AUGUSTA, Ga. – Ben Hogan had a secret.
The two-time Masters champion whose name endures today on the eponymous bridge that stretches across Rae’s Creek on Augusta National’s 12th hole, forever kept his secret to success classified. To this day, it’s believed that it involved cupping his left wrist at the top of the swing. Weakening his left hand grip. Maybe starting his backswing with his right knee.
He spoke about it later in life, but old secrets are difficult to reveal, especially those which are kept hidden for so many years.
Bubba Watson has a secret, too.
That’s what he said after the opening round of this week’s Masters, following a 3-under 69. In a world where “Hoganesque” serves as a popular colloquialism, this was Watson’s version.
His secret was so secretive that even his wife, Angie, wasn’t sure what it entailed.
“A secret? Really?” she asked. “I don’t know.”
It appeared, like Hogan, he was prepared to keep it airtight. Wouldn’t divulge a word. Not even a hint.
Until 24 hours later, when he posted a second-round 68, took a three-stroke lead and let the world in on his private revelation.
“It's not science here,” he said. “It's try to hit the greens, and if you're hitting the greens that means you're obviously hitting your tee shots well. So that's all I'm trying to do is just hit the greens.”
Bubba Watson, you’re no Ben Hogan.
And that wasn’t much of a secret, either.
Yes, as it turns out, Watson’s big secret really wasn’t much of a secret at all. He’s trying to hit greens in regulation.
Shh, don’t tell anyone. The other players will never figure it out.
Secret or not, it’s working for him. Through two rounds, Bubba has hit 28 of 36 greens, a 77.78 percent clip that’s good enough for second place in the field so far.
“If you're hitting greens, obviously you're not going to be in the trees that many times - unless you're me, I guess,” said the man who famously won this tournament two years ago with a historic shot from the trees in a playoff. “So, yeah, by hitting greens, you're hitting your tee shots well and you're hitting the par-3s or short par-4, No. 4, really well, and so everything is going right in your game.
“I missed two greens yesterday, missed a few more today with the conditions a little tougher, but my tee shots are pretty good. There hasn't been too many real bad tee shots.”
Not at all. In fact, he ranks third in driving distance at 299.3 yards and is among the leaders in driving accuracy with 20 of 28 fairways.
Just don’t say anything. These are all secrets, of course.
Not as secretive is that Watson suffered from a bout of overexposure when he returned as the defending champion last year. Following that playoff victory over Louis Oosthuizen, he made the cut, but finished in a share of 50th place, part of a season-long struggle that saw him claim just one top-10 after February.
“You've got to think about where I've come from, my mom having two jobs to pay for my golf, my dad working in construction,” he explained. “And when you think about that and where I am in my career and where I am in my family, my young family, you're thinking about how great this was.
“It's an accomplishment for a guy named Bubba, with my mom, my upbringing. My year, my career was complete after that win.
“So yeah, obviously I was going to hang over. Never been drunk before, but a hangover from the green jacket. It's going to take me some time. You know, I do everything my way. I learned the game my way. I figured it out my way. So it just takes me a little bit longer with the mental focus and drive to get back to where I am today. This year started off a little bit better than last year.”
For Watson, who already owns a victory at the Northern Trust Open and two other runner-up finishes this year, that may actually be the secret. It has less to do with simply hitting greens this week and more to do with playing what he calls Bubba Golf.
Halfway through this edition of the Masters, this secret remains safe with him. If he can keep it going for two more rounds, it could translate into another victory among the towering pines.
And do you know whom he’d be tied with after winning a second title here? That’s right – a guy named Ben Hogan.
Just don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.