(Reuters) - Masters champion Bubba Watson could join elite company with a successful title defense at Augusta National next month but said on Monday world number one Rory McIlroy will face more pressure at the year’s first major.
Watson, 36, will be gunning to join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods as the only players to win consecutive green jackets and could join the likes of Sam Snead and Gary Player by becoming the sixth three-times Masters winner.
Nicklaus holds the record with six.
”I don’t have any pressure,“ Watson, who also won at Augusta in 2012, told reporters on a conference call. ”I’ve already got two jackets.
“Obviously, I think he (McIlroy) would have more pressure than me, because look at the talent he has and the records he could beat when he gets older.”
McIlroy, 25, will arrive at the fabled golf course seeking a Masters crown to complete a career grand slam.
Victory for the Northern Irishman would make him the seventh career grand slam winner following Woods, Nicklaus, Player, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen.
He would become second youngest to achieve the feat behind Woods, who was 24 when he completed his set by winning the 2000 British Open with a record 19-under score at St. Andrews.
Watson said McIlroy has loads of time to reach the milestone but would be keen to finish the quest after winning the British Open and PGA Championship in the last two majors of 2014.
“I don’t call it pressure at all from McIlroy. I call it an accomplishment he’s trying to do,” explained Watson.
“He’s got years, he’s got his whole life to try to win the Masters, but obviously ... he’s going to put pressure on himself.”
As for the history he could make himself during the April 9-12 tournament, Watson said having won the Masters twice already exceeded his dreams.
”Who cares about three times, let’s just talk about twice,“ said the Bagdad, Florida, native. ”I‘m from a small town, a guy named Bubba, never had a lesson.
“I just see it as what a dream it is to play on the PGA Tour, somehow now got two Masters jackets. Pretty wild and pretty crazy stuff.”
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue