News & Opinion

‘Bubba golf’ puts a spin on Augusta

AUGUSTA, Ga. – If golf had an official dictionary, Bubba golf might be defined as “highly imaginative, provocative and at times a downright crazy way to play golf.”

In reality, it’s whatever its creator, Bubba Watson, wants it to be.

Like a fingerprint or DNA, Watson possesses something that no one else in professional golf can duplicate.

It’s a unique style of play that has succeeded at Augusta National Golf Club, site of this week’s Masters, more often than all but only eight former champions here.

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© GOLFFILE/KEN MURRAY
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson has left his mark on Augusta National.  

© GOLFFILE/KEN MURRAY
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson has left his mark on Augusta National.  

Watson, a two-time Masters champion, has posted feast-or-famine results here each April. With Bubba golf, the good and the bad are on full display for the patrons.

On the second hole of a playoff against Louis Oosthuizen in the 2012 Masters, the left-handed Watson had hooked his tee shot deep into the woods to the right of the par-4 10th. Any other golfer would have pitched back into the fairway. Watson’s mindset: If you’ve got a swing, you’ve got a shot.

Watson surveyed his lie, ignored the TV tower that stood between him and the green and closed the face on a 52-degree wedge. He aimed 40 yards left of the target, with the hole 164 yards away. The sweeping hook recovery shot and resulting two-putt par led to Watson’s first major championship and the lore of Bubba golf.

“I couldn't go out there and produce that today, probably, maybe,” Watson said with a laugh Monday, recalling the shot. “But the adrenaline of the shot is what helped that. The wind was going the right direction. If you had everything exactly the same as it was before, yes, I could pull the shot off. Now, there's going to be times I don't pull it off, but, yeah, I mean, if everything was the same, I had the ability, the chance to pull it off again. The equipment, you can still move the ball if you want to. Most teachers are not teaching you to play Bubba golf, but, yeah, I can still move it and do the shot, if everything was considered the same, the wind and everything.”

In 34 career rounds at the Masters, Watson has recorded only six scores under 70, but five of those came during his victory years of 2012 and 2014, including 3-under 69s to open both tournaments.

The other years have been less than stellar, with his next-best finish, a T-20 coming in 2008, his first Masters.

In his first title defense, in 2013, Watson was cruising along nicely in Sunday’s final round until the middle of Amen Corner. He hit three balls into the water and took a 10 on the 155-yard, par-3 12th but was philosophical about the collapse.

“It took me until three years ago to make my first hole-in-one,” Watson said. “If you play golf long enough, you’re going to make a hole-in-one ... and you’re going to go the other way, as well. If you haven’t, you haven’t played enough golf.”

Five years later, the memory remains fresh, but it hardly defines him.

“Me hitting in the water on 12 is not going to affect me for the rest of my life,” Watson said. “Well, I guess it could if I let it. But I made a solid 10 there in 2013, so it hasn't affected me yet.”

Watson comes to Augusta National with two victories under his belt this season: an impressive 65-69 weekend at Riviera to win the Genesis Open and then five weeks later with a 7-and-6 victory against Kevin Kisner in the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas.

Las Vegas lists Watson at 16-1 odds to win a third green jacket, behind 10-1 co-favorites Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas plus a few others, but he shrugs off any external expectations.

“There's no pressure on me,” Watson said. “There's no pressure on any of us. The only pressure is what we put on ourselves. It's how you go about it. You can let it get to you; you can be thinking about it. If you prepare the right way, the way we can and we know we can, our bodies feel the way we want it to feel in all those situations, we can play good golf.”

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli