Bubba Watson calls 2014 the “year of rejoicing.” It’s working out better so far than the year after the green jacket.
Watson went nearly two years between his 2012 Masters Tournament victory and his win at Riviera in February. It makes for a more pleasant trip to Augusta than a year ago when the reigning champion is fraught with distraction.
“It’s like you’re still wrapped up in the win and then you start remembering back about the win and people are asking you about the win and what you’ve done over the year,” Watson said. “So all that media attention is about what happened and not what’s gonna happen. It takes your mind off preparation and what you’re supposed to be focused on. But this year is going to be a lot easier.”
Watson tied for 50th in his Masters defense last year. That he didn’t join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods in successfully defending their titles doesn’t surprise him.
“Look at those three guys – their mental games were far and beyond everybody else,” Watson said. “They are so dedicated to their sport. They control everything in their environment. So that’s why I think it’s so tough. I was still living the dream of having that green jacket for the last week, so it’s a little tougher for me and tougher for everybody to win back to back. It takes a strong, strong man to do that.”
Winning at Riviera – just two weeks after missing a short putt that could have put him in a playoff in Phoenix – was a nice boost after a long drought. He delivered with a pair of 64s on the weekend after opening with two double bogeys on the first three holes of the tournament.
“You never know when your last win is going to be,” Watson said. “My last win could have been the Masters, which would have been a great way to go out. But winning here at (Riviera) is nice. Any time you can get another win, it’s very nice. I never looked down, I never felt down that I haven’t won yet but just keep plugging along and somehow it fell in my lap.”
Perhaps it will be the catalyst he needs to win again.
“For me personally the win was a big deal, but to catapult me toward majors the rest of the year I don’t see it that way,” Watson said. “I just see good golf. And if good golf means I might come in second 10 times in a row, that means I had a shot.”
Watson is trying to curb his moodiness that pops out when things aren’t going his way. He famously barked at his caddie in close calls in Hartford last year and Phoenix this season, but he’s trying to set a better example for his 2-year-old son, Caleb, as he wades through his ninth season on the PGA Tour.
“We always try to set goals, and this year is about rejoicing,” he said. “I want to just rejoice, no matter if I miss cuts, make cuts, win tournaments, don’t win tournaments, think about how blessed I am playing on the PGA Tour. … Right now it’s working. At some point I’m a golfer, I’ll get mad and pout sometime.”
Little was working for Watson when he returned to Augusta last year. Aside from the stress of being defending champion, he was coping with form that kept getting set back because of the flu and strep throat and the resulting fatigue. This time, he expects to play at a high level.
“I’m playing well and hitting the ball well and I’ve been successful around that place,” he said of Augusta. “So my name will probably be mentioned here and there. … But obviously I’m feeling good, feeling confident right now. My game’s where I want it to be. I’m looking forward to the challenge of it again.”