AUGUSTA, Ga. — Did Bubba Watson feel awful about the 3-over-par 75 he posted during the opening round of the Masters Tournament?
Well, not completely.
“It’s golf — there’s going to be bad days and good days,” he said. “I hit the ball really well. I can’t complain about my ball striking.”
What Watson could complain about, and did so repeatedly, was his awful feel on Augusta National Golf Club’s greens Thursday. The defending Masters champion was more than frustrated with his putting display, which included 35 putts overall and four 3-putts.
“I never got the speed right, never got the ball to the hole,” he said. “They were slower than I was expecting. The balls weren’t rolling out like they have been the past few years. So I just left a lot of putts short. A lot of putts were breaking different than I was expecting.”
Earlier in the week, Watson said, “I could miss the cut; I could win.” The first seems more likely if he doesn’t regain his putting feel.
His 75 was the highest score by a defending champion since Phil Mickelson posted 76 in 2007. No defending champion has missed the cut since Mike Weir in 2004.
Watson is nine shots behind co-leaders Marc Leishman and Sergio Garcia.
Watson said he didn’t feel any added pressure teeing off as the defending champion, but he bogeyed No. 1 to get his round off to a rocky start. After leaving a long eagle putt short on the par-5 second (a sign of things to come) Watson got back to even with a birdie and kept it there with par saves from off the green on both par-3s on the front nine.
The solid wedge play was key because Watson’s putter wasn’t getting any strokes back as he 3-putted Nos. 5 and 7 to make the turn at 2-over. He had only one blemish on the back nine, bogeying No. 14 when he misjudged the wind. He missed out on a golden opportunity when he had an eagle putt on the par-5 13th but 3-putted again.
“If I 2-putt all of those, I shoot a 1-under, which is a nice score,” Watson said. “It’s one of those things. (Wednesday) I putted really well. I putted really well all the practice rounds. Today, to me, it was slower. I’m so used to some of these putts being so difficult because of the speed, and today I left them all short.”