Steve DiMeglio, USA TODAY Sports
Long after the day he won the 76th Masters had turned to night, Bubba Watson gingerly walked into one of the bedrooms of his rented home in Florida to see his adopted son, 1-month-old Caleb. Doing his best not to wake him, Watson cautiously hung his green jacket near the crib.
He tiptoed out of the room and then tried to get a few hours of sleep, but that was futile. So he went back in. Soon, Caleb started to stir, as if he knew a giant toy was nearby. Watson stooped to tuck in his son, but it was no use; the baby was wide awake. The two went for a walk, and Watson even changed his first diaper. But no matter what the newly minted Masters champion did to get his son to go back to sleep, Caleb was having none of it.
Sleep time was over, and it was time to play.
Not that the elder Watson minded. Forever a kid at heart, unconventional Watson loves his playtime. He has watched thousands of cartoons and played hundreds of video games. He has never met a jet ski he didn't try to flip. He once hit golf balls into a lake out of the living room of a rented mansion. He bought the original General Lee, the red Dodge Charger made famous in the TV showThe Dukes of Hazzard. And he has cut two humorous music videos with fellow goofballs and pro golfers Ben Crane, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler, aka the "Golf Boys," a band whose members churn out a hip-hop beat and questionable boy-band dance moves while wearing outlandish costumes. Watson, for instance, did little to hide his hairy chest by wearing bib overalls.
"Bubba," Fowler says, "is a little kid stuck in an adult's body."
And as Mahan adds, "Bubba's waiting for Caleb to get bigger. I can't imagine when Caleb gets old enough to start doing so many more things. Those two are going to have a ball together. Bubba is going to do everything for that kid."
But there's a time to play and there's a time to sleep.
"I kind of have to be the responsible one a little bit because all he wants to do is play all the time," says Angie Watson, Bubba's wife. "We have a rule in the house now that Mommy is the only one allowed to put Caleb to bed, because Daddy gets him too ramped up before he goes to bed."
Fatherhood - and his wife's new rule - are about the only things that have changed Watson since he stormed back with four consecutive birdies on the back nine last April at Augusta National, then hit a ridiculous recovery shot off pine straw and through a gap in the pine trees, curving the ball more than 40 yards to the 10th green from 155 yards away to secure victory on the second hole of a playoff with Louis Oosthuizen.
For those who thought winning his first major championship would change the man, think again. No green jacket will change this self-taught lefty with the big pink driver who came from meager means. He's the same old Bubba, despite buying Tiger Woods' former house at ultra-exclusive Isleworth Golf & Country Club in Orlando.
Watson is still a folk hero with an assortment of preposterous shots few can imagine, let alone hit. He's still a man who professes deep faith and a charitable sort who goes out of his way to help others. And he's still always on the lookout for a good time - just not 24/7 anymore.
"No, he hasn't changed since he put on the green jacket. He has changed since he became a dad," Angie Watson says. "Becoming a dad has been more instrumental in our life than winning a green jacket. The timing of him winning the green jacket was perfect because fatherhood took over.
"He's an amazing dad. He just wants to play all the time, just like Caleb. But Caleb needs sleep, and Bubba knows that. The stresses of the golf course, before Caleb came into our lives, were the things that overwhelmed him - the interviews, all the people - and once he got inside the ropes it was kind of like his sanctuary. And when Caleb came into the picture, it has flipped. Getting home and spending time with Caleb is his sanctuary now.
"That keeps him grounded and helped his golf, too."
Fifteen floors above the Arizona desert, in the luxurious Orange Sky restaurant of the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Watson is nearing the end of a long February day that included golf, photo shoots and interviews. Visibly tired, Watson is explaining fatherhood, his charitable efforts and respect for the green jacket. Then Isleworth neighbor Ken Griffey Jr., a likely future baseball Hall of Famer, walks in and jocularity breaks out. A barrage of jokes and put-downs lasts for 30 minutes before Griffey exits.
"Where were we?" Watson asks. "Oh, yeah, Caleb."
Watson perks up.
"I learn every day. You learn from your child," he says. "My time is more valuable now. I have to be more efficient practicing, more efficient as a husband, more efficient as a father. I have to give Angie some rest. I have to be there as a family when we have dinner.
"Hopefully I will show Caleb respect he'll learn from me, learn how to be a good husband. I learned from my Dad. I learned right from wrong. I've been so blessed. ... I get to watch the little man grow into a young man.
"There's nothing better than that."
Watson was at Talking Stick to represent his new sponsor, Oakley, which lost Rory McIlroy to Nike but replaced the world No.1 with the most popular Bubba in golf. Oakley and Watson, it turns out, are a perfect match. Watson says Oakley is fun, innovative, exciting and charitable.
"Even their factory intrigued me, including the dirt bike track behind it," Watson says. "They make a lot of cool stuff. Golf is already boring. Why be boring on top of that?
"And I want to be a part of a company where charity is important."
Watson has been a giver since childhood. As a teenager, he helped a high school golf coach introduce the game to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. When he was on the mini-tours, he helped sponsor junior golf tournaments, even though his pockets were nearly empty. In December, Watson and Ping gave $250,000 to the Phoenix Children's Hospital for use in the construction of Arizona's first pediatric gait lab, which will help pediatric patients with neuromuscular diseases and disabilities.
Six weeks, later Watson gave $40,000 to the Desert Mission Food Bank in Phoenix, which equates to 120,000 meals for less fortunate kids who rely on school meals and go hungry on the weekends. Then, on the Friday during the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Watson and members of his team went to the Mission to pack food bags.
"The fact he brought people down here - his trainer, other golfers, neighbors -you can't put a dollar amount on that," says Mallory Lebovitz, manager of development for the John C. Lincoln Health Foundation and Desert Mission programs. "They were a very competitive group. We challenged them to put together a month's worth of snack packs. They did it in an hour and a half."
Watson will do it again. And again. And again.
"I've been given so much, so why not give back? And how can you not give back?" he says. "I held a baby with a form of cancer who was the same age of my son, and she was half the weight. How can you not give to this family? I have to help.
"The thousands of sack lunches let kids eat on Saturday and Sunday before they went back to school. How can you not help? Without having a heart is the only way you wouldn't help."
That's Bubba being Bubba.
"He's just a huge kid. He's long. He's fun. He's pink. But Bubba understands that this is not all about him," Crane says. "His heart is good, and he knows there are people a lot less fortunate than him. He knows God has blessed him. He recognizes all of that. And one of his great gifts is he surrounds himself with good people, and he has an amazing wife who holds him accountable."
And now a son who will hold him responsible.
"Bubba's still the same guy, but his responsibilities have changed a little bit," Fowler says. "He's learning some things. Bubba is definitely going to enjoy being a dad. He already does. And Caleb has a great dad. He's going to really want to be involved and teach him things, about sports and about life. Those two have a lot of fun to look forward to, believe me."
Even at the Masters. Caleb is close to walking, Watson says. But if he has to, Caleb will crawl around the par-3 course on the Wednesday before the Masters, with Daddy hitting shots and Mommy carrying the bag. Watson says during practice sessions he might not try to recreate the famous shot curved round the world that won him the green jacket, but he will try some crazy shots with Caleb in tow on the short course.
"The green jacket didn't change me," Watson says. "I respect the green jacket, I admire it. It's an honor to have won it. But change me? No. Caleb changed me. In the best way possible."