Watch out world. Bubba Watson officially has grown up.
In a lot of ways, Watson’s magical Sunday at Augusta National is just another step in his evolution.
It wasn’t too long ago when wife Angie and caddie Ted Scott sat down with Watson to have a heart-to-heart conversation about his actions on the golf course. He was petulant, he was emotional, he was annoying and, frankly, he wasn’t as good as he thought he was. The meeting was an intervention of sorts. Scott threatened to leave the bag.
“I was going the wrong way,” Watson says. “I was so wrapped up in what everybody else was doing.”
Since that day eight years ago, Watson has tried to be a better person. The plan hasn’t always worked to perfection, but he’s well rounded more today than at any point in his life.
There are many reasons why.
First, he’s older. At 33, Watson has been around the block more than he was in 2003, when he first arrived as an arrogant kid on the PGA Tour.
Second, he’s dealt with issues that have made him more responsible, made him stronger in his Christian faith.
The first curveball life threw at him was 18 months ago when his father Gerry passed away after a nasty bout with throat cancer. Gerry Watson was the reason why Bubba played golf. He was his biggest critic and his biggest fan. The emotion that poured from Bubba’s face after his first PGA Tour victory – the 2010 Travelers Championship – was because he knew his father was in failing health.
Shortly after his father’s death, Angie was diagnosed with having an abnormally sized pituitary gland, a situation that is not a problem now, but was a scare at the time.
Watson won twice on the PGA Tour in 2011 (Farmers Insurance Open and Zurich Classic) and established himself as an American star. But there was still something missing.
Bubba and Angie had always wanted a child but Angie told Bubba on their first date a decade ago that they’d have to adopt if they wanted their dream to become reality.
They started the adoption process four years ago but never got serious about it until this past winter. They were turned down multiple times, the last time coming on Monday of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. But a day later the phone rang again; this time it was good news. A family liked the Watson’s profile and wanted them to adopt their newborn son.
Instead of withdrawing from Bay Hill, Watson still played – and, amazingly, tied for fourth place – then drove with Angie to South Florida the following Monday morning to meet baby Caleb for the first time.
“We’ve had a few disappointments over the last six months,” Angie Watson said. “It’s shocking to me, Bubba’s strength throughout the season to play as well as he has because we’ve had so many ups and downs throughout this process.”
Watson had a hiccup a month ago at the WGC-Cadillac Championship when he held a comfortable lead heading into the final round at Doral but shot 74 to lose to Justin Rose. Many questioned Watson’s ability to deal with pressure down the stretch while in contention.
Two weeks after that blunder, though, Watson became father to Caleb, who is now 6-weeks-old.
“He’s grown a lot and he’s not done,” said Johan Elliott, a member of Watson’s management team. “Having Caleb has been a calming factor that’s for sure.”
Angie and Caleb were not at Augusta National Sunday to support Bubba. The family believed that Caleb’s young life had been disrupted enough and that he didn’t need the stress of flying to Georgia to see his daddy.
So Bubba went it alone, using his pink driver and swashbuckling style to shoot a final-round 68 and get into a playoff with 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. Watson bogeyed the historic 12th hole in regulation and then responded with a flurry of birdies on Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 16.
Rickie Fowler, Aaron Baddeley and Ben Crane came out to watch the playoff and support Watson because they knew his family was not there.
Watson kept his emotions in check and pulled off one of the most imaginative shots in major championship history on the second playoff hole when he couldn’t see the green, but hooked a wedge shot off pine needles from 155 yards to 10 feet. An easy two-putt sealed the green jacket when Oosthuizen couldn’t convert par.
“Being so talented and so emotional in one package and to be able to pull that together is insane,” Elliott said.
What’s insane is that Watson is now a Masters champion, something he never dreamed as a kid because he felt it was unattainable. But it has now happened, and Watson’s evolution is a major reason why he’s been more successful on the golf course.
“It’s a slow process,” Watson says about his attitude and his game. “Been working hard. It’s gotten better. Last year was a little better and this year is better. Hopefully the years to come it gets better and better.”
So far, so good.
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