measures to temper potential anxiety attacks. He was severely tested at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York in September.
 
The course – with ankle-high rough, firm, thin fairways and fast greens – teed up angst. As did Hurricane Sally, which began pummeling Watson’s hometown of Pensacola, Florida, the day before the U.S. Open began. The storm caused an estimated $30 million worth of damage to the Pensacola area. Watson’s property was not damaged; generators kept the electricity flowing and the Watsons opened their doors to those in need.
 
“My anxiety built up, worrying about the U.S. Open and dealing with that course, and worrying about my family, my neighbors, my hometown. I wanted to help,” Watson said. “I called my wife and she said everything was going to be OK. She calmed me down.”
 
Watson tied for 31st at the U.S. Open and has since posted two of his best results since golf returned in June – a tie for seventh in the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek and a tie for fourth in the Zozo Championship at Sherwood.
 
Zozo Championship
Bubba Watson plays his shot from the second tee during the second round of the 2020 Zozo Championship @ Sherwood on October 23, 2020 in Thousand Oaks, California. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
 
“I’ve noticed a difference in the way he is handling stress on the course, especially at the U.S. Open,” Scott said. “At Shadow Creek and at Sherwood, he seemed to be in a great place to start competing again. Bubba obviously hasn’t lost the physical ability to compete. He’s pretty much of a freak. It’s all a matter of confidence, the willingness to put your ego on the line. He has to be comfortable in the spotlight and the last few weeks he has done that.
 
“I think he’s in a very good position going to Augusta.”
 
Watson will tell you he’s in a very good position going forward.
 
“It takes time to get to that low level and it takes time to get out of that low level,” he said. “I’ve probably been in the low level three different stages as a professional golfer but I’ve gotten out of it. Now, hopefully, I catch those moments when I could spiral back down again, before my anxiety levels crank up.
 
“I have to try and stay in balance. And right now I’m at an all-time high.”
 
 
By Steve DiMeglio
 
This article originally appeared on GolfWeek.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5% Discount
No prize
Next time
Almost!
10% Discount
Month Membership
No Prize
No luck today
Almost!
15% Discount
No prize
Unlucky
FEELING LUCKY? Spin to Win!

Spin the Mystery Wheel to Unlock Golf Discounts, Win FREE Merchandise & Even Win a One Month FREE Clubhouse Membership

  • One Time Use per Customer
  • Must Enter Email to Spin
  • Coupons Not Valid in Combination with Any Other Discounts