AUGUSTA, Ga. – A crowd of thousands had gathered around the practice green at Augusta, standing ten deep and leaning over the railing of the clubhouse's famous veranda. Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National, was in the midst of introducing dozens of representatives of golf associations from around the world. Adam Scott, defending champion, looked every bit as smooth as he ever does. A sea of green jackets flanked them all.
And in the middle of it all, the man of the hour, the one for whom all this pomp and circumstance was necessary, sat up straight, fingers steepled on his knees, looking exactly like a fidgety kid waiting outside the principal's office.
Bubba Watson, 2014 Masters champion, is an absolute mess of contradictions that somehow come together to form a world-beating whole.
Start right at the very top: This is a guy named "Bubba" who's won the most prestigious golf tournament on Earth not once, but twice. "Bubba" is a name for the guys who spent the weekend at the NASCAR race over in Darlington, not for gentlemen of means who gather beneath the majestic oaks and towering pines of Augusta National.
With his three-stroke victory at Augusta on Sunday, he's joined elite company; only 17 men have won more than one green jacket. He's played in six Masters and won two of them; only two men have done that faster. He claims he's never had a golf lesson in his life, and his tumbling swing seems to bear that out, and yet he's one of the best in the world.
[Slideshow: Bubba Watson claims his second green jacket]
This shouldn't come as a surprise, really. We – fans, media, sponsors – pigeonhole athletes based on one or two primary-color attributes. Good guys/bad guys. Outgoing/ introverted. Focused/lazy. Winners/losers.
Bubba sprawls across all lines. He's a rail-thin guy from Bagdad, Fla., who can drive the ball into a different time zone. He makes the kind of ridiculous decisions on the golf course that you make with your buddies when you say, "Hey, watch this," but has the golf-genius prescience to pull them off. Exhibit A: his shot to win the Masters in a playoff in 2012, one of the greatest shots in Augusta history:
He's a guy whose mouth and temper get him into trouble and right back out again. He's barked at his caddy, he's sniped at post-round questions. In a 2013 interview that saw new life on Twitter Sunday night, he both criticized and absolved Jason Collins, the first gay NBA player, within a few sentences.
But you can't pen him into the typical-surly-athlete box, because then he'll turn around and offer up this gem about approaching the 18th green and seeing his son Caleb: "I hate to say this, because I have it on right now," he said, tugging at the lapel of his green jacket, "but having my son means more to me than the green jacket."
After his jacket ceremony, Watson spoke at length about how tough it had been in the wake of his first Masters victory, becoming a father and a Masters champion within weeks of each other. "My son, being adopted, didn't have a male figure in his life for the first month of his life," he said. "So, getting used to smell, touch, feel, sound, everything, I had to be there for my son. And so golf was the farthest thing from my mind. So I took off some tournaments. Trying to be a good husband, a good dad at that moment was the most important thing."
This time around, he's got a sense of perspective. "My schedule is not going to change," he said. "Everything's the same. Everything's a go. We're trying to make the Ryder Cup team. We're trying to win the next tournament, trying to make the next cut."
Shortly after making those (and many other) comments at his champions' press conference, Watson got ferried across the back lawn of Augusta National once again, passing the 18th green, the 10th hole where he'd won two years ago, the practice green where Scott had helped him into the green jacket once again. His golf cart stopped at Butler Cabin. Nearby, one of those classic Southern lights-in-the-trees parties was well underway, but Watson didn't stop for that. He crouched down, lifted Caleb and walked into Butler Cabin, away from the party.
Manic and loose. Competitive and casual. Outspoken and introverted. Cheery and prickly. Bubba Watson, more so than almost any athlete, shows the range of emotion that we expect from, you know, real people. In short, he's an entirely normal guy.
Who happens to have won the Masters twice.
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