Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Bubba Watson receives the Green Jacket from 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel.  (Getty Images)
Bubba Watson receives the Green Jacket from 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel. (Getty Images)

An emotional Bubba Watson is set to defend his Masters Tournament title with the magical memories of last year’s triumph still fresh in his mind.

The left-hander was asked in his preview press conference about the most interesting thing he had done with the Green Jacket since he won it 12 months ago, a question that immediately brought tears to the American’s eyes.

Watson explained: "Out of respect and honour for Augusta National, as one of greatest clubs we have, as one of the greatest tournaments, out of respect for them, I didn't do any of my funny antics that I normally would do.

"Only thing I did was wrap Caleb up in it."

Caleb is the son he and wife Angie had adopted shortly before last year's Masters, who will be here this year to see if his father can become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to successfully retain the championship at Augusta National.

"Obviously my stats probably show that I was better last year," added Watson, whose best finish of fourth this season came back in January.

"My mind, my physical (condition), my preparation, is the same. I feel good, feel confident.
"But obviously as we know, golf is a tough game and you can win the week before and then miss the cut the next week.

"I don't really look at it that way. I just look at it as it's a different year, getting older, different conditions. So who knows how I'll play. I could miss the cut; I could win. You never know what's going to happen."

One thing that Watson does not want to happen again is a repeat of his decisive shot from the trees on the second play-off hole last year, when he hooked a pitching wedge around 40 yards and onto the green.

The resulting par secured victory over South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen but Watson resisted the temptation to revisit the scene of his great escape when playing a practice round with his wife Angie on Sunday.

"There's a funny story on Sunday when me and my wife were playing," he added.

"We were coming down off the 18th tee and there was a group of guys over there, three guys over there (on the adjacent tenth hole).

"I couldn't see who it was and I yelled at them and I said, 'No, that's not the spot, it's a little over.

"I was just joking with them, and they saw it was me. And I come to find out it was Billy Casper (the 1970 champion) and his son. I didn't know that because I couldn't see through the trees."

World Number One Tiger Woods, meanwhile, said ahead of the 77th edition of the Masters that Rory McIlroy was the latest in a long line of rivals he has faced up to during his glittering golfing life.

"I think that over the course of my career, I've had a few," said Woods, who reclaimed top spot in the rankings from McIlroy for the first time since October 2010 last month. "Certainly Rory is this generation's.

"I've had Phil (Mickelson) and Vijay (Singh) and Ernie (Els) and David (Duval) for a number of years, and now Rory's leading this new, younger generation.

Woods, who is this week looking to capture a 15th Major Championship and first since winning the US Open in 2008, insisted he is still completely focussed on winning 19 Majors or more and with it breaking Jack Nicklaus’ long-standing record.

"I would like to be able to get to that point. It took Jack a while to get to 18, all the way until he was 46 years old. So there's plenty of opportunities for me," added Woods, whose last Masters victory came back in 2005.

"That's one of the neat things about our career, it's so long. We have an opportunity to play basically 30 years solidly at a high level. We have very expansive careers and I feel like I'm basically right in the middle of mine. I have a lot of good years ahead of me and I'm excited about this week."

Three-times a winner at the iconic Georgia venue, Mickelson has triumphed at the Masters three times and only finished outside the top 10 twice in his last 14 appearances, but said he will share the feelings of every Augusta rookie when the first round gets under way tomorrow.

"I'm a little bit nervous heading in because I didn't compete the week before as I have for many years in the past," said Mickelson, who opted not to play in last week's Valero Texas Open on the US PGA Tour as he felt the course did not offer good preparation for Augusta.

"I want to play well in this tournament. I love this tournament so much and I'm nervous because I haven't been in contention since the Sunday of then Houston Open, and that's 10 or 11 days as opposed to three.

"That's what I'm nervous about, being mentally tuned in for those opening five or six holes. It's always a challenge when you haven't been in contention to be really mentally focused and sharp."

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