AUGUSTA, Ga. — It was something you’d probably never see at any golf course, let alone at the No. 1-ranked course in the world.
Two-time Tour champion Bubba Watson stood holding the flag on the first green during Wednesday’s par 3 contest, preparing to take a golf ball to the chest off the club of friend Ricky Fowler, who teed off 130 yards away.
“It was really funny to do it, but then the ball came right at me and I was like, ‘Oh gosh,’ “ Watson said. “But I wanted to act like I was tough, so I just stood there.”
Luckily for Watson, the ball landed in front of him and settled about four feet from the hole. And to his credit, he didn’t even flinch.
The crowd laughed and applauded as Watson scampered back over to the second tee, smiling and waving to the fans.
“Me and Ricky are really good friends,” he said. “It was just something fun for us to do.”
Such was the mood at the Augusta National Par 3 course on Wednesday afternoon.
During the nine-hole round, players stopped to give autographs, talk with fans and just have a good time.
Three-time PGA Tour Champion Aaron Baddeley had his family alongside him for the round. His wife, Richelle, and their two daughters — both under the age of three — caddied for him.
“That was awesome,” Baddeley said. “(My two year old daugher) Jewell loved it. She did good. She made a putt on the last hole.”
For Michigan senior Lion Kim, who played with Watson and Baddeley, it was the perfect chance to get used to the enormous Augusta crowds — thousands of people hovered around each green and tee box on Wednesday — in a competitive, yet relaxed, atmosphere.
“Bubba and Aaron were great sports, and we had a lot of fun,” Kim said. “We were just staying loose and not taking it too seriously.
“I wasn’t nervous because in my mind, (the crowd) came to watch Bubba and Aaron. I maybe had 20 percent of the crowd cheering for me, so it was fun.”
Kim finished the contest at 1-over, notching two bogeys and a birdie. He missed just one green but couldn’t quite get the mid-range putts to fall.
But for Kim, as it was for all the players on Wednesday, his score wasn’t a concern.
“I hit the ball great,” he said. “My instructor (Brian Mogg) just complimented me that I probably had the best distance control out of anyone in our group. So that was great.”
And heading into tomorrow’s first round, Kim will look to play with confidence and continue to take in all The Masters has to offer.
“Every moment here is memorable to me,” Kim said. “Every second, every minute is memorable.”
SECOND HOLE SHUFFLE: On the second tee in the par three contest, caddie Louis Lawrence started taking off his clothes.
But don’t panic — he had two layers on, and he didn’t do anything to get himself kicked out of Augusta National. One of the layers was his caddie uniform, and the other was his normal golf clothes.
Lawrence was taking off his uniform in order to give it to Michigan assistant coach Chris Whitten, acting as Kim’s honorary caddie for the contest.
“Louis popped out of his jumpsuit Superman style,” Whitten said. “I threw it on, and next thing I knew, I was taking the pin out for Bubba Watson and Aaron Baddeley. It was unbelievable.”
But Whitten, a Rockford, Mich. native, wasn’t originally planning on caddying. Kim’s brother was scheduled to perform the duty, but he told Kim right before the round he couldn’t do it.
The fifth-year assistant coach couldn’t say no to the opportunity — literally.
“As we were walking along (the first hole), Brian Mogg grabbed me and asked me if I wanted to caddy,” Whitten said. “I must have looked like a deer in headlights because a second later he was like, ‘Just say yes.’
“I really just tried to stay out of the way and get Lion whatever he needed. It went by really fast, but I’ll never forget that.”
MASTERING THE LEARNING CURVE:Watson commented on Kim’s game, saying that he had both a good swing and putting stroke.
He mentioned, though, that Kim has some learning to do — as does everyone in the tournament.
“He’s a very good kid,” Watson said. “He’s young, you know, he’s got to learn the game. But we all gotta learn the game. We’re still learning. It looked like he had a good head on his shoulders.”