Bubba's pine straw a must-see spot

Defending Masters champion Bubba Watson points to the tee from the first fairway during a practice round on Tuesday at Augusta National. The season's first major begins on Thursday morning.
Defending Masters champion Bubba Watson points to the tee from the first fairway during a practice round on Tuesday at Augusta National. The season's first major begins on Thursday morning. D. Cummings/ AP Photo

Augusta, Ga. - They came throughout the day, a steady flow of camera-bearing patrons, all wanting to pay homage to one of the greatest shots in Masters history.

Some snapped pictures of themselves taking a left-handed swing, trying to recreate the moment even if meant holding a folded-up chair instead of a golf club.

Others gazed through the narrow opening in the trees, the flag nowhere in sight, shaking their heads in disbelief even now, a whole year later.

Yep, Amen Corner has some competition this year.

There's a new must-see spot at Augusta National.

Bubba's pine straw.

"THIS is where it was?" one fan asked incredulously Tuesday. "Wow, that's a 90-degree angle to the hole!"

Indeed it was, but Bubba Watson pulled it off. From the innocuous hollow to the right of the 10th fairway, 155 yards from the hole but with no direct way to get there, he hooked a 52-degree wedge off the pine needles, the ball curling up to within 10 feet of the cup during a tense playoff with Louis Oosthuizen.

Two putts later, Watson was the Masters champion.

"I've never seen where it was," six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus said. "But it wasn't bad, was it? It won the tournament for him. It had to be pretty spectacular."

Funny thing, though.

Watson has no desire to attempt the shot again, not even for kicks during the practice rounds as the defending champion. He doesn't want to diminish the memory of a swing that has already taken its place in Augusta lore, right up there with Gene Sarazen's double-eagle and Tiger Woods' chip-in.

"I would never hit it again," Watson said. "Well, unless it's Thursday through Sunday (in the tournament). I've been known to hit it in the trees, but I'll lay up so I won't look as bad."

Watson has returned to the area a couple of times in recent weeks. First, while playing a round with his manager and a friend.

"I took pictures of the spot with them and the host member that I played with," he said. "The next day, we didn't care about the spot anymore, and so we didn't even look in that direction when we got to No. 10."

On Sunday, he played a round with his wife, who wasn't able to be at Augusta last year because the couple had just adopted a child.

"We went over there," Watson said. "I just showed her because it looks totally different without the crowds and cameras and her being nervous."

Later, as the couple was coming off the adjacent 18th tee, Watson noticed a group of guys hanging out in the trees along the 10th.

"I couldn't see who it was," he said. "I yelled at them and I said, "No, that's not the spot. It's a little over.' I was just joking with them, and they saw it was me."

Later, Watson found out who it was - 1970 Masters champion Billy Casper, along with his son. Everyone, it seems, has to get a look at Bubba's spot for themselves.

The shot was truly amazing - especially given the circumstances. In the second hole of a high-pressure playoff, Watson yanked his tee shot far right of the fairway. There was a decent-sized opening to get back out, and everyone expected Watson to just punch it through - especially after Oosthuizen's second shot came up short of the green.

Of course, that's not how Watson plays the game.

It's all or nothing - a philosophy that cost him a shot at his first major title, when he went for broke at the 2010 PGA Championship, wound up in the water and lost to Martin Kaymer in a playoff.

This time, he pulled it off.

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

In hindsight, he's not sure exactly how he pulled off the shot. But there was never any doubt he would try.

"When you look at it, I'm not technical. I've never had a lesson," Watson said. "It was all about speed, speed - my hands rolling over, and the way I set up to it with a little closed club face, de-lofted it when I swung so it went lower, and just all that working together. How do you make that into scientific terms? I have no idea. But that's what I did. And I didn't think about it at the time. That's just what I naturally do."

Watson is off to a decent start this year, with a couple of top-10 finishes and only one missed cut.

But he knows how difficult it will be to repeat as Masters champion. There's only been three back-to-back winners in the history of the tournament.

"I can see pulling it off. It wouldn't shock me. I would still cry, but it wouldn't shock me," Watson said. "At the same time, it's hard. I mean, looking at history, we've only seen it, what, three times? ... So it's going to be tough."

But the tournament doesn't start until Thursday. There's still time to get a look at Bubba's patch of pine straw.

Padraig Harrington wandered over there during a practice round. He mimicked Watson's left-handed swing and jokingly suggested that Augusta National should mark the spot with a plaque.

Watson is all for it.

"Who wouldn't want to see a plaque that says "Bubba' in the middle of the pine straw," he said, smiling. "I would never ask for a plaque. But if I do it again this year, then yes, there should be a plaque."

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