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BILL PLASCHKE

Aw, shucks! A small-town Southern Bubba charms the Masters again

Watson, from Bagdad, Fla., shrugs and smiles and uses his Bubba Golf to great effect in winning his second Masters championship in three years.

April 13, 2014|Bill Plaschke
  • Bubba Watson celebrates with wife Angie and son Caleb next to the 18th green after winning the Masters tournament on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club.
Bubba Watson celebrates with wife Angie and son Caleb next to the 18th green… (Andrew Redington / Getty…)

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The winner didn't raise his fists to the sky, he dropped his head to his knees.

The winner didn't shout to the heavens, he wept into the shoulder of his wife.

The winner didn't play precision golf or careful golf or even anything that can be remotely described as textbook golf.

Run a lint brush over those green jackets, put some storm windows on Butler Cabin, the Masters has once again been won with Bubba Golf.

Or, in the joyous, Southern-twanged tones of thousands who lined the 18th fairway at Augusta National early Sunday evening, Bub-baaaa!

Yeah, it was Bubba Watson, again, winning the Masters for the second time in three years, shooting a three-under-par 69 Sunday to finish at eight-under-par 280 and three strokes ahead of kid Jordan Spieth and Sweden's Jonas Blixt.

Yeah, he did it with a mixture of strength and emotion, again, combining nutty long drives with silly approach shots that flew around pines and azaleas and common sense. And, yeah, it was really cool again, this Southern folk hero owning this sweet-tea-dripping place with a shrug and a smile and a conservative refusal to unbutton the top button of that white golf shirt.

"Small-town boy named Bubba now has two green jackets, it's pretty wild,'' he said afterward with a smile, his white visor gone, his messy black hair making him look like an impish child.

A Masters tournament that did not miss the injured Tiger Woods because of a guy named Bubba is also pretty wild. But there he was, strutting down the 18th fairway with a humble wave while thousands clapped and chanted his name, even Spieth joining in the applause. And there he was, after the final putt, picking up his 2-year-son, Caleb, and doing a victory lap, father crying and son giggling as they slapped the sunscreen-soaked hands of fans eager to touch this combination of greatness and common folk.

"For me, it's a dream to be on the PGA Tour, it's a dream to win…. [and] winning the green jacket is a little bit bigger deal," Watson said. "So, yeah, I'm going to cry because why me? Why Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Florida? Why is he winning? So I just always ask the question, why, why me?"

His caddie, Ted Scott, had a pretty succinct answer.

"Freak show," he said.

Scott was talking, of course, about Bubba Golf, which was on full display in the final round, when the 35-year-old Watson fell behind early to energetic Spieth before wearing him down with his good-old-Bubba cool.

"Every single day that I play golf with him or watch him play golf, I just go, how do you do that?'' said Scott.

The round began in sweltering Georgia heat, with the two players tied for the lead, sweat dripping down sunglasses and darkening the backs of polo shirts. Things got even hotter when Watson's playing partner Spieth holed out from the bunker on No. 4 to take a two-stroke lead, and then kept flailing with two more birdies on the sixth and seventh holes.

"You're going, 'C'mon, guy, what's up with this?''' said Scott.

But Watson was up for this. He responded by sinking birdie putts on the fourth and sixth holes to hang within two strokes. Then Spieth made some bad decisions that led to a bogey on the eighth hole while Watson was turning a long drive into another birdie.

Entering the ninth hole, the players were suddenly tied, and the old course came alive as if Tiger were prowling the grounds again. Fans were standing 15 deep and leaping for a look, some shouting "Speeeth!," others shouting "Bubba!'' with the same endearing Southern tones as if they were shouting "Waffle House!''

At this point, not coincidentally, Spieth was overcome by youthful aggressiveness while Watson simply tugged at that loose white shirt and went back to playing basic Bubba Golf.

"I do what it takes to make the score, I don't care how pretty it is, I don't care if it's ugly, I don't care if it's out of the woods, I just want to make a score," Watson said.

Watson hit another booming drive that led to a birdie on the ninth hole, while Spieth was unraveling such that when he missed his close par putt, he took three steps back as if he had just been shoved. Well, he had been. His two-stroke edge had quickly become a two-stroke deficit, and that Bubba grip remained tight for the rest of the round. A day earlier, they had battled to a draw with playful verbal jabs, but when the fight got real, it was no contest.

Said Spieth: "I was nervous … not quite as patient today as I was the first three rounds and holding emotions as well."

Said Watson: "He's a young kid. I mean, everybody presses.''

Fans saw why nobody as young as Spieth has ever won a Masters, and why he would have been the youngest player to win a major championship in 83 years. Fans also saw why Watson's crazy game makes sense, with the ultimate example coming on the 15th hole, when he drove the ball a mile but into the trees. Instead of carefully protecting his lead, he used a six-iron to blast the ball nearly 200 yards through the pines to set up a par that basically clinched the championship.

"I'm like, 'That's not a big gap,''' said caddie Scott. "But for him, he sees huge gaps."

The final stitch on this second green jacket was sewn with a huge, seemingly mindless drive off the 18th tee, a shot that led to a closing par but also led to Scott to ask him, "Are you from Mars or something?"

Alien golf? Otherworldly golf? Naw, boy, just Bubba Golf.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

Twitter: @billplaschke

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