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'Green Jacket' Watson tugs at emotional chords
Bubba Watson remains the most unlikely winner in recent Augusta Masters memory. This year, as the world of golf focuses its sights on Tiger Woods' return, this little-known champion wants to savour the moment for as long as he can
Bubba Watson cried on the final green after his victory in last year's Masters. Speaking at the defending champion's customary news conference last week, Watson was in tears again. Later, asked about that night's traditional champion's dinner, Watson concluded that if he had to speak, "I'll probably cry. "
Bubba redux took many forms at the Augusta National Golf Club, not all of them involving sniffles or sobs. But the phenomenon that is Bubba Watson at the Masters kept finding new legs.
Alongside the 10th hole, scores of fans were making the pilgrimage to a shady spot in the woods right of the hole, pointing and talking reverently as if looking for a landmark at a Civil War battlefield. In this case, the attraction was an unmarked spot where Watson's tee shot came to rest last year before he hooked his ball around the trees and onto the green to win the Masters on the second playoff hole.
Standing in the spot, everyone wanted to see what only Watson visualized. The cavalcade into the woods had some wondering if there ought to be a plaque to mark the site.
Watson did not disagree.
"Who wouldn't want to see a plaque that says Bubba in the middle of the pine straw?" he said. He then added that he would never request such a plaque - unless he did it again this year.
"Then, yes, there should be a plaque, " he said.
Watson has wandered over to the spot a few times in the last few days as well. He took his manager into the woods, where they took pictures. His wife disappeared into the trees and took a picture. Watson played a practice round with Rickie Fowler, who like Watson is one of the Golf Boys of dance video fame.
"But Rickie didn't seem too interested in going over to the spot, " Watson deadpanned.
Other players have moseyed over. Padraig Harrington was seen taking a practice swing, mimicking Watson's near miraculous shot - if right-handed (Watson is left-handed ). And Watson saw two people standing in the woods off the 10th hole. He motioned to them that they were rummaging around in the wrong place.
"I yelled, 'No, that's not the spot, it's a little over there, '" he said. "I was just joking with them, and they saw it was me. Come to find out it was Billy Casper and his son. Kind of funny. "
Casper is the 1970 Masters champion.
So far, everything has caused Watson to recollect and smile - well, almost everything.
Early in the news conference, Watson was asked to name the most interesting thing he had done with his green jacket. Watson replied that as he was preparing for the posttournament green jacket ceremony, he saw an Augusta National member holding one.
"I asked if that was my green jacket, " Watson said. "And I was told, 'Yeah, and you're taking it home. '"
At this point, Watson began to cry. Just before last year's Masters, Watson and his wife, Angie, had adopted a baby boy, Caleb. Last week, after wiping away tears several times, Watson added: "I told him that I was going to go home and wrap Caleb up in it. That's the only thing I did with it. Out of respect, out of honour. I didn't do any of my funny antics that I normally would do. Only thing I did was wrap Caleb up in it. "
If Watson, 34, was being his routinely emotional self, he also was happily enjoying each moment of what could be his last few days as the defending champion. (The Masters would already be into its second round by the time this piece appears. )
He comes to the Masters not playing especially well. He is ranked 42nd in the FedEx Cup standings, with just two top-10 finishes this season. But Watson was in too good a mood to be brought down by the facts of his recent play. "I just look at it as it's a different year - getting older, different conditions, " he said with a smile. "So who knows how I'll play? I could miss the cut;I could win. But if you're a stats guy, you look and say, 'Bubba is not playing as good as last year. '" He added nonetheless that he would love to become the fourth golfer to repeat, something only Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo have done. But first, cognizant that the defending champion is expected to help the new champion into his green jacket, Watson has set an intermediate goal. "I want to make the cut because I don't want to have to sit around for two days to give somebody the green jacket, " he said. But if he makes the cut, he said, anything could happen. He is Bubba Watson, the man who hits near miraculous shots even when seemingly condemned to golf's purgatory. He is restricted only by his imagination. "I can see me pulling it off, " he conceded. "It wouldn't shock me. " But he was practical, too. "I would still cry, " he said. "But it wouldn't shock me. "
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