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Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson brings new putting stroke to Augusta National

Posted March 10, 2019 12:03 pm
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Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson brings new putting stroke to Augusta National

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    Bubba Watson watches his putt on the second green during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament Friday, March 8, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
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    Bubba Watson watches his putt on the second green during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament Friday, March 8, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson was heading the wrong way last year at Augusta National when something clicked.

It was the opening round, and Watson was 2-over par through 12 holes. On the 13th, even though he didn’t make birdie on the par-5 hole, he found a spark.

That helped salvage a score of 73 for the first round and ignited three consecutive rounds in the 60s. It all added up to a tie for fifth, his best showing in Augusta since he donned the green jacket in 2014.

“I hit a shot and I felt something positive,” Watson said a year ago.

Watson had gone 11 competitive rounds since breaking 70 at Augusta National. It added up to two middle-of-the-pack finishes and a missed cut from 2015-2017.

Watson never seriously challenged Patrick Reed, who won his first major at 15-under. But the left-handed Watson closed with rounds of 69-68-69 to finish at 9-under.

He had already won twice before last year’s Masters and added a third win in the summer, at the Travelers Championship, for his 12th career victory. Then he did something special: Watson donated $200,000 of his earnings to The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the tournament's primary beneficiary and a charity started by the late actor Paul Newman for children battling serious illnesses.

Watson hasn’t won since the Travelers, but he challenged earlier this year in Phoenix and credited using a longer putter that he braces against his right forearm. He got the idea from his buddy Bryson DeChambeau.

“It locks that wrist in, so I like it. The only hard part is the lag putting,” said Watson, who tied for fourth in Phoenix. “Inside 15 feet, though, it’s a no-brainer, it feels so solid.”

A month after Phoenix, Watson said he had enjoyed two of the best putting weeks since making the move.

"I think Bryson's is more upright, so mine's not quite as upright as his," Watson said. "But I'm getting used to it."

Now 40, Watson said he feels good as he heads to Augusta for the 11th time.

“It’s one of those things where you hope that week everything works perfectly,” he said. “Hitting the driver well, hitting chip shots and making the putts, that’s what you are looking for going into that week.”

Like last year, he’s looking for that moment to ignite his play and perhaps earn his third Masters win.

“It’s one of those things that all those golfers you’re watching on the range, all it takes is one putt or one swing to get them clicking and they’re off to the races,” Watson said. “That’s the goal is just to hopefully find something.”