THE list of players who have won the Masters three or more times reads like a veritable who’s who of professional golf. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Sam Snead, Jimmy Demaret, Gary Player, Nick Faldo and Phil Mickelson have all slipped on the famous green jacket on three or more occasions.
So it is no wonder that Gerry Lester “Bubba” Watson admits it would be “pretty wild and crazy” for a self-taught left-hander from Bagdad, Florida, to have the chance to add his name to that illustrious list.
“I think it’s the who’s who that have won twice,” said Watson, who defeated Louis Oosthuizen in a play-off in 2012 and claimed his second green jacket 12 months ago. “Who cares about three times, let’s just talk about twice. But no, to win it three times would be remarkable. I never thought I would win it twice, so I can’t believe that we are talking about it, three times.
“It would be crazy to do that, and some of the names that I’m already with and some of the names that I could be with if I did win it a third time would be unheard of and something I’ve never dreamed of because, you know, I’m from a small town, a guy named Bubba, never had a lesson. I just see it as what a dream it is to play on the PGA Tour, somehow now got two Masters jackets. Pretty wild and pretty crazy stuff.”
Wild and crazy is also an apt description of Watson’s playing style, which seemingly never involves hitting a straight shot when a fade or draw can do just as well, along with massive drives dispatched down the fairway from a pink club. Both aspects have played a large part in Watson’s Masters triumphs. There was the hooked wedge from the trees on the 10th in the play-off against Oosthuizen and last year it was a drive which flew 360 yards on the par-five 13th to leave a wedge into the green to set up a simple birdie.
Given how well the course suits his style of play, the sight of Watson slipping on the green jacket time and time again does not sound so wild and crazy after all.
“If you look at the golf course, it’s lighter rough and the pine straw, which is better than rough,” Watson said. “And then you look at the trees. It’s not like there are a lot of branches down below. There are gaps that you can pull off shots, kind of like I pulled off on 15 last year under the limbs over the water. And then it’s Augusta National, so my juices start flowing. Sometimes I’ve been able to pull off some of the shots that you shouldn’t be able to pull off just because of my energy level and I get pumped up and I become a kid again. Even though I’m 36, I still feel like a kid when I get to Augusta.”
Despite that childlike enthusiasm, Watson believes he is better equipped to handle everything that comes with being defending champion when he makes that famous drive down Magnolia Lane.
The 36-year-old was somewhat overwhelmed by it all in 2013 and although he made the cut, he finished a distant joint 50th as Adam Scott defeated Angel Cabrera in a play-off.
“This year what I’m looking forward to is I know my routine, I know what I want to do and I know what I need to do,” Watson said. “And now I know what the Champions Dinner is all about and now I know what the head of the table feels like.
“So hopefully this time I’ll make the cut first and have a better chance on the weekend. Hopefully just knowing that I’m not as nervous, not as skittish, not as anxious to get to see all these great champions in this Champions Dinner.”
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