AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Bubba Watson scooped up his son, hugged his wife and took off down the ropes along the 18th green, high-fiving the patrons at Augusta National.
This was the kind of Bubba-like celebration he would’ve relished two years ago, but it wasn’t possible that Sunday.
Watson and his wife had just adopted their little boy, so the rest of the family stayed at home. The Masters was decided not in front of the clubhouse, but down in the hollow at No. 10, where Watson won a nerve-wracking playoff by whacking a trick shot off the pine straw and around a tree. It ended suddenly, dramatically, without the proper time to commemorate the occasion.
Not a problem this time.
Watson seized the lead from Jordan Spieth with a dramatic two-hole swing before the turn. The last real uneasy moment came at the 13th, where the left-hander launched a slicing tee shot around the trees — nicking a limb or two along the way — to set up an easy two-putt birdie that essentially clinched his victory.
By the time Watson walked up 18, he could relish the cheers, really relish them, and know that a second green jacket was waiting for him at the top of the hill, along with his wife and son.
“This one is a lot different,” Watson said. “The first one for me, it’s almost like I lucked into it. This one was a lot of hard work, dedication, and I got back here. After giving away that jacket last year, I kind of wanted it back.”
Make room in the closet.
Bubba’s going green for a second time.
“It’s overwhelming to win twice,” Watson said. “A small-town guy named Bubba now has two green jackets, it’s pretty wild.”
Maybe so, but this wasn’t the guy who coined the term “Bubba golf” to describe the daring way he played for his first Masters victory in 2012. While the 13th was harrowing, and a shot through the trees on the 15th was a gutsy move, Watson won this major title largely with a booming drives, accurate irons and a steady putter.
He simply overpowered the course and the rest of the field on the way to a three-shot victory over Spieth, the 20-year-old Texan, and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt.
“I was very comfortable,” Watson said. “Playing this way was a lot better … a lot easier coming down the last few holes, especially the last hole, knowing that I had a couple shots to play with.”
Watson’s career slipped into neutral after his 2012 Masters victory. He was busy with his new child, so that took away from his time on the course. He went almost two years without a victory, wasn’t even in the conversation for the 2013 Presidents Cup, and slipped to 44th on the money list last season.
Now, he’s back on track.
“Learning to be a dad and then learning to have a green jacket is two big things to adjust to,” Watson said. “Finally I got adjusted to it, and here we are with another green jacket.”
Spieth was tied with Watson going to the final round and trying to become the youngest major champion since the Depression. He was definitely thinking green, too, when he played the first seven holes at 3 under, holing out from a bunker for one birdie, rolling in a testy downhill putt for another.
“If you had told me that when I woke up this morning,” Spieth said, “I would have thought it would be difficult for me not to win this golf tournament.”
Everything changed at the last two holes before the turn. His inexperience showing, Spieth hit a tepid chip at the eighth and wound up with a three-putt bogey on one of easiest holes on the course. Watson made birdie. All tied. At No. 9, Spieth watched his approach roll off the front of the green, then missed another short putt for his second straight bogey. Watson, meanwhile, curled in a 10-footer for his second straight birdie.
Just like that, Watson’s two-shot deficit was a two-shot lead.
No one was going to catch him.
“He played incredible golf,” Spieth said. “That drive at 13 was incredible. I will never forget it. I thought it was 70 yards left and out of bounds. It was perfect. I’m sure he knew that when he hit it, too.”
“I’m not very smart, but I can tell it hit some trees, because I mean, that’s not the line I really wanted to go on.” Watson said. “I knew it, when it took off, it was cutting a little too much. I knew I hit it really hard. Obviously, when you get a roar on your tee shot, you know it’s pretty good. I could start breathing again once I heard them clapping and roaring.”
They were roaring again when Watson walked up to the 18th green, safely on in two. Two putts later, the celebration could start for real.
A celebration that was two years in the making.
“I’m not trying to play golf for everybody to tell me how great I am or tell me I’m one of the greats of the game,” Watson insisted. “I play golf because I love it. I love the game. I want to grow the game. The game has brought me everything that I’ve ever owned in my life.”
And now, it’s brought him another green jacket.