AUGUSTA, Ga. – Bubba Watson played poorly Saturday at the Masters, but he still has a chance to collect his second green jacket.
The 2012 Masters champion shot 74 and is tied for the lead with Jordan Spieth at 5 under par. There are seven other players within three shots.
“If somebody told me on Monday I’d have 74 and still be tied for the lead, I’d have taken it all day long,” Watson said.
Watson, 35, admitted earlier in the week that he wanted to be “the man” again. Last year he dealt with so many media obligations as the tournament’s defending champion that he wasn’t quite able to clear his mind enough to play good golf.
This year, the whole week has been about defending champion Adam Scott, which has allowed Watson to sit back and enjoy the week, yet still thirst for another opportunity to jump up and capture the spotlight.
Watson began the third round with a three-shot lead but was 2 over par after the first seven holes, and that included an eagle on the par-5 second hole. With the two famous par 5s remaining, Watson did not panic, knowing there were plenty of birdie opportunities available.
On the par-5 13th hole, Watson hit 9-iron to the green from more than 180 yards but three-putted for par. He had another 9-iron into the green on the par-5 15th, but it flew the green and he made another par.
Watson scrambled to make par on 18 when he blew his approach well left of the green for the second consecutive day. But he got up and down, making a 6-foot par putt to guarantee a spot in Sunday’s final pairing with Spieth.
“The emotions were there,” Watson said. “I knew that I was hitting the ball good. I know I was hitting my driver well. I know the key was just making some putts down the stretch, and luckily I did that on the last two holes to get in the final group.”
Watson knows he’ll have his hands full looking for another Masters title. Aside from Spieth, Matt Kuchar is a shot behind, Rickie Fowler is two shots behind and Lee Westwood and Jim Furyk are in a group only three shots behind.
But the focus will be on Watson and Spieth. Even though the Masters champion has come out of Sunday’s final pairing on 19 of the last 23 years, it has not come from the group in each of the past three years.
“That’s where you want to be,” Watson said of the final group. “You want to have a chance. You want to know what everybody is doing. When I come down 18 tomorrow, even if I’m playing really good, I’ll know what all the scores are.
“It’s a lot better making that putt to win when you’re in the last group than having to wait.”