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Bubba Golf: Imagine This

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | It’s busy in Bubba’s World. From the start, there’s a committee in his head, chattering every moment at an excessively high rate of speed. Bubba hears them but since he doesn’t like to listen to anyone, they’re all wasting their breath.

There are things in Bubba’s World that only he sees. Windows and pathways and curves that no one else could possibly picture come as naturally to him as blinking his eyes.

In Bubba’s World, the spheres have their music but he’s the only one who knows how to listen. He runs on adrenaline and imagination and there’s no one in the game who has more of both than does Bubba Watson.

And now – who would ever have guessed it – in Bubba’s World, you gotta wear a green jacket.

Watson’s playoff victory over Louis Oosthuizen at The Masters for his very first major championship brought a flood of tears on the 10th green at Augusta National, not only from Bubba’s eyes but from those closest to him. His mother, Molly, was the first family member to embrace the new champion. “We didn’t have any words,” Watson said. “We just cried in each other’s arms.”

Also on hand were longtime friends Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane and Aaron Baddeley, who stuck around to see their friend change his life forever. Who wasn’t around was his father, emotionally lost to the family in 2010.

In many ways, Watson is the perfect Masters champion. He hits it stunningly long off the tee and his creativity into Augusta National’s massive, maddening greens fits Watson’s game like the size 42 long that Charl Schwartzel slipped over his slender shoulders.

He’s the modern-day Billy Joe Patton, a man who never saw a shot he couldn’t hit, a pin that he didn’t like. Without question or peer, Watson is simply the owner of the best pair of hands in golf. He can hook it 40 yards, slice it around a corner, hit it as if it’s coming down a chimney and squeeze it quail-high to any part of the green.

But his downfall heretofore has been what goes on between his ears. Even though he made four straight birdies on the back nine Sunday, “I was nervous on every shot and every putt,” he said. “I get so excited and amped up that I really have to try to calm down as much as I can. My caddie (Ted Scott) talks to me about that a lot.”

Watson was an afterthought much of the final round. He started the day at 6 under, three back of 54-hole leader Peter Hanson. He made bogey on the first hole and looked as if he was going where Bubba usually goes on major championship Sunday.

However, he two-putted for birdie on the par-5 13th, the start of four in a row that culminated with a 15-footer at the par-3 16th that tied him for the lead with Oosthuizen. But the window had not yet closed. He drove into the left trees at the par-4 17th and he launched a shot up and over the trees onto the green to assure his par.

In the playoff, he and Oosthuizen narrowly missed birdie putts on the 18th. On the second playoff hole, he hit “a crazy shot I saw in my head,” he said. It was a high, hooking 52-degree wedge from 155 yards from the pine straw in the right trees on the par-4 10th. It curved about 40 yards and started 15 feet off the ground before rising when it got past the trees. It wound up about 10 feet from the hole.

“Pretty easy, actually,” Watson said with a crooked smile. And when Oosthuizen couldn’t get up and down from the front of the green, a simple two-putt sewed up the most famous garment in all of sports.

But that’s not what drives Watson these days. He and his wife, Angie, just adopted a son, Caleb. When Bubba and Angie started dating, she revealed to her beau that she would be unable to have children. Four years ago, they started talking adoption and over the winter, they got serious. Turned down twice, they finally brought home another life-changer.

“I can’t wait to get home,” he said. As he was waiting in back of the 18th green to be presented with the green jacket by defending champion Schwartzel, all he could think of was, “What time is my plane taking off?”

Then, he saw a helicopter in the air and almost nudged Schwartzel, who is a helicopter pilot, to ask what kind of chopper that was. At the green jacket ceremony, for goodness’ sake.

For a man whose attention span is close to that of his newborn son, Watson has an amazing amount of perspective.

“Golf is not my everything,” he said. “If I had lost, I was not going to go home and pout. There’s a tournament next week and you’d have forgotten all about me by then.”

Forget, we won’t. But imagine it, maybe we couldn’t and neither could he.

“I never got this far in my dreams,” he said.

For a few hours in the Georgia pines, it became Bubba’s World and now there are a few more people living in it.


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