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No coach, no problem for Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson is one of the rare golfers who can excel without a coach and win on talent alone. While his competitors worry about swing mechanics, Watson focuses on his mentality and lets the swing take care of itself. Chris Condon/PGA Tour

DORAL, Fla. -- For the first time in 2016, all of the top names in golf are together in the same tournament, including Bubba Watson, who isn't much interested in any discussions about a Big Four or any other type of catchy narrative.

When Watson won the Northern Trust Open two weeks ago, he moved back into the fourth spot in the world rankings behind Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, bumping Rickie Fowler back a rung and rendering mute a nice storyline that had four 20-somethings at the top of the game.

Never mind that Watson might be every bit as worthy.

He's got those two green jackets, for example. And he's won two tournaments since December -- more than those other players. And let's face it: Who, aside from perhaps Adam Scott, looks better with the Masters looming in a few weeks?

"It doesn't bother me at all," Watson said Tuesday at Trump National Doral, where the WGC-Cadillac Championship begins Thursday with 47 of the top 50 players in the world entered. "I'm not worried about the big three, big four, big five."

Watson, 37, frets about other things, sometimes to his own detriment, but he remains the ultimate free spirit in a game that produces a lot of copycats.

He got himself into trouble a few weeks ago by speaking honestly about his dislike for changes made to TPC Scottsdale. Watson most likely didn't word his response properly -- he said he was only playing for his sponsors -- but his original message, taken as a whole, was not unlike what others had said about the course.

The criticism from that stung -- even if it might have been unfair -- to the point that Watson felt compelled to bring it up, unprompted, in his post-round news conference after winning TWO weeks later in Los Angeles.

"The physical game is the easy part for me. And the mental part -- it's not that I'm focused on, don't three-putt ... Just things kind of pop into my head and I just kind of run with them. So I'm trying to get things to quit popping into my head." Bubba Watson

He also talked that day about his social anxiety issues, which undoubtedly have something to do with another unique aspect of his golf: the lack of a teacher.

This subject came up again Tuesday, and it is a fascinating one in an age of swing gurus who dot PGA Tour driving ranges from one end to the other. Spieth, Day, McIlroy and Fowler, for example, all work with a swing coach, and it is not uncommon for those instructors to be with them on the road. (In Day's case, his caddie, Col Swatton, serves in that role, too.)

But Watson has never had one. Says he never will.

"I've never felt Iike I've had a bad stretch of golf," said Watson, who turned pro in 2002, joined the PGA Tour in 2006 and has never ranked outside the top 60 in FedEx Cup points or money earned. "I've had bad rounds of golf, but I can look at it deep down in my heart and see what really caused it. At this level, we're all good enough ball-strikers, we can all manufacture scores.

"So it's simple little fixes in my head. I've never had that issue and I've played on the PGA Tour and never lost my card. I've never had to rethink my abilities and rework my abilities."

Watson said he sits down with his caddie, Ted Scott, at the end of each year and discusses what he could do better. But it's not swing technique or technical jargon. One of the areas they realized he could improve upon was putting, so Watson has put in more work in that area.

As far as a potential coach at any point, ever? It doesn't appear to be part of the way Watson operates.

"The physical game is the easy part for me," he said. "And the mental part -- it's not that I'm focused on, don't three-putt. I'm focused on, oh there's a good movie out there, let's go watch that, while I'm over the putt from 8 feet to make a birdie. Just things kind of pop into my head and I just kind of run with them. So I'm trying to get things to quit popping into my head."

Watson referenced movie lines from "Caddyshack" and "Billy Madison" but said it could be about food, or new cars coming out. "They always grab my attention instead of focusing," he said. "When you're out here for five hours in the heat trying to grind, you lose focus sometimes. I'm trying to get better at it."

Perhaps these struggles help explain his brilliance with a golf club. Watson is as fun to watch as anyone, hitting draws and fades as well as bombing long tee shots. He sees things through trees the others don't, but sometimes is bothered when he can't visualize a shot.

As for others who work with swing coaches, Watson understands completely. He mentioned his friend Hunter Mahan, who works with Sean Foley. "He likes to make sure his swing path is in the right spot, so he works with his coach," Watson said.

Of course, Watson's mental struggles sometimes lead to bouts of volatility, a scene that has played out more than once on golf courses across the world. He's given an earful to Scott -- who has learned it is just a venting process -- and sometimes bemoans his fate more than some would like to see or hear.

Watson keeps working on all of it. As far as his swing? That's the easy part.