Bubba Watson enjoyed becoming Masters champion from the middle of the fairway more than out of the trees.
The big-hitting left-hander admitted his miraculous recovery at the tenth hole in a play-off when winning for the first time at Augusta two years ago “made me famous”.
But he much preferred walking up the last hole with a three-shot cushion as he joined an elite club of multiple winners in the season’s opening major.
“I feel a lot better doing it this way,” admitted the 35-year-old after claiming a three-shot victory over fellow American Jordan Spieth and Swede Jonas Blixt.
“The shot out of the woods made me famous, but this one was a lot better for me and my nerves and my family.”
Watson said he enjoyed knowing he couldn’t possibly blow it after safely finding the 18th green in two then watching Spieth miss a birdie chance that would have trimmed his lead to just two.
But he still wanted reassurance from his caddie and admitted: “When he [Spieth] missed and he was tapping in, I went over to Teddy and I said, ‘I’m not very good at math, but we’ve got four putts, right?’
“He goes, ‘Yes, just lag it down.’ I said, ‘It’s fast? It’s real fast’. But it’s a lot better for my nerves winning this way.”
Level with Spieth at the start, Watson holed crucial putts to match birdie-2s from his 20-year-old compatriot at the fourth and sixth holes.
Even then, he found himself trailing Spieth, bidding to become the event’s youngest winner, after he birdied the seventh to move to eight-under.
The tide turned Watson’s way, though, when he birdied the eighth and ninth as his younger rival dropped shots.
“Eight and nine were really the turning point where momentum kind of went my way,” admitted Watson.
“After that, nobody in the group in front of us [Blixt and Matt Kuchar] and the other groups really caught fire. There wasn’t too many birdies after No. 10, I don’t think.”
Watson made only one himself. It came at the 13th after Spieth had gone into Rae’s Creek at the 12th but did well to limit the damage to a bogey.
The 13th measures 510 yards and has danger written all over it, but Watson reduced it to a drive and sand wedge.
Had he meant to take such an aggressive route with his tee shot that clipped some branches before landing on the fairway?
“I’m not very smart, but I can tell it hit some trees as that’s not the line I wanted to go on,” he admitted with a wry smile.
“I knew when it took off that it was cutting a little too much. But I could start breathing again once I heard them clapping and roaring.
“I’ve hit it there a few times and I’ve hit wedge to that hole a few times. Today I hit a 56-degree sand wedge in there.”
Three ahead with four to play, Watson drew gasps from the massive crowd when he decided to take on the water at the 15th after partially blocking himself off by trees. “I was thinking about hitting the 8-iron up through a bigger gap than the one I took and I told my caddie, ‘I’m not going to do that to you. You tell me what to do.’ I said, ‘If you want me to lay up, I’ll lay up.’
“The easier gap was to try to hit it in the bunker. If it went over the bunker, it hits the crowd, hits the grandstand and I get a free drop.
“That’s where I was trying to hit it.
“I wanted to get it a little closer to the pin, and so I cut it a little bit without telling my caddie I was going to do that!”