Published April 24, 2012
| Associated Press
Masters champion Bubba Watson returned home from a media tour in New York two weeks ago and hung his green jacket in the closet.
He hasn't seen it since.
Life has been moving at a faster pace than Watson imagined since he hooked that sand wedge off the pine straw, around the trees and onto the 10th green at Augusta National to win a sudden-death playoff over Louis Oosthuizen and capture his first major.
He and his wife, Angie, adopted a month-old boy named Caleb just two weeks before the Masters. His first act as Masters champion was to cradle the boy the next morning and feed him from the bottle, before leaving the next day for his media tour.
As for changing diapers? That's coming along at a slightly slower pace.
"Not that I have a count, but it's only five I've changed," Watson said. "And they've been easy to change."
So much has changed in one month. A new father. A major champion. And two weeks after trying to let it all soak in, it's time for Watson to get back to work. He is defending his title this week in New Orleans at the Zurich Classic.
If not for the responsibility he feels to defend, Watson would much rather be home.
"We figured out we've had him for a month, and I've been home, I think at the most, nine days, maybe eight days," Watson said. "So it's not enough, not a lot. So it's hard leaving him. It was hard leaving today, but that's the change. That's the excitement of waking up every morning, no matter how tired you are, no matter how red your eyes are, just seeing him pretty much do nothing — just lay there."
The win at Augusta isn't a distant memory by any stretch.
His clothing company made up a tiny green jacket for his son, which hangs in the closet next to the real one. There have been diagrams that Watson's caddie posted on Twitter illustrating the 40-yard hook of a shot from trees right of the 10th fairway on the second extra hole, which somehow not only landed on the green, but checked up and settled 15 feet away for a par.
It will live in Masters' lore, just like so many other shots before it — the 6-iron that Phil Mickelson hit between a pair of Georgia pines on the 13th hole in 2010, Tiger Woods' chip-in that made a U-turn on the 16th green and paused at the lip of the cup before falling for birdie in 2005.
Watson might have been the last guy to realize how close his shot was to the flag.
"I was expecting front of the green, maybe center of the green at best, because you never expect it to be that close," he said. "But it came off and I couldn't see it. I ran to the fairway and I heard them roar, and I said, 'Where is it?' ... So I saw it, and I go, 'Whew, I'm pretty good.' That's how it all went down.
"Those shots ... I try to pull off the amazing shot, just like we've seen Mickelson pull off shots, Tiger pull off shots, everybody that's won you've seen pull off shots like that," he said. "It's something you want to try to pull off, and somehow I did."
His win was popular for several reasons, not the least of which was a guy named Bubba whose approach to golf is similar to so many regular folk. His late father taught him how to grip a golf club and the fundamentals of the swing, and Watson took it from there. He has never had a teacher, preferring to figure it out by himself. He was groomed on public courses and would much rather play golf than beat balls on the practice range or stare into a video to figure out his swing.
Five years ago, the Masters champion was Zach Johnson, who described himself as a "normal guy" from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
"I'm just Bubba from Bagdad, Florida," Watson said. "Small town, play golf because I love the game of golf. I play golf because it's fun. ... Everybody can see that my swing is homegrown. That means everybody has a chance to do it. Hard work, dedication, practice and the drive to do it, and not worry about what other people say."
Before thinking about the next majors, though, Watson said he is more geared toward charity.
He started this year with "Bubba & Friends Drive to a Million," in which he is trying to raise $1 million. He wore white all week at the Masters in another campaign that raised some $70,000. Ping is selling a limited edition of his pink driver, which could bring in $450,000. He has organized a "Bubba Bash" in Columbus, Ohio, to raise money for the Bubba and Angie Watson Medical Center in Africa.
"That stuff is more important to me, but right now with this platform that I have of winning the Masters, it's going to give me a better chance to raise good dollars for cancer, for the center in Africa and different things like that," Watson said.
There have been changes typical of any newfound stardom.
Watson said a radio station called him about 40 times the morning after he won the Masters. The first job for Watson's agent, Jens Beck, was to change the cell phone number of him and his wife. And while the last two weeks have been mostly about his new family, it didn't take long to realize he gets to play the Masters the rest of his career, with a few extra privileges as the champion.
"I think there's a new rule where I can take a guest, play Sunday before the Masters," he said. "My wife said that she will be glad to play Sunday before the Masters next year. That's when I realized that every year I get to take a guest. I'll have a bunch of new friends. My cell phone number will be changed many times."