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New Masters champion Watson honed shotmaking skills by letting imagination run free

By Jeff Shain, The Orlando Sentinel –

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Bubba Watson’s mind runs at about 300 mph, far faster than that jump-out-of-your-shoes swing the lefty uncorks on the tee.

He might be remembering the chores left undone at home. Perhaps it’s a pair of shoes he’d like to buy. Watson can stroll the fairway, look up and wonder about the birds flying overhead. Certainly he’s dwelled a lot in the past week about the 1-month-old boy adopted two weeks ago.

He also sees golf shots — crazy, what-the-heck curving rockets that don’t occupy anyone else’s imagination, much less their golf repertoire.

“If I have a swing, I have a shot,” Watson is fond of saying.

The native of Florida’s Panhandle also has a green jacket, courtesy of a shot that only he could visualize and now goes into the Masters annals as one of its all-time best.

“It was complete imagination,” Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee said of the 160-yard wedge that started low, rose quickly, escaped the trees right of Augusta National’s 10th fairway, took a hard right, missed a TV tower and came to rest 15 feet from the flagstick.

Or to hear Watson describe it: “I got in these trees and hit a crazy shot that I saw in my head and somehow I’m here talking to you with a green jacket on.”

In a state-of-the-art game where swings are dissected on computers by straight lines and angles, Watson’s game is sheer Van Gogh – sweeping lines and bold plays. Sometimes it’s artistry; sometimes that pink driver leaves him in the junk.

“He must have a great feel of the game,” playoff victim Louis Oosthuizen said. “It’s really entertaining to play with him, to see the shots that he’s taking on – shots I don’t really see or I would ever hit.”

Watson and caddie Ted Scott call it “Bubba golf” – though it also bears a strong resemblance to the late Seve Ballesteros, the escape master who seemingly had little use for fairways but won two green jackets and three British Opens.

“He hit shots that were unbelievable,” Watson said of the Spaniard. “I want to hit the incredible shot – who doesn’t? That’s why we play the game of golf, to hit the amazing shot.”

Like Ballesteros, Watson’s swing is purely self-made. He’s never had a lesson and doesn’t want one. And with his penchant for wandering brain waves, he would experiment with different shots simply to engage his curiosity.

“Bubba is a walking rebuttal to the overcoached world of professional golf today,” Chamblee said. “I’m not saying it displaces it, it just offers an alternative.”

Watson said: “It’s more fun to do it on my own. I like to figure it out on my own. It’s just like a math problem — except I probably wouldn’t get the math problem right.”

Those require too much focus. In the same manner, he prefers desert courses to Florida layouts like Doral or Bay Hill because the fairway is easier to pick out.

Nor can Watson remember much of Sunday’s trophy ceremony, because he was trying to recall his flight time back home, then spotted a helicopter overhead and wondered what make it was.

He’s sure he has ADD, but isn’t getting anywhere near a psychologist. That would mess with his creativity.

“I just swing funny,” he said before a runner-up finish at Doral, “and somehow it works.”

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