Watson distracted after winning first green jacket

78TH MASTERS I AUGUSTA NATIONAL


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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- By his own admission, Bubba Watson didn't do a good job defending the green jacket after his first Masters victory two years ago.

He didn't win again in 2012 after beating Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff at Augusta National Golf Club and was 0 for 21 in 2013 when he finished 37th in the FedEx Cup race.

He went 40 tournaments between victories and didn't even make the Presidents Cup team.

Watson attributed his poor form to a Masters hangover -- not being able to deal with all the attention and demands suddenly placed on him as a major champion.

But it was more than that.

"After getting the green jacket the first time, winning it, you know, it's overwhelming," Watson said.

"A guy named Bubba from a small town, born in Pensacola, Fla., raised in Bagdad, [Fla.,] it's crazy to think that you've won.

"At the same time, adopting my son the week before threw a wrench in there, as well. Learning to be a dad and then learning to have a green jacket with you is two big things to adjust to. So it just took me a little time."

Watson, though, worked out a schedule with his wife, Angie, a former Georgia basketball player, that allowed him time to practice and still be around the house with son, Caleb.

And not just hit balls. Practice at a level that would allow him to become a major champion again.

It didn't take long.

"If it's 30 minutes, if it's an hour, just get a quick practice in and then come back and be a dad and be a husband," Watson said. "So we figured out our schedule and how to travel better and everything, and here we are today, a couple wins later.

"It took me a year or so to get adjusted that I'm not really that good, I've got to keep practicing. Finally I got adjusted to it and here we are, another green jacket after a year, two years."

There will be those who will dispute Watson's assertion that he's not really that good, especially after the way he won the 78th Masters Sunday for the second time in three years and became the 17th multiple champion in tournament history.

For four days, he was very good, posting a tournament score of 8-under 280 and winning by three shots.

In the final round, he was tremendous.

He led the field in driving distance, was fourth in driving accuracy and eighth in greens in regulation.

What's more, he showed a steely resolve every time Jordan Spieth made a spectacular shot by countering with one of his own.

It happened at the par-3 fourth when Spieth holed a shot from the green-side bunker for birdie and Watson calmly answered by stroking his 5-foot putt for birdie.

When Spieth one-upped Watson at the par-3 sixth by stuffing his tee shot within 2½ feet for birdie, all Watson did was stand over his slippery 10-footer from the back fringe and make it for birdie.

Spieth made two of the best shots of the day -- his holed bunker shot might have been the best of the tournament -- but Watson never allowed him to gain any ground in each instance.

"Very big," Watson said of the birdie exchange. "You know, I hit a great shot in there [on 4] and then he hit a better bunker shot. I stepped up there and made the putt.

"And then I hit a great shot on 6 -- well, I thought I hit a great shot. And then Jordan hit a lot better.

"So that was huge that I tied him on 6 before he tapped in."

Watson already has won twice this season after winning the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles in February, and there is no reason to think he won't win more.

His ability to hit the ball long and high and carve shots through narrow openings make him a threat on any course.

After playing with him for the first two rounds, Luke Donald said Watson was able to handle Augusta National's firm, fast greens because he spins the ball so much.

While other players watched their shots bounce and chase off the putting surfaces, Watson's approaches landed like butterflies on a stick of butter.

Of course, it helps when he hits much shorter shots into the greens than most of the players in the field. For proof, witness a sand wedge from 144 yards at the par-3 13th after a 365-yard drive.

Just don't call Watson an elite player.

"No, no," Watson said, scoffing at the suggestion. "I just got lucky enough to have two green jackets. I'm just trying to keep my tour card every year, and if people say that I'm a good player, that's great. But I'm not. I'm not trying to play golf for a living. 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.

"I play golf because I love it. I love the game."

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.


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