AUGUSTA, Ga. There was no golfer down there in the trees to the right of Augusta National’s 10th fairway Friday, but people kept showing up in this clearing, looking around at the pine needles, pointing at the limbs and assuring each other this was the place.
They had come to the spot from where Bubba Watson hit his 52-degree wedge 153 yards with a 40-yard hook to set up his extra-hole victory against Louis Oosthuizen in the Masters two years ago. Here, in a place where heroes and their deeds linger through the ages, that shot still echoes around the magnolias and pines.
In the absence of a plaque Friday, one of the patrons scraped an X in the pine needles to help those who came looking for Bubba’s place.
I paused to watch for a while, then continued on down the hill to watch Watson play Amen Corner. I’d like to say it was my deep knowledge of the game that took me there, but the truth is, it just seemed like a good thing to do, to watch a big guy named Bubba (his real name is Gerry Lester Watson) come to grips with the 11th, 12th and 13th holes – Captain America versus the Bogeys of Evil.
Gerry Lester parred the testy 11th. Next came the 155-yard 12th, guarded in front by Raes Creek, with a couple of bunkers thrown in for good measure. A guy standing behind me on a hillside covered with people said, “Look how skinny that green is.” I thought he was talking about me and started to say thanks, but then realized he was talking about Bubba’s target.
Someone wrote, “Golf balls splash and settle into the sand while the dreams they held drift on down the stream.”
It seems almost silly that a manly man should be scared of a little ol’ golf hole named Golden Bell. Bubba routinely hits his drives 300 yards. What’s 155 yards to him? He can hit a 9-iron that far, and has done it twice this week.
Well, you never know which way the wind is going to blow down there. And that really is a skinny green. And there are all those sad stories that have piled up there. It’s about as inviting as a dentist’s chair.
But Watson had caught a ride on a lightning bolt. He birdied the 12th and 13th to show Amen Corner who’s boss, then threw in three more birdies before the streak ended. He finished with a 68 to go with his opening-round score of 69 and the day belonged to a self-taught left-hander who hits a pink driver and likes to work the ball different ways. As someone said, “He plays the game, rather than worry about his swing.”
Bubba kind of summed himself up a while back when he told Golf World, “You’re talking to a guy that’s goofy and messed up in the head. I’m different than everyone else.”
He even has his own X in the woods on the 10th hole. That’s different.
Ron Green Sr. is a retired Observer sports columnist
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