AUGUSTA, Ga. — There’s at least one person who has no interest in going to the spot well right of the 10th fairway from where Bubba Watson played his recovery shot in last year’s playoff, a hooked wedge that carved around the tall trees, found the green, and led to a two-putt par that won him the 76th Masters.
“Not on purpose,” Watson said, asked if he’d ever return to the scene of the pine. “No, I would never hit it again. Well, unless Thursday through Sunday. I’ve been known to hit it in the trees.”
Watson might not be making a pilgrimage to the spot of the most famous shot from last year’s Masters, but almost everybody else is. There’s no plaque or sign, no specific marking, but spectators stop in the general area on the pine straw and look up, wondering just how Watson pulled it off. Other players, especially on Sunday before the course was open to the public, have gone over as well.
It’s become one of those Augusta National locations that will go down in the history of Masters winners, joining Larry Mize’s chip-in on No. 11 and Phil Mickelson’s second shot on No. 13, also from the pine straw and between two trees. All three shots came on the final day. All were struck by champions.
It’s been a whirlwind year for the fun-loving Watson since he last left Augusta. He did the requisite late-night media tour in New York after his win, made the Ryder Cup team (hitting his opening drives at Medinah after asking for crowd noise), and recently put out another song and video with Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane, and Hunter Mahan (known as the “Golf Boys”).
He hasn’t won since then, but hasn’t exactly struggled, either. In 17 PGA Tour starts since winning the Masters, Watson has four top 10s and eight other finishes of 18th or better. He’s missed three cuts, one of which came at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Watson, who isn’t ashamed to show his emotions and cried on Tuesday while talking about wrapping his newly-adopted baby son in the green jacket last year, was also responsible for setting the menu at Tuesday’s champion’s dinner. He selected the food, but chose to keep it a tightly guarded secret.
Watson will attempt to become only the fourth repeat Masters winner. Jack Nicklaus (1965-66), Nick Faldo (1989-90), and Tiger Woods (2001-02) are the others. If it means playing another shot from well right of the 10th fairway, Watson made assurances that he’d be ready.
“A lot of professional golfers can see it. Doing it’s the hard part,” Watson said, turning playful when asked how many of his peers would ever conceive of such a shot. “But I’m just obviously going to say, ‘I’m the only one that can do it.’ ”
There’s at least one other person who’d rather not visit Bubba’s Place.
“Haven’t looked over there. Don’t want to be over there,” Woods said. “He pulled off an unbelievable shot that will certainly go down as one of the best ones ever.”
Major league nerves
You might not expect it from a three-time champion, but Phil Mickelson acknowledged he’s nervous heading into the season’s first major. In fact, he used the word three times when asked how he’s prepared for the Masters.
“Well, I’m a little bit nervous heading in because [of] not competing the week before, as I have for many years in the past. Having that open week, I’m a little bit nervous,” said Mickelson, who chose not to play in last week’s Valero Texas Open. “But I had some great days here. I came out here and spent Friday, Saturday, Sunday here, got some good work done and got to spend a lot of time on the golf course. But I am a little bit nervous.”
Pairings are set
Pairings for the first two rounds were announced on Tuesday, with the 93 players going off in 31 threesomes, all from No. 1. Watson is paired with US Amateur champion Steven Fox (which is tradition) and Ian Poulter, and will tee off on Thursday at 10:34 a.m. Other notable groups: Woods-Luke Donald-Scott Piercy (10:45 a.m.), Rory McIlroy-Keegan Bradley-Fredrik Jacobson (1:41 p.m.), and Ben Crenshaw-Matteo Manassero-Tianlang Guan (12:24 p.m.). Guan, at 14, will become the youngest Masters participant; Manassero had the record, playing in the 2010 Masters when he was 16 . . . It might have seemed a foregone conclusion, but it was announced Tuesday that Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player — winners of a combined 13 Masters — will be the ceremonial starters for the second straight year. Palmer has served in the role since 2007, and was joined by Nicklaus in 2010. Player made it the Big Three last year . . . New Augusta National member Condoleezza Rice, one of the first two females who joined what had been an all-male club last year, has been visible this week. She played a practice round with Mickelson on Sunday, and has been a popular photo target by spectators, while wearing her green jacket . . . It took a while, but the main scoreboard in the media center finally included Martin Laird. The last player in the field courtesy of his victory at the Texas Open on Sunday, Laird’s name was originally omitted in the alphabetical listing when the board was built on Monday. By early Tuesday afternoon, it was adjusted with Laird’s inclusion . . . A reminder that a portion of Wednesday’s Par-3 Contest will be televised on ESPN, from 3-5 p.m. Expect to see lots of little kids in oversized caddie jumpers, with a few shots of Caroline Wozniacki sprinkled in. McIlroy confirmed he’ll have his tennis-star girlfriend on the golf bag.