Forget the bogey on 18. Remember the artistic chip shot from left of the green that only a real artist could conjure up. Or the low-burning 300-yard-plus tee shots underneath Augusta National’s brutal Friday midday winds.
Bubba Watson is going to win this Masters. He’s got more game than anyone on the leaderboard, as evidenced multiple times during his incoming 32, giving him a 137 total for two days (-7).
The ability to overpower Augusta National? How about 186-yard 9-irons like the 16th hole shot today that set up a birdie.
Shot shaping? Up, down, left and right? Bubba isn’t afraid to combine multiple elements into a shot.
Wind shots? He may be one of the last players on the planet willing and able to play a low-burner under Masters pressure. His super-low cutting 315-yarder on 17 had the patrons oo-ing and ahh-ing.
Putting? He hasn’t three putted in 291 holes, the longest streak on the PGA Tour by well over 100.
Most of all, Bubba looks and sounds like he’s locked-in mentally. On the course he looks like a fighter instead of a pouter.. Bubba’s grinding, not getting upset at his caddie when he’s stuck behind slow-pokes like Jason Day and Henrik Stenson, as his group was during an opening 137 (-7). All season long there has been little sign of the mood swings that hurt this prodigious talent’s chances of being the dominant player he could become. Chalk this Bay Hill 83 and WD to allergy issues.
Watson even admitted after his round that he suffered a post-Masters hangover.
"Never been drunk before, but a hangover from the green jacket," Watson said. "It is, it's going to take me some time. You know, I do everything my way. I learned the game my way. I figured it out my way. So it just takes me a little bit longer with the mental focus and drive to get back to where I am today. This year started off a little bit better than last year."
As Watson walked off the 18th tee following a low-flying 3-wood, to his immediate right were the usual ten or so patrons at the 10th hole spot where Bubba played his remarkable recovery shot in the 2012 Masters playoff. It was yet another reminder of how iconic the shot has become and how popular Watson is with Masters patrons. Bubba never looked their way. He still had the 18th to play.
The key to his stunning putting streak comes from a simple extension by a half inch, which Bubba said after his round has made his hands more relaxed and bent, creating “an athletic putting stroke and more feel.”
As workmanlike as his blade has been, it’s the combination of power and shot-shaping under trying conditions that made his 68 so impressive. Should there be any wind at all this weekend, Watson holds an advantage over most of his peers, who either do not have the shots or simply refuse to try playing shots under the wind.
With no rain in the forecast, we’re set up for a traditional weekend with late start times and twilight finishes. Bubba’s been there, won that. Only a mental meltdown stands in his way. But as he proved Friday, Bubba’s all-around game is superior to anyone on the leaderboard.