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Masters Golf Tournament 2011: Former Bulldog Bubba Watson Steps Up To The Tee

Georgia's spring football game was moved back one Saturday from its usual date this year so that it wouldn't conflict with the Masters, so it's safe to say the golf tournament holds a pretty important spot in the psyche of your average UGA alum. It's also safe to say that a lot of them will be rooting for Bubba Watson, who helped lead the Bulldogs to an SEC golf championship in 2000.

A native of Bagdad, Florida, Watson earned junior college All-American honors on the golf team at Faulkner State Community College in Alabama before transferring to UGA in 2000. He earned his first win in 2008 in the CVS Caremark Charity Classic and has been on fire over the past year, winning the Travelers Championship last June in a playoff over Corey Pavin and Scott Verplank. He wasn't quite as lucky two months later in the PGA Championship -- he made it to a three-hole playoff but lost by one stroke to Germany's Martin Kaymer -- but bounced back to beat Phil Mickelson by a stroke for a win in the Farmers Insurance Open in January.

Watson has made two prior appearances in the Masters, with the better of the two being a tie for 20th in 2008. You can't call him a favorite in 2011 -- so far he seems to be earning more ink for his decision to wear all white for the tournament than for his chances to take home the green jacket -- though his monster drive did earn him a spot on al.com's list of tournament dark horses. He'll be a sentimental favorite for golf fans beyond just those of the Bulldog persuasion, too, after losing his father to throat cancer last fall.

Watson has been grouped with Englishman Paul Casey and Italian Edoardo Molinari for Round 1. They'll be one of the last groups to take to the links, teeing off at 1:15 p.m. Thursday.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.