DUBLIN, Ohio — Bubba Watson had a 3-iron, a small audience and a point to prove.
The flag was 251 yards away, with a light wind out of the right. With an open stance, he hit a high cut and begged it to carry the bunker, which it barely did. Next, he aimed some 15 yards to the left of the green and hit a bullet with a slight hook that landed on the back corner of the green.
“Still got it!” Watson jokingly proclaimed.
He hasn’t forgotten how to play. He hasn’t been gone from the game that long, though it sure seems that way.
It has been just more than seven weeks since Watson hit that wild hook with a wedge out of the Georgia pines and onto the 10th green to win the Masters Tournament in a playoff. He became an overnight sensation in a green jacket, and then he virtually disappeared from the golf scene. He has played only one tournament since, in New Orleans, and only because he was the defending champion.
The reminder of how long Watson has stayed away from golf came on the practice range Tuesday at Muirfield Village. With the U.S. Open only two weeks away, players were still congratulating him on winning the last major two months ago.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Winning majors can be a life-changing experience for everyone except those who seem to win them all the time. Few, however, had this many life-changing moments away from golf as Watson in such a short time.
He and his wife, Angie, adopted a baby boy just two weeks before he became a Masters champion. The adoption process is still not finished, though a few months doesn’t seem like much considering they began thinking about adoption four years ago. Watson is selling two houses and trying to find a home in Orlando, Fla. (The baby was born in Florida.)
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Watson replied to a fan on Twitter on Friday during The Players Championship that he’s “not missing golf at all.”
“You can turn your phone off or lock down yourself at Isleworth and nobody can get to you, and just spend time with the family, play golf when I want to,” Watson said. “It’s been a good thing. It’s been relaxing, rewarding. It’s been fun.”
The Memorial boasts a strong field, as usual, with defending champion Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Hunter Mahan leading the list of top players.
Watson adds another layer of intrigue, mainly because he is a major champion who has accumulated more rust than riches in the past two months.
His agent, Jens Beck, said interest in Watson has been unrelenting since the Masters: offers for endorsements and too many interview requests.
“For us, it hasn’t stopped,” Beck said. “For him, the biggest change in his life has been with the baby. I don’t think people truly get that. It was a huge life change for him.”