Nichols: This Bubba Watson has matured

Bubba Watson holds his 2-year-old son, Caleb, while they celebrate with fans lining the 18th green after his three-shot victory at the Masters.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Angie Watson stepped off the practice putting green after the closing ceremony carrying young son Caleb in her arms.

“Where’s my daddy?” Caleb asked, clutching his father’s white visor and looking most adorable in a green-and-white striped Masters polo and khaki bottoms. This scene played out so much differently than the first time Bubba Watson won the Masters two years ago, with Caleb and Angie back in Windermere, Fla., at the family’s Isleworth rental home. Bubba had been a father for one week when he won his first green jacket in legendary fashion. Now, he’s a veteran in every regard.

“He had a lot of growing up to do as a dad and just accepting everything as it came,” said Angie of life after adoption and that first major. “It just took time as he said this week. To learn it all and to grow, to grow as a dad, to grow as a player. He has handled it remarkably well.”

On the 72nd hole, Watson, 35, walked over to his caddie Ted Scott as Jordan Spieth was tapping in and said, “I’m not very good at math, but we’ve got four putts, right?”

As Watson said, that shot out of the woods on the 10th hole two years ago made him famous, but coming down the last hole with a three-shot lead was easier on the heart.

Fans danced around like popcorn kernels around a crammed 18th green trying to get a glimpse of Watson becoming the 17th player in Masters history to win for a second time. Most could’ve guessed that tears would follow.

“I get emotional when I see his son, too,” Scott said, “and he’s not even my kid.”

Watson’s 3-under romp around Augusta showed us once again why Bubba Golf can’t be replicated. His monster drive on the par-5 13th cut the corner, brushing past a few trees and leaving him with a 56-degree sand wedge in for his second shot. That set up a two-putt birdie that Spieth couldn’t match.

“Obviously when you get a roar on your tee shot, you know it’s pretty good,” said Bubba, who then caught his breath.

On the par-5 15th, Watson hit a low 6-iron through a gap in the Georgia pines that went long over the green. He thought about trying to hit an 8-iron through a higher spot but decided to go easy on his caddie.

Watson isn’t exactly laying up now, but he’s at least considering less risky options.

Scott describes Bubba’s style of play in two words: freak show.

“I can’t shape a ball as much as he can,” said good buddy Rickie Fowler. “There’s no way around it.”

Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old Texan looking to make history on Sunday, had the early command with a two-stroke lead after seven holes. Back-to-back bogeys from the rookie and consecutive birdies from Watson on Nos. 8 and 9, however, put the crafty lefty back in control. A dip into Rae’s Creek for Spieth on the par-3 12th and a cold putter helped Watson build a lead he’d never relinquish.

“Bubba is a deserving Masters champion this year,” Spieth said graciously. “That was some incredible golf he played down the stretch to hold it together and make pars.”

Spieth finished with an even-par 72 to share second place with Jonas Blixt, who now owns the best finish by a Swede in tournament history.

Watson, a devout Christian, began the year with the theme of rejoicing. His best friend Judah Smith, a pastor in Seattle, encouraged Watson to find joy in all circumstances this year.

“I can tell you,” Scott said, “last year was a rough year with the pressure of trying to prove yourself. But this year, his attitude has been great.”

The peace Watson felt throughout this week in Augusta can be traced back to casual evenings with the family. They woke up in the mornings and played tee ball, Angie said, because that’s what Caleb loves to do. At night, they ate burritos.

After Watson won the first green jacket, golf was the farthest thing from his mind when he went home to Florida. For the first month of Caleb’s life, Watson explained, he didn’t have a male figure.

“We got him a month old, so getting used to smell, touch, feel, sound, everything,” Watson said, “I had to be there for my son.”

This time around, however, the schedule isn’t likely to change. Bubba and Angie have a routine. They’ve gotten used to the demands.

And there are countless reasons to rejoice.

“What a blessing that is for us to have to go through the adoption process,” Watson said. “There’s so many kids out there that need homes, would love homes ... hate to say this because I have it on right now, but having my son here means more to me than the green jacket.”

For Watson, the tears pour because when blessings flow, he often asks the question, why?

“Why Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Florida?” Bubba asked. “Why is he winning?”

With gifts that great, the better question is, why not?

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