published Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Living legacy Woods, Watson are among hopefuls as Masters begins

Bubba Watson watches his shot on the 13th hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Wednesday, April 10, 2013, in Augusta, Ga.
Bubba Watson watches his shot on the 13th hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Wednesday, April 10, 2013, in Augusta, Ga.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Bubba Watson didn't bring his hovercraft golf cart. He hasn't been seen wandering around Augusta National Golf club in the overalls he wears during the YouTube sensation "Golf Boys" videos.

But he has cried. Again.

Watson bawled immediately after sinking the winning putt after a heroic shot from pine-straw on the second playoff hole to win the Masters one year ago.

The emotion of Augusta got to him then.

A few weeks earlier he became a first-time father when he and his wife, Angie, adopted a son.

Tears filled his eyes again earlier this week when recalling the best thing he's done with the jacket he earned for winning the 76th Masters.

"Out of respect and honor for Augusta National as one of the greatest clubs we have, as one of the greatest tournaments, out of respect for them, I didn't do any funny antics that I would normally do.

"The only thing I did was wrap Caleb up in it."

Winning the Masters is a life-changing moment. It turned Watson, 34, from being a popular player -- who admittedly acts like a kid -- to a star.

One major victory, one year later, his legacy in the sport -- at least among those packed amid the Georgia pines of Augusta National this week -- is ingrained.

"The difference between last year and this year, is that last year I didn't know if I would ever be back to the Masters," Watson said Tuesday. "Now I know for a fact I should be back to the Masters every year unless I do something wrong, and they say I did something wrong, so we'll try to keep that on the good side."

There are 92 golfers here this week willing to be swept up in a similar wind of emotion on Sunday evening. The ceremonial tee opening tee shots will be struck by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player this morning at 7:40 followed by the first group starting at 8.

The competitors want to experience or re-experience the tournament and the ensuing year that Watson lived after becoming a super-star.

"Five years ago, I'd never won a golf tournament, and now sitting here I've won four and one happens to be the Masters," said Watson, who will begin defense of his title at 10:34 in a threesome along with UTC senior Steven Fox. "Stuff is more important than my fame and everything. It's just because my platform is higher now to where I can do some good in this world."

Some participants have experienced the ceremony, including tournament favorite Tiger Woods who owns four green jackets. He has won three times in the five PGA Tour starts this year, helping him reclaim the top spot in world rankings.

"I feel comfortable with every aspect of my game," Woods said. "I feel that I've improved and I've got more consistent, and I think the wins show that. That's something I'm proud of so far this year, and hopefully I can continue it this week and the rest of the year."

Phil Mickelson owns three green jackets and continues to draw one of the largest galleries on the grounds. He almost added to his closet last year by finishing tied for third despite a triple-bogey on his first hole of the tournament.

"I'm a little bit nervous heading in because I'm not competing the week before, as I have for many years in the past," Mickelson said Tuesday. "I want to play well in this tournament. I love this tournament so much, and I'm nervous because I haven't been in competition since the Sunday of the Houston Open."

In addition to Woods and Mickelson, Charl Schwartzel, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson and Mike Weir have fresh memories of slipping on the slickest coat in sports, all having won in the past 10 years.

Other golfers, including two-time major champion Rory McIlroy, have come close to winning. He once held the lead through 63 holes before disaster struck while playing the back nine on Sunday two years ago.

"I had a chance to win in 2011, and obviously that didn't go to well," McIlroy said Tuesday. "I think it's a lot of guys favorite tournament of the year. It's the one you're looking forward to the most."

Every hole has a history and one shot that makes it famous, including the sweeping hook Watson hit on No. 10 in the playoff last year.

"A lot of professional golfers can see it," Watson said. "Doing it is the hard part."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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