Bubba revels in pressure-free Masters start

Thu Apr 10, 2014 8:30pm EDT
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Twelve months after succumbing to the pressure of trying to retain his Masters title, Bubba Watson delivered a near-flawless display to soar up the leaderboard in Thursday's opening round at Augusta National.

The power-hitting American left-hander, who is renowned for his audacious brand of 'Bubba' golf, was the only player in the field of 97 to go bogey-free as he fired a three-under-par 69 on a firm, fast-running layout.

Adopting the strategy of not looking at any leaderboards out on the course in a bid to maintain a blinkered focus, Watson birdied the third, 13th and 15th to end a day of unbroken sunshine one stroke behind pacesetting American Bill Haas.

"It was really solid," Watson said of his blemish-free round. "You know, my whole goal, I'm not trying to look at leaderboards. I don't want to give my secret but I'm trying to just hit greens.

"Today I missed two greens. I missed one by six inches, missed one by three feet. I putted both of those, made pars. So I'm just trying to hit greens.

"If I can hit greens that means I've hit good tee shots and I hit good iron shots and I'm just trying to make par from there and throw in a birdie here and there. And that's what I did today."


Last year Watson opened with a 75 and closed with a 77 to finish joint 50th on his Masters defense, overwhelmed by the task of trying to retain his crown.   Continued...

U.S. golfer Bubba Watson tips his hat after finishing the first round of the 2014 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia April 10, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder