‘Small-town guy’ wins Masters

WHY ME?:The self-taught Bubba Watson, who has never had a coach, joined the ranks of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros as a two-time winner

Reuters, AUGUSTA, Georgia

Tue, Apr 15, 2014 - Page 20

Right after claiming his second Masters in three years by the comfortable margin of three strokes, Bubba Watson sounded like he needed to pinch himself to believe it.

“A guy named ‘Bubba’ from a small town, born in Pensacola, Florida, raised in Bagdad [Florida] — it’s crazy to think that you’ve won,” the long-hitting left-hander said at the champion’s news conference on Sunday. “A small-town guy named ‘Bubba’ now has two green jackets. It’s pretty wild.”

Watson likes to keep it simple and winning the Augusta National in 2012 rocked his world to such an extent that it took him nearly two years to win again on the PGA Tour. So there is no telling how joining the ranks of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros as a dual Masters winner will affect him.

“After getting the green jacket the first time, [in] 2012, winning it, you know, it’s overwhelming,” said the 35-year-old Watson, who wears his emotions on his sleeve and is easily moved to tears.

That first major triumph came a week after Watson and his wife, Angie, adopted their first child, Caleb.

“Learning to be a dad and then learning to have a green jacket with you is two big things to adjust to,” Watson said. “So it just took me a little time. It took me a year or so to get adjusted. I’m not really that good at that.”

It took nearly another year to get back in the winner’s circle at the Riviera Country Club two months ago, but Watson said that “finally, I got adjusted to it and here we are, another green jacket.”

The turning point for Watson on Sunday came on a pair of two-stroke swings between him and playing partner Jordan Spieth at the eighth and ninth holes that turned a two-shot deficit into a two-shot lead at the turn.

“It was lucky for me today that nobody really made putts coming down the stretch,” he said about the lack of a charge by any of his rivals on the back nine. “So I didn’t have to make putts myself.”

After the emotional Watson cried as he hugged his caddy, Ted Scott, after the final putt, he scooped up Caleb as he waddled toward the green to again sob during an embrace, but this time with his wife.

Watson, a self-taught player who has never had a coach or taken a lesson, said he did not consider himself an elite golfer, just a man blessed to be able to do what he loves.

“I’m not trying to play golf for everybody to tell me how great I am or I’m one of the greats of the game,” he said. “I play golf because I love it. The game has brought me everything that I’ve ever owned in my life. My parents taught me values through the game of golf. It brought me so much closer to my mom and dad. I’ve got a lot of friends, I’ve traveled the world because of this game and that’s really why I play it, because I love it. Every day it’s different.”

Watson plays by feel and his unorthodox approach was on full display at the par-five 15th when he held a three-shot lead.

“I’ve always done it my way,” said Watson, who bends the ball to the right or left and keeps himself engaged by creating challenges for himself on the course.

For example, when Watson hit his slicing tee shot into the pine straw off the left side of the fairway with a stand of trees in his way to the green, instead of punching out safely, he flew his approach in between an opening in the trees and over the water guarding the green on his way to a par.

“You have to play your swing. You have to play what you know,” he said. “Sometimes I hit a big slice off the tee to get it in play. Sometimes I hit a big draw with an iron. Just whatever makes you feel comfortable.”

Watson shed no tears at his press conference, but said he expected to have another good cry once his achievement sinks in.

“Why Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Florida? Why is he winning? I just always ask the question, why? Why me?” the world No. 12 said. “That’s why I’m always going to cry. I’ll probably cry again tonight sometime just thinking about it.”