When Naomi Osaka pulled out of the Roland Garros tennis tournament at the end of May, any connection to the US Open golf course would have seemed tenuous at best.
Yet of all the sports stars polled over the following days about Osaka’s situation, few were better placed to give their opinion than Bubba Watson, who started the third round on Saturday at Torrey Pines with just two headshots.
Osaka said she has suffered from depression since winning her first slam title at the US Open in 2018, when she lifted the trophy in a chorus of boos after opponent Serena Williams received a match penalty, and talking to the media triggered anxiety.
“I get very nervous and find it stressful to always try to commit and give [the media] the best possible answers, ”Osaka wrote in a social media statement on May 31.
Two days later, two-time Masters champion Watson was able to sympathize by giving a virtual press conference ahead of the memorial tournament in Muirfield Village.
“I can sit here and write you a whole story,” Watson said. “I’m sitting in a room right now with cameras watching me. I don’t like closed places. I don’t like elevators. I don’t like heights.
“I mean, there are a lot of things that trigger a lot of my mental issues.”
Watson has spoken openly about having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and anxiety issues and was keen to offer his advice to compatriot Matthew Wolff when he returns to action at Torrey Pines after a hiatus two months.
“I was just sharing my own issues and struggles,” Watson said of their workout. “Not that he wanted to hear it. He didn’t ask for my opinion.
“I wasted money, I saved money, I bought businesses, I sold businesses. I lost 20, 30 pounds because of the struggles. I said, ‘I did everything you can think of, I did everything. So I said, ‘so if you ever want advice give me a call.
“It’s probably more useful to me than to him just because I can hear it again in my own head, me saying it out loud.”
It may have also helped Wolff, who got 70 and 68 balls in his first appearance since being disqualified from the Masters, to have a better shot than Watson on four under par, one shot behind the leaders. Richard Bland and Russell Henley.
Wolff held the 54-hole lead at the September US Open at Winged Foot before finishing second behind Bryson DeChambeau, but on his last visit to Torrey Pines – for the January Farmers Insurance Open – he shot 78 in the first turn before withdrawing, citing a hand injury.
A month later, he shot an 83 opening in the WGC-Workday Championship before retiring, as he was set to miss the cut at Augusta National in April before signing an incorrect scoreboard.
The 22-year-old opted to skip last month’s US PGA Championship and chose to return to the US Open, believing that shooting a 78 in golf’s toughest major wouldn’t get as much attention.
“It’s about dealing with fear,” Wolff said after his second round.
“What’s probably the worst thing that can happen?” Could I miss the cup? It really is the worst thing that can happen, but your brain is making you think you’ve hit a bad rap and the world is over or you’re going to get physically injured or something like that.
“I admit that even after playing well yesterday, I still felt like I wanted to stay in bed. I wanted to be like where I was comfortable, not in the spotlight.
“It’s great to come here and play well, but I think more importantly that I get closer to being more comfortable, happy and enjoying it.
“I feel like I did a really good job to take advantage of it, but I still have a long way to go to keep a cool head. I’ll probably be working on the same thing I’m currently working on for the rest of my career.