Masters 2013: Bubba Watson and Augusta National Are an Odd but Perfect Match
Barring an unlikely title defense, Bubba Watson's reign at Augusta National has entered its final hours.
A better curtain call you could not imagine.
All the traits that make Watson so universally appealing were on full display during the lead-up to this year's Masters.
When Watson tearfully recounted wrapping his green jacket around his son, Caleb, after last year's tournament, it was another endearing reminder of the emotional availability that separates ol' Bubba from blinkered automatons like Tiger Woods. His decision to serve mac n' cheese at the Champions Dinner later that night was a refreshing shot of Watson's down-home sensibilities.
And Wednesday's practice-round hole-in-one? Just the latest example of the extraordinary shot-making that has turned Watson into one of the PGA's must-watch talents.
Wherever you looked this week, it was Bubba—as if whatever happy spirit he chipped out of the pine straw last year was still trapped somewhere in his chestnut locks, tailing him around these echoed grounds.
The cosmic interplay between Watson and Augusta has an odd couple feel to it.
"Golf is already boring. Why be boring on top of that?"
If Augusta National had a professional mantra, it might sound something like:
"What's a mantra? Sounds kind of exotic. Can I interest you in a cheese sandwich?"
Which is to say that Bubba Watson is everything Augusta is not.
One is jovial, self-effacing and remorselessly transparent. The other is austere, sanctimonious and intentionally exclusive.
That Watson and Augusta have managed to forge any relationship at all is thanks to the Masters Tournament, which doubles as a sort of an annual opening up for the 80-year-old club. And indeed I often wonder where Bobby Jones' playground would have wound up without its signature competition.
Obviously Augusta wouldn't have the universal notoriety that comes with hosting one of the world's premier golf competitions. But more than just name recognition: What would the club look like if it wasn't forced to interact with the world at large for one week every April?
What if thousands of visitors didn't rumble across its lawn? What if there was no competition, no automatic qualifiers? Would guys named Bubba ever make it through the gates?
Augusta has never embraced change, but the strides it has made over the years—in everything from membership to television access—can be traced back to the tournament it hosts. When you're forced to the let the modern world in, the modern world inevitably leaves traces of itself behind.
Without the Masters, I imagine Augusta would be a backward, crumbling institution clinging to heritage as a shield against progress.
With the Masters, it is as vital a place as ever.
Maybe that's why Bubba and Augusta make such a smashing pair: they need each other.
Bubba needs Augusta because its the one place that seems to bring the best parts of his game into perfect focus.
Augusta needs Bubba because it's people like him—people who are different, people who are other—that nudge this place forward and help sustain it in the 21st century.
Which is to say that man can't survive on pimento sandwiches alone—no matter how pristine.
Sometimes the moments calls for a little mac n' cheese.
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