AUGUSTA, Ga. — Bubba Watson’s second shot landed safely on the 18th green in last year’s Masters, a three-shot lead in hand and a second green jacket firmly in his grasp.
As they headed up the sloping fairway, Ted Scott remembered what a veteran caddie told him long ago. So he urged his friend to walk a few steps ahead and bask in his victory.
“It was like, ‘Hey, take your time, look around, enjoy the crowd. Let’s get this in the hole in two or three putts and walk away with it,’” Scott said. “That was a pretty exciting moment.”
Their first Masters victory in 2012 was even more thrilling.
On the first hole of a sudden-death playoff with Louis Oosthuizen, the 10th, Watson carved a gap wedge 50 yards left to right out of the trees from 164 yards to set up a two-putt par.
During each Masters week since, fans make pilgrimages to that unmarked clearing in the trees right of the 10th fairway, as if an according to Hoyle miracle really happened there.
To Scott, 42, it was no miracle, simply a stroke of genius that is “Bubba golf.” In an article he penned for Golf magazine, Scott rated Watson’s great escape as only the second-best recovery shot he’s ever pulled off.
That victory, like the one in 2014, ended the same way: the ever-emotional Watson sobbing against Scott’s white Masters caddy jump suit, overwhelmed by the enormity of the moment.
Masters winners get a green jacket. Caddies get the 18th hole flag. Scott has two, signed by Watson right in the middle, prizes the Lafayette native keeps in his home.
Scott’s globe-trotting career — this is his 16th season on the PGA Tour — takes him everywhere. To places like Augusta and Gleneagles, Scotland, where Watson played last fall on the U.S. Ryder Cup team; to Shanghai, where Watson won the HSBC Champions in November, telling Scott beforehand about making the 18th-hole bunker shot he needed to force a playoff.
Given his season and the way Augusta National Golf Club seems to fit his eye, it would shock no one, least of all Scott, if the world’s No. 3 player becomes just the ninth man to win three or more Masters.
“Everything about the place suits his game, his feel,” Scott said. “Then to win twice there really builds his confidence.”
A caddie is both bag man and psychologist, and Scott calls his job his “second marriage.”
Like a married couple, Scott and Watson have their moments. As Scott once said, “Sometimes I want to punch him, but I love him, and I know he feels the same about me.”
With his Southern roots — Bagdad, Florida’s favorite son owns one of the “General Lee” cars they used in the original “Dukes of Hazzard” — and his powerful, homemade swing (Watson has never had a lesson), Bubba is one of the most popular golfers on the planet. That means virtually every shot he hits is on camera.
Sometimes they’re stellar moments, like the shot from the woods in the 2012 Masters. Sometimes they’re painful, like in the 2013 Travelers Championship when contending for a win, Watson dumped his tee shot on the par-3 16th in the lake and was caught chewing out Scott about the club selection.
The incident created a groundswell of support for Scott, including a “Pray for Teddy” Twitter page. But to him, it was misplaced criticism.
“He’s a great person,” Scott said. “One of the most frustrating things about my job is deciding whether to suck it up and be quiet or to defend Bubba. They don’t know him, but yet it’s easy to judge him.”
Scott understands the golfer’s psyche because he’s a talented one himself. When his schedule allows it, Scott has tried to Monday qualify for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
“I love to compete at anything,” said Scott, 42. “I like to be nervous. It’s fun to tee the ball up and your hand’s shaking. I think it helps me relate to Bubba when he gets nervous.”
By his junior year at Comeaux High School, Scott grew strong and tall enough to start shooting in the 70s and was offered a walk-on spot at McNeese State.
But before he could do that, another sport latched onto him: foosball. Scott started playing on weekends home from McNeese and learned the fine points from a top local player. In 1994, he and Terry Rue went to Dallas and won the world foosball doubles title.
Scott gradually worked his way back to golf, turning pro so he could give lessons to friends. A playing companion staked him to play six mini tour events, but the results were mixed.
By 2000, Scott was waiting tables at night and practicing during the day, when he met pro golfer Grant Waite. They were together for nearly three seasons before Scott latched on with former PGA champion (and soon to be fellow foosball junkie) Paul Azinger in 2003.
Midway through the 2006 season, Scott and Azinger parted ways. Touring pro Ben Crane, who knew Scott and Watson from the PGA Tour’s Bible study group, hooked them up.
Scott got a two-week trial. Two weeks became nine years and seven PGA Tour wins.
Watson will play about 25 weeks this season. That’s a huge amount of time for Scott to be away from his family: wife Melanie, 8-year-old daughter Gabrielle and 4-year-old son Elijah. But Scott figured out he comes out ahead compared to working a regular job.
“It’s tough not to be able to sleep at home every night,” he said. “Or if there’s a ballgame or a dance recital that you’re not going to be there for. But when you write down all the good and all the bad, I definitely am blessed.”
Weeks at home find Scott in carpool line at his children’s school, working with a golf tournament there or with another tournament for a local Christian organization, or playing golf around Lafayette. He’s a member at Le Triomphe, but on a rainy day at The Wetlands, the staff there greets him warmly, his easy-going demeanor endearing.
Despite again being away from home and family, Scott relishes Masters week.
“I grew up playing golf with my dad,” Scott said. “We always watched the Masters. As a kid, you tend to love what your dad loves. So of course it’s very meaningful to me. There’s an excitement that comes with that tournament that you really don’t always get at other tournaments.”
Or with other golfers.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.