Masters champion Bubba Watson is no longer MIA

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DUBLIN, OHIO (AP) - Bubba Watson had a 3-iron, a small audience and a point to prove.

The flag was 251 yards away, with a light wind out of the right. With an open stance, he hit a high cut and begged it to carry the bunker, which it barely did. Next, he aimed some 15 yards to the left of the green and hit a bullet with a slight hook that landed on the back corner of the green.

“Still got it!” Watson jokingly proclaimed.

He hasn’t forgotten how to play. He hasn’t been gone from the game that long, though it sure seems that way.

It has been just more than seven weeks since Watson hit that wild hook with a wedge out of the Georgia pines and onto the 10th green to win the Masters in a playoff. He became an overnight sensation in a green jacket, and then he virtually disappeared from the golf scene. He has played only one tournament since, in New Orleans, and only because he was the defending champion.

The reminder of how long Watson has stayed away from golf came on the practice range Tuesday at Muirfield Village. With the U.S. Open only two weeks away, players were still congratulating him on winning the last major two months ago.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Winning majors can be a life-changing experience for everyone except those who seem to win them all the time. Few, however, had this many life-changing moments away from golf as Watson in such a short time.

He and his wife, Angie, adopted a baby boy just two weeks before he became a Masters champion. The adoption process is still not finished, though a few months doesn’t seem like much considering they began thinking about adoption four years ago. Watson is selling two houses and trying to find a home in Orlando, Fla. (The baby was born in Florida.)

And if that’s not enough, he has organized “Bubba Bash” on Tuesday night with some 10 Christian bands to raise money for a hospital in Kenya. Typical of a guy named Bubba, he has arranged for Waffle House to provide the backstage meals.

“A lot of stuff going on in our life,” Watson said. “A lot of positive things, nothing bad. But it’s just different changes.”

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Watson replied to a fan on Twitter on Friday during The Players Championship that he’s “not missing golf at all.”

“You can turn your phone off or lock down yourself at Isleworth and nobody can get to you, and just spend time with the family, play golf when I want to,” Watson said. “It’s been a good thing. It’s been relaxing, rewarding. It’s been fun.”

The Memorial boasts a strong field, as usual, with defending champion Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Hunter Mahan leading the list of top players. Dustin Johnson returns from a back injury, his first tournament since Doral the second week of March.

Watson adds another layer of intrigue, mainly because he is a major champion who has accumulated more rust than riches in the last two months.

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