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Watson talks Presidents Cup picks, military inspiration

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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – A trumpet playing “Taps,” the mournful sound echoing in the still mountain air. The servicewoman singing “God Bless America.” Even the flyover that you could only hear as the air was filled with fog.

Everything about Wednesday’s ceremony to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 bombing of the World Trade Center 18 years ago brought tears to Bubba Watson’s eyes. And he was clearly reflective minutes later during a press conference on the eve of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.

“What an honor and privilege to be able to pay respects in a small way,” Watson said. “My dad was drafted in the military, was in Vietnam. When I think about the police, the fire and rescue, and the military itself, what a tremendous asset for us to have as United States citizens.

“For me, I tear up every time. Every time I hear the national anthem, ‘God bless America,’ I tear up and cry. It’s for joy, just thankfulness, and how blessed we are.”

Small wonder, then, that one of the first things Watson discussed on Thursday was his desire to represent the U.S. at the Presidents Cup for the third time in December. Watson was No. 20 in the standings when the automatic eight were solidified at the end of the BMW Championship.

Woods still has four Captain’s Picks to complete the team for Royal Melbourne. So, Watson is playing four times in the fall — the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, ZOZO Championship and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, as well as at The Greenbrier, in hopes of impressing the U.S. captain.

“The reason I’m wanting to play some this fall is because I’m trying to make that Presidents Cup team with the … picks,” Watson said. “That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m going to throw in Vegas, throw in Japan and China as well, so looking forward to those and hopefully get a call. … Hopefully get a call or note in my locker that says that I’ve got picked.”

As recently as March at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, Watson had talked about how much he wanted to be an assistant captain like he was at last year’s Ryder Cup. He seemed re-energized on Thursday, though, and clearly focused on Australia after a relatively lackluster season – by his standards — when he posted just three top-10 finishes and nothing higher than a tie for fourth.

“I’m trying to still make these teams,” Watson said. “Still trying to play good golf and win. So, I learned a lot about myself last year. Started training a little bit this off-season. … So, for me, I’m trying to get better.”

Watson was at the podium when Wednesday’s ceremony and flyover took place. He remembers getting a call from his mother minutes after the first plane crashed into the twin towers at 8:46 a.m., telling her son, who was then a student at the University of Georgia, to turn on the news.

“She said they’re talking about Atlanta is next and you’re not that far from Atlanta,” recalled Watson, wryly noting that his mother had caught him skipping class in the process.

“I remember it vividly looking at that. When I turned the news on obviously, I saw the second plane. I mean, we were living a nightmare dream.”

Watson, whose father Gerry was a Green Beret, had made it a point to attend the Salute to the Military banquet the previous night. His foundation supports people in need with a particular emphasis on children, young adults and the military.

Gerry Watson didn’t talk much about his experiences in Vietnam. His son feels his father was protecting him as well as respecting the men and women he served with in southeast Asia.

“The only thing I do know is that he had a scar right here,” Watson said, pointing under his right eye. “So, they pulled shrapnel out of his face and then he had shrapnel in his back by his back kidney here, so when he passed away, we took it out.

“It was really small. It deteriorated in his body. So, we still have that little piece of shrapnel, which is obviously fragments have a grenade. Even though he got somewhat injured, he kept fighting and protecting as much as he could.”

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