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Watson and mom (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

In the swing

Sports | Anger turns to gratitude for golf's newest champion

Issue: "Return to war?," May 5, 2012

On the first hole of the final round at the Masters, Bubba Watson sprayed his tee shot wide of the fairway and shouted at himself in disgust. Caddie Ted Scott looked on coolly, ever mindful of the day's game plan. He had seen this kind of verbal outburst from Watson before, plenty of times. The man whose game colors outside the lines of golf's conventions has often let his temper leak beyond the boundaries of golf's decorum-and with destructive results.

But this Easter Sunday would be different. Earlier in the day, Scott had reminded Watson that few onlookers expected him to win. All pressure rested squarely on the two major champions occupying the leader board ahead of him-Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen. What's more, the occasion of the Christian holiday pressed caddie and player to view the closing round of a golf tournament as just that, nothing more. "We're both believers in Jesus Christ, and it being Easter Sunday, we put that first, and that put everything in perspective," Scott explained later. "There was no pressure from the get-go."

Watson's first-hole reaction may have suggested otherwise, but his play for the remainder of the day smacked of a pressure-free stroll. Four consecutive birdies on the back nine propelled the 33-year-old into a tie for the lead. And a fearless hook shot around trees on the second playoff hole set him up for a tournament-winning par putt. When the ball dropped into the cup, Watson embraced his longtime caddie and wept.

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The pair has come a long way since 2006. When Watson first hired Scott, his fits of anger on the course were out of control. The tantrums reached such peaks that on one occasion Scott threatened to quit. Watson looks back on that moment as something of a turning point: "I knew Teddy was right, and what he said hit home. I had to come up with a new mindset."

The new mindset was born of faith. Watson consulted with pastors. He turned to the Bible. And he discovered aspects of life that put winning golf tournaments in its place. Just two weeks before his Masters victory, he and wife Angie adopted their first child. So when given the chance to reflect on collecting golf's greatest prize, Watson had someone to thank: "I need to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." The following day brought more reason for gratitude, as Watson tweeted: "Changed my 1st 2 diapers today!! #MastersChamp."

Benched coaches

Photos by AP (Guillen and Petrino) and Getty Images (Payton)

For high-profile athletic coaches, winning often covers a multitude of sins. But the slack afforded even the most successful coaches has limits, as three prominent head men discovered this spring.

Arkansas fired football coach Bobby Petrino after reports surfaced that he had given a job to a former Razorbacks volleyball player with whom he was engaged in an inappropriate relationship. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton avoided termination but had the NFL slap him with a year-long suspension for allowing and covering up a bounty system that offered players financial incentives to knock opponents out of games. And most recently Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen received a five-day suspension from his employer for praising former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, a gross offense to Miami's large Cuban-American population.

Each coach is among the best in his respective field, but their successes had no apparent bearing on the penalties meted out. Perhaps cynical sports observers should take heart; at least in some quarters, a win-first culture is still no invite to win at the cost of decency. -Mark Bergin


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