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'Bubba golf' brings Watson Masters glory

In winning the Masters, Watson insists the fame that will inevitably follow would not change him

Bubba Watson in the 2012 Masters Golf Tournament
Image Credit: Reuters
Bubba Watson of the US hits his tee shot on the fourth hole during final round play in the 2012 Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.

Augusta: In Masters winner Bubba Watson, Americans finally have another golfer they can root for with a passion.

Watson's victory at Augusta National on Sunday silenced, for a while, the talk of mechanics, golfing "gurus", the obsession over Tiger Woods and showed that a grown-up kid who loves the game and plays on instinct can still succeed.

"My caddie has always called it Bubba golf. I just play the game, the game that I love," he said. "Truthfully, it's like Seve Ballesteros played. He hit shots that were unbelievable. Phil Mickelson hits the shot, he goes for it".

The 33-year-old from Florida's panhandle, whose only golfing instruction came from his father, beat South African Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff at Augusta National on Sunday to take his place in the illustrous list of green jacket owners.

Left-hander Watson birdied four holes in a row on the back nine to push himself into the playoff and on the second extra hole drove into the trees before recovering with a magnificent hook shot to the green.

It was a gamble that was classic Watson and which illustrated perfectly his approach to the game.

"The first time I ever worked with my caddie, six years ago, I told him, 'If I have a swing, I've got a shot'. So I'm used to the woods. I'm used to the rough," Watson recalled.

"And we were walking down here and I said, 'We were here already. We hit it close here already today', because I was in those trees.

"I got there. I saw it was a perfect draw, a perfect hook. And he said, 'If you've got a swing, you've got a shot'."

Watson broke down in tears on the green after his victory and that too was no surprise - he has always worn his heart on his sleeve.

At times over the years Watson's emotions have got the better of him as he over-reacted to disappointments, let nerves get out of control and failed to find the mental strength needed to succeed.

"A few years ago, I was living the wrong way," he admitted. "Every golf shot was controlling how mad I got, how I was on the golf course.

"But off the golf course, outside the ropes, as soon as I signed my scorecard, I didn't care if I shot 90 or 60, I was the fun, goofing-around little kid, joking around with everybody.

"But on the golf course...I was so wrapped up in what everybody else was doing. Why is he beating me? why is this? why is that? Why can't I make putts? Why can't I make the cut?"

Watson said his wife, a former professional basketball player, his close friends and his caddie Ted Scott had all played a role in changing his attitude.

"My caddie said that he was going to walk away from me, even though he knew I was a good player and he knew that he could make some money off of me," he said. "He said he was going to walk away because he didn't want to see a good friend go through that struggle.

"It hit home. It's a slow process. I've been working hard and this year it's gotten better.
Last year was a little better and this year is better, and hopefully the years to come it gets better and better."

In winning the Masters, Watson has shown he has conquered those demons but he insisted that the fame that will inevitably follow would not change him.

"I don't play the game for fame," he said. "I don't try to win tournaments for fame. I don't do any of that. It's just me. I'm just Bubba. I goof around. I joke around.

"I'm not ready for fame. I don't really want to be famous or anything like that. I just want to be me and play golf." 


Profile: Bubba Watson

A self-taught player who learned the game by hitting wiffle balls around his house after being encouraged by his late father Gerry. He became an All-American at Faulkner State in Alabama. Attended the University of Georgia where he helped the Bulldogs to the 2000 SEC title.
Graduated to the PGA Tour in 2006 after finishing 21st on the 2005 Nationwide Tour money list.

In the 2007 US Open at Oakmont, in his second major championship start, he tied for fifth after trailing the eventual champion, Angel Cabrera, by one shot after 36 holes.

Won his first PGA Tour title at the 2010 Travelers Championship, an emotional win he dedicated to his father who had been diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2009 and died one year later.

Carded four sub-par rounds in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits where he was beaten by Germany’s Martin Kaymer on the third playoff hole. His play there earned him a place on the US Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor in Wales.

Enjoyed a career-best season on the 2011 PGA Tour, winning the Farmers Insurance Open and New Orleans Classic, making 19 cuts and missing only two.

Reached the semi-finals of the 2011 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he lost to Kaymer, and qualified for his first Presidents Cup that year in Australia, where he posted a 3-2-0 record for the triumphant US team.

A prodigious hitter of the golf ball who uses a pink-shafted driver with a pink head, he placed second at the elite WGC-Cadillac Championship last month, then finished fourth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational before winning his first major title at the 2012 Masters on his next PGA Tour start.