April 2, 2018 / 9:32 PM / a year ago

Golf-Bubba back from 'dark place' and set for Augusta challenge

AUGUSTA, Georgia, April 2 (Reuters) - Twice winner Bubba Watson thought about retiring last year while dealing with an undisclosed health issue but said on Monday he will bring a renewed sense of confidence into this week’s U.S. Masters.

Watson started to look a lot thinner late in 2016 and it was only midway through last year when he started to feel and play better, before finally ending a two-year title drought in February with a win at Riviera.

The Masters champion in 2012 and 2014 then confirmed his return to elite status when he captured his second title in as many months with a triumph at the World Golf Championships-Match Play event in Austin.

“Seven months ago I did not believe it,” Watson said during a news conference at Augusta National when asked if he could have imagined arriving at the year’s first major with two wins in the season.

“But like I’ve said throughout these two wins when I’ve been interviewed, my team around me ... they have cheered me on and they have helped me come out of a dark place.

“And, again, life’s in the right spot, ... and golf’s in the right spot. Golf is really easy when you free it up. It’s very difficult when you’re not thinking properly.”

Watson has seen his odds of winning a third Green Jacket this year improve considerably following his latest PGA Tour victory and will be competing in what many consider to be one of the most wide-open Masters fields in years.

The 39-year-old American admits he has not practiced much ahead of the year’s first major, opting instead to save energy for the mental challenges presented by Augusta National.

“Here is different. You got to be mentally prepared. The mental part of it is what drains you around this place,” said Watson, who in the final round of the 2013 Masters carded a 10 on the par-three 12th hole.

“So you got to be mentally prepared and focused on every shot and committed to what you see and what you want to do.”

Like many previous Masters champions, Watson has peaked at just the right time. But he is not alone as a number of other top golfers, including former world number ones Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, have also shown solid form of late.

That will set the stage for what should be a memorable week at Augusta National and Watson said he was pleased to see so many of his competitors in top form.

“That’s what we want. We don’t want an asterisk by it and say everybody played bad so you just won,” said Watson. “We want everybody to play their best.

“Again, it’s going to come down to how we prepare.” (Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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