This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's April 13 Point Guard Issue. Subscribe today!
SCOTT VAN PELT: You've won the Masters twice in just six starts -- faster than Jack, Tiger and Phil. How do you best describe why Augusta suits your game so well?
BUBBA WATSON: I think it's the course conditions. You always have slick greens, and I love fast greens; it's all about figuring out how to two-putt. I don't make a lot of putts, but I'm one of the best two-putters in the world. A lot of the holes go from right to left. I can shape the ball either way, but I prefer right to left off the tee. And all the par 5s are reachable for me. When you look at everything on paper, it makes sense that I play good there.
You overpower the golf course, but do you actually attribute your two wins to how well you two-putted?
On Sunday last year, Jordan Spieth started out hot. He was three-under early. I was at like even par, one-under. So he was shots ahead of me. But he's never won a major, and he doesn't know what it's going to be like on the back nine, all the people yelling. So I'm just sitting there thinking, "Make a birdie here, make a birdie there and you never know what's going to happen. He's going to start thinking about the Green Jacket, putting it on, what's it feel like, what kind of speech he's going to give." ... We all do it. It's like dropping the ball before the end zone. We all celebrate before the celebration. For me, I knew that. So the back nine was about making pars. I birdied 13 -- I had the sand wedge in there on a par 5 -- and then I just parred out.
You very casually mentioned on 13, "Well, I had a sand wedge in there." With the first win in 2012, we'll always remember the boomerang shot on 10 in the playoff. What you did to 13 last year was a joke. You murdered that tee shot like no one's ever seen. Do you remember what you were thinking before you swung?
I can picture the hole in my head. It goes from right to left really hard. The trees are really tall, so you've got to hit it hard to get it over them. The wind was coming a little off my right shoulder and helping. That's the perfect wind for me; it makes me feel like I can hit it miles. I hit it hard -- but I missed my target by about 10 yards, so now I'm talking to myself: "Don't hit a tree. Don't hit a tree." You can't see where it lands because the trees are blocking you. So I'm waiting for a roar or a sound of disappointment. And when you hear the roar, you're like, "Yeah, take that!"
Where does that tee shot at that moment rank for you?
I would say easily No. 1 because of the situation.
Watson's Masters Finishes
You look at your progression at Augusta -- had some decent finishes, made the cut, learned a little bit and now you've won twice in three years. Was there a moment when the place started to make sense for you?
The first couple of years, I played practice rounds with Mr. Tiger Woods, and you learn a lot from him. He's won a few times. As I played it, I got comfortable. And when I say comfortable, I mean you give the golf course so much respect, but as you play it, you're like, "Wait, I can hit this shot. I can make this putt. I can two-putt from here." When you're a young kid and it's your first time playing there, everything scares you. You're like, "Oh my gosh, it's so fast. Oh my gosh, this hole is so tough. No. 12 is ridiculous!" But then you get used to wind directions, you get used to trusting your clubs and you get used to trusting your reads on the greens.
How willing was Tiger to be helpful? Because I remember years ago seeing you and him in a practice round at the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. He calls me over, and he's just like, "Watch this." You hit a couple tee shots, and he's just shaking his head and laughing, "This guy is ridiculous." And I said, "Well, aren't you scared to share information?" He's like, "Oh, I won't tell him anything." Did you find over the years that he's been willing to share stuff?
You know, I think as you get older, you start wanting to share information. And now he does. But when we first started playing practice rounds in 2007, my second year on tour, it was more about watching. He was watching me, going, "What is this weirdo doing?"
He loved it.
And I'm watching him, going, "How does this freak keep winning every week?" I learn by watching, and that's what I did. I watched where he chipped; I watched how he putted; I watched how he practiced. And that's how I learned and got better.
How Bubba mastered Augusta
Off the course, I know you're a big NBA guy. Who's your favorite team?
I'm big on individuals. I know half the guys on the Clippers, so I'm into them. I know Steph Curry too.
You ever play golf with Steph?
No ... but he runs his mouth a lot when I see him.
I bet he does. He can shoot a number, man.
Yeah, but that's like me running my mouth, saying, "Hey, let me show you how to shoot a free throw or a jump shot."
I understand, but my guess is he's better at golf than you are at basketball.
No chance. I'm phenomenal. And here's the thing: When it comes to golf, I can trash-talk better than anyone in the world. So I'll make him scared. You've got to remember I have no pressure on the golf course playing with buddies. I never shoot in the 70s just playing a round of golf. Even goofing around with him, I'll still shoot mid-60s.
That'd be a problem for Steph.
That's what I'm getting at. And then when I trash-talk, he's going to be mid-80s, if not higher.
I think we should use this as you laying down some sort of invitation.
Yeah, I'm laying it down.
Come get some, Steph.
Exactly. [Looks into camera] It's all you now, Steph.