Bubba Watson provided plenty of moments for University of Georgia fans to bark by winning two of the past three Masters Tournaments.
He enters this year again among the favorites. With five other former Bulldogs teeing off Thursday, there’s a chance a Georgia guy not named Bubba could be in the mix come Sunday.
“They want to beat me and I want to beat them. … We smile about it because Athens isn’t that far away,” Watson said. “You hear a lot of ‘Go Dawgs.’ You hear a lot of barking.”
Watson won three times in 2014 and is the No. 3 golfer in the world, behind Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson. The five other Bulldogs in the field combined for four wins a year ago.
“We all root for each other,” Erik Compton said. “We’re happy to be part of a Georgia golf team and what (coach) Chris Haack has done for all of us, to be good college players and to prepare for the PGA Tour and to prepare us for majors. There’s other golfers that are coming up behind us. Happy for the other guys that are playing and hopefully we will all have great weeks.”
Chris Kirk and Russell Henley are back after playing last year.
Kirk, who turned pro in 2007, finished tied for 20th in his debut and earned $3 million for finishing runner-up in the Fed-Ex Cup Series.
With two wins on the PGA Tour to his credit, Henley enters with confidence after tying for 31st a year ago.
Brendon Todd and Brian Harman join Compton as those making their Masters debut.
Compton, the recipient of two heart transplants, toiled in the Nationwide and Canadian tours for years before earning his PGA Tour Card in 2010. His runner-up finish in last year’s U.S. Open provided access to Magnolia Lane this week. The Miami native played Augusta National a couple times in college and flew in and played 17 holes three weeks ago.
“It’s every boyhood’s dream to play in the Masters,” said Compton, 35. “I’m glad it’s here. I’ve been working hard ever since I found out that I was going to be here to get my game ready for this golf course.”
Todd teamed with Kirk to lead Georgia to the 2005 national title. Like his good friend, he turned pro in 2007 and has five professional wins to his credit. His breakthrough came at last year’s HP Byron Nelson Championship, when he carded 66 on Sunday to claim his first PGA Tour victory.
“I’ve done everything I can possibly do to get ready for my first Masters,” said Todd, who at times carried his6-month-old son during Wednesday’s Par-3 Contest. “Whatever comes my way, I’m just going to have to deal with and shoot as low as I can.”
Harman enters his first Masters having won the John Deere Classic last July. The resident of St. Simons Island and pro since 2009 finished tied for 26th at the British Open and tied for 40th at the PGA Championship last year.
Harman said he’s heard “Go Dawgs” all week and even a couple shouts of “Go Raiders,” the mascot of his Savannah Christian high school.
“It’s been so cool,” Harman said. “I’ve seen so many people that I know. I’ve had so much support. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Watson, playing in his sixth Masters, finished the requirements for his Georgia degree in consumer economics seven years after departing from the school in 2001.
“When you get to see that many people from a school like that, it is like a fraternity,” Watson said. “You can root for these people. You know, obviously I want to beat them all, but you root for them and cheer them on. Obviously we have that tie of UGA and it’s a big honor to be a part of that school.”