Break out Bubbaly

CURTIS COMPTON / MCT Bubba Watson watches tee shot on ninth hole of final round of the Masters yesterday.
CURTIS COMPTON / MCT Bubba Watson watches tee shot on ninth hole of final round of the Masters yesterday.
Posted: April 15, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. - You win one Masters and you're Craig Stadler. Or maybe Ian Woosnam. And there's nothing wrong with that. Ask the guys who don't have a green jacket. Or a lifetime seat at the Champions Dinner.

You get another, you put yourself in different company. Of the 16 previous players with multiple wins at Augusta National, half have a pair. Among them are Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros. Pretty fair group. Now you can add one Bubba Watson, who yesterday bagged his second in 3 years.

On a postcard afternoon where it seemed like everyone except Tiger and Phil were in contention, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth was trying to become the youngest to ever win the season's first major. And the second first-timer to win it since 1935. And the youngest to win any major since 1931. Other than that . . . Jonas Blixt was trying to become the first Swede to win a men's major. Fred Couples (54), the 1992 champ, was trying to become the oldest to win a grand-slam event. As was Miguel Angel Jimenez (50), who was also out to become the first to get one sporting a ponytail. Adam Scott was trying to become the fourth to repeat here. Thomas Bjorn was looking to become the first Dane to win a major. So did we miss any potential story line?

Instead, it was the 35-year-old Watson - who led by three after 36 holes and was tied with Spieth entering the final 18 - who found a way once again. Despite the fact that he'd been 1-for-7 in his career when holding a 54-hole lead. And as always he did it his way, which explains why he chose to cut a choked-down 6-iron through trees and over water from 180 yards out to the par-5 15th when he was ahead by three, causing CBS analyst David Feherty to question his sanity. Hey, he's Bubba for a reason. Or as he put it, "You know me."

Two years ago, he said he never got this far in his dreams.

Now he's gone one better.

He was down two after seven holes. Then he birdied the next two, while Spieth was making consecutive bogeys, and just like that he was up by a deuce heading to the final nine. A bogey at 10 halved the gap, but by the time he walked off 13 the margin was three. Nobody made a move. So it was enough that he closed with five pars for a 3-under 69 and a 280 total, three less than Augusta rookies Spieth (72) and Blixt (71), who'd finished sixth at the PGA last August in his major debut.

"I don't know," Watson shrugged, when asked how he pulled it off. "I told my caddie [Ted Scott] on 18, 'I don't remember the last few holes. I just remember hanging on.' It was a little bit easier this time."

Two years ago Watson shot 278 and beat Louis Oosthuizen on the second hole of a playoff.

"The first one was almost like I lucked into it," said Watson, who 1-putted 11 times yesterday. "This one was a lot of hard work to get back here. After giving the jacket away last year I kind of wanted it back . . .

"I never loved green so much. To do this a second time is outrageous."

This time, he could enjoy that stroll up 18, where he was met by his wife Angie and their son Caleb, who they adopted just before the 2012 Masters. They shared some tears as he walked off. Then Watson, with Caleb in his arms, high-fived his way around one side of the green and then into the clubhouse.

"It's overwhelming, to be with some of those names," Watson said. "Why me? I'm a small-town guy [from Bagdad, Fla.] named Bubba. That's why I'm always going to cry. I'll probably cry tonight just thinking about it.

"I don't play so everyone can tell me how great I am. I play because I love the game. It's given me everything."

He's an emotional, complicated individual. And an extremely popular victor, especially around these parts.

Watson joins Horton Smith, who won two of the first three tournaments, Jimmy Demaret and Arnold Palmer as those who've won twice in their first six Masters.

Jimenez, who didn't play here last April because of an injury, shot 71 to get fourth at 284. His playing partner, Rickie Fowler (final-round 73), who's half his age, tied with Matt Kuchar (74), the only contender ranked in the world top 10, at 286.

Two-time champ Bernhard Langer, at 56, tied five others for eighth at 288 with a 69. It's his best finish since 2004. He missed six straight cuts from 2006-2012.

There's a lot of ways this one could have gone. In the end, the moment belonged to a familiar face. The same guy who was just happy to get his PGA Tour card and maybe carve out a career. Now he's a guy who insists he's just blessed to be a good husband and father. Days like this are simply a bonus, although maybe by now they shouldn't be so unexpected any more.

"It's a drive and a will," Watson explained. "You have to play to your swing, what you know, whatever makes you feel comfortable in your own game.

"I try to do what it takes. I don't care if it's pretty. Lucky for me I've done it a couple of times around this place."

It looks amazingly comfortable on him.


On Twitter: @mikekerndn

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