Now, though, while playing the best golf of his life – he has finished T2-1-T2-1 in his last four stroke-play starts he has completed – Watson has vowed not to suffer another major hangover and instead maximize his considerable talent.
“It took me a year or so to get adjusted that I’m not really that good. I’ve got to keep practicing,” Watson said Sunday of winning the 2012 Masters. “Finally, I got adjusted to it and here we are, another green jacket after two years.”
In the weeks and months following his maiden major triumph, Watson smashed produce on late-night TV. Appeared in a few Ping commercials. Filmed another Golf Boys video. Unveiled his hovercraft golf cart. Spent time at home with wife Angie and newly adopted son Caleb. Myriad distractions.
“The media, when you win a big event, they don’t attack you but they flock to you,” he told GolfChannel.com last April. “You have a voice now, something to say. When you just top 10 each week, they don’t really flock to you. Sponsors want more of your time. Fans want more of your time. There are more charity things you can do, more events you can go to. High-up people are calling you, wanting to hang out. Golf is the last thing on everybody’s mind.”
No surprise, but his game suffered after slipping on the green jacket.
The slide wasn’t immediate – in his first start post-Masters, at the Zurich Classic, he tied for 18th. But he skipped the Players to spend more time with his family and then missed his next two cuts, including at the U.S. Open, before a tie for second at the Travelers. He tacked on a pair of top 10s the rest of the season to finish fifth in 2012 earnings.
The hangover was more apparent in 2013, however, when he had just one top 10 in 19 regular stroke-play starts, and just three overall. He fell to 44th in earnings and failed to reach the Tour Championship. It was his worst season since 2009.
With the length to overpower certain venues, Watson wasn’t a factor in the game’s biggest events, either. In fact, his victory Sunday at the Masters was Watson’s first top 10 in a major since that playoff victory two years ago. In the seven major starts since, he had two missed cuts and three finishes outside the top 30.
Watson attributed much of his slide – he had dropped from No. 4 to No. 30 in the world – to learning how to be a father. “I had to be there for my son,” he said Sunday, referring to the early stages of his baby boy’s development.
Now, Watson said he and his team have developed a plan for how to prepare and travel and also be a family man.
“Everything’s the same; everything’s a go,” he said. “It’s a lot different situation now than it was back then.”
Which likely means that, this time, Bubba won’t disappear for another 22 months.