AUGUSTA – The Georgia feel to it all was slow in coming. There might have been a couple of audible, “Go Bubbas” at the first tee, but certainly no barking, no “Go Dogs,” not even a single Bobby Petrino joke.
But as Sunday at the Masters unfolded, it was easy to wonder, “Wait, are those azaleas or hedges?” Which way to Broad Street? Where’s the Varsity? Augusta National seemed to morph into Sanford Stadium. The galleries were covered in Callaway and FootJoy, not Bulldogs football jerseys, but there were two guys who gave an Athens feel to things when one turned to his friend shortly after Bubba Watson teed off and said: “OK, now. We’ve got five hours. I figure it’s about two to three beers an hour.”
Think Uga in a green jacket.
A Bulldog named Bubba just won the Masters. Who knew Georgia-South Africa could stir the emotions like Georgia-Auburn?
VIDEO: Bubba Watson won the 2012 Masters, beating Louis Oosthuizen on the second playoff hole. CineSport’s Brian Clark and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jeff Schultz discuss the dramatic day.
Gerry “Bubba” Watson, who neither looks like a Bubba (thin body, Hollywood hair), dresses like a Bubba (all white, no gravy stains) nor acts like a Bubba (cries “at everything,” by his own admission), won the world’s most famous golf tournament Sunday.
Watson occasionally melted down as a young player. “He was one of those guys who would get nervous down the stretch — he finished second and third a lot,” Georgia golf coach Chris Haack said.
But that was awhile back, Haack said, and Watson certainly didn’t look the part at Augusta. After a bogey on No. 12, the potential start to an unraveling, Watson strung together four consecutive birdies on the back nine to pull even with Louis Oosthuizen, the former British Open champion, at 10 under par. He forced a sudden death playoff. Later, on the second overtime hole, he hit a miraculous second shot off the pine straw that screamed out of the woods and bounced comfortably onto the green on Augusta’s 495-yard par-4.
Then, he finished the drill. Of course.
Watson donned his green jacket. He accepted congratulations from club chairman Billy Payne, another who bleeds red and black and must have resisted yelling, “Sic ‘em!” Then Watson addressed the overwhelming gallery: “First of, all to all my fans, you’ve got to say, ‘Go Dogs.’”
Somehow, Butler Cabin didn’t spontaneously combust.
Watson called the day “a dream.” He called his back nine experience “a blur.” Given the past few weeks, it’s understandable.
A few months ago, Watson paid $110,000 at an auto auction to purchase a 1969 Dodge Charger known as the “General Lee,” the car made famous in the television show the “Dukes of Hazzard.” Watson must have figured at the time that little could top that. We can now imagine him driving that sucker down Magnolia Lane.
But the car wasn’t the reason for Watson’s tears. Two weeks ago, he and his wife, Angie, moved forward in their adoption of a young boy, Caleb. Watson, who teared up and hugged everybody in sight after sinking the winning putt for the tournament – his caddie, Ted Scott; his mother, Molly (he lost his father to cancer two years ago); other golfers, family members; and friends who found their way onto the green – choked up when asked about the win.
He mentioned Angie and Caleb, who were back in a rented home at Isleworth in Florida, waiting for the adoption to be finalized.
“Our first date, Angie told me we would have to adopt because she can’t have kids,” Watson said. “Four years ago we started that process. We got turned down a couple of times. But on Tuesday at Bay Hill, we got the word and on Wednesday we made the decision. I almost pulled out of Bay Hill.”
He stayed and finished fourth. He went far beyond that in the Masters.
It looked like Oosthuizen’s day. On the par-5 second hole, he had fantasy-like, “albatross” – a double-eagle-2 — that launched him into the lead at 10-under. But Watson had a near-miracle himself on the second playoff hole. His first shot went right into the pine straw, to the far right of the fairway. He couldn’t see the pin 164 yards away, so he used the “parted” gallery as his sight line. With a wedge, he then whacked it to within 10 feet of the pin. From there, he safely two-putted for par and the win after Oosthuizen had bogeyed the hole.
As for the shot out of the woods, “Bubba” golf was on full display.
“I had that crazy shot in my head, and here I am in a green jacket,” Watson said. “I play like Seve [Ballesteros], like Phil Mickelson, who goes for it. I always attack. I don’t go for center greens. I want to hit the incredible shot.”
Back in Athens, Haack wasn’t surprised.
“I was watching with Bubba’s [assistant coach] coach Jim Douglas, and when that ball went into the wood, we said right away, ‘Bubba’s got this shot.’ That was right in his wheelhouse.”
Nor was he surprised Watson didn’t crack.
“[Analyst] Nick Faldo was saying Bubba twitches and he has happy feet — well, he’s always been like that,” Haack said. “He was in a playoff at the PGA a few years ago. He was under enormous pressure at the Ryder Cup. He’s in his comfort zone now.”
A perfect Bulldog ending.
Next week is Georgia’s spring football game. Imagine that — a golfer upstaged it.
By Jeff Schultz