If Bubba Watson’s next victory on the PGA Tour comes in the 2017 Masters Tournament, he would meet a goal he set in 2006, his first year on the big tour.
“My dream has always been to win 10 times,” the two-time Masters champion said. “If I can get another victory, it would be a dream come true. I’ve always thought about it. To win out here on tour is pretty tough.”
The 38-year-old Watson won for the first time in 2010. He won twice in 2011, once in 2012, twice in both 2014 and 2015 and once in 2016, meaning he has a three-year streak of winning at least one time each year.
“One of the goals every year is to have a win,” Watson said.
Watson’s recent pattern of winning the Masters Tournament every other year ended last year when he tied for 37th place. He won the green jacket in 2012 and 2014.
In 2016, Watson opened with 75-75 at Augusta National Golf Club and was certain he’d miss the cut after he finished the second round. He didn’t, making it on the number, and closed with 76-71, saying afterward that “the golf course beat me.”
“It wasn’t my week,” he said. “I’ve just got to improve, try to get better around that place. I hit the ball well, just didn’t get the kicks or the bounces that I needed to, to make the putts and make more birdies and less bogeys.”
Watson said after the second round that he was dealing with a sinus infection and allergies, which no doubt weren’t helped by the windy conditions, which stayed around through the third round.
“I can’t predict what I would have done if I would have been a hundred percent, that’s neither here nor there,” he said. “It just shows that I need to improve, I need to get better on windy conditions around the golf course.”
Watson is now ready to go after a third green jacket, which would tie him with Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Nick Faldo and Phil Mickelson for fourth place on the all-time list.
“I always think I have a chance,” Watson said. “The rough’s not very high. It takes imagination to play the course. You have imagination from the tee, imagination from the iron shot and even on the green from 40 feet. It’s not a course where a phenomenal putter is going to run away with it because you’re going to have to play 50 feet from the hole on a putt that breaks 20 feet. So now it’s imagination on the putts. Ball-striking can get you through it because there’s not this goofy (high) rough. You can play the shots. “
Watson made his Masters debut in 2008, nine years after the light rough, or second cut, was added to the course.
“If I could play it like that (with no rough), I think I could even be better because it’s easier to curve shots,” Watson said.
Watson said it took him a few years to understand how to play Augusta National. He finished tied for 20th, 42nd and tied for 38 in his first three starts (2008, 2009 and 2011, respectively) before winning in 2012.
“It grew on me,” he said. “It’s fear. All you hear is how tough this golf course is. So the first time you play it, you have to learn that. You talk to Teddy (caddie Ted Scott), he’ll tell you sometimes I put too much fear in it because I was trying to be too tentative. That’s what I did for a few years. Even now I still do it. You have to trust what you’re doing. Easy to say, hard to do.”
Though Watson won the Northern Trust Open in February 2016, one of the highlights of his year came in an event in which he wasn’t a participant, in late September. After failing to be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III’s four captain’s picks, despite being No. 9 in points (one shy of making the team automatically) and No. 7 in the world, Watson asked if he could be a vice captain at Hazeltine National Golf Course. Love agreed to bring him aboard.
The U.S. beat Europe 17-11, ending a three-match losing streak.
“It was a dream come true,” Watson said. “I’ve played on two teams and lost and now being a vice captain and won it’s nice. I can say I have one ‘W’ next to my name in the Ryder Cup, I guess. It was great to be a part of a team like that and have success and watch those guys play so well.”