| Bubba Watson, after his win at Augusta, on Sunday |
Augusta: Bubba Watson is an iconoclast in a sport of conformists, in possession of a swing that defies duplication and a mind so overactive that he has a hard time focusing for more than a few seconds.
Somehow, his long hitting and short attention span carried him to victory on Sunday at the most buttoned-down of Majors, on a course that requires the mental concentration of an illusionist. Extricating himself from more tight spots than David Blaine, Watson overcame a four-stroke deficit in the final 16 holes of the 76th Masters to force a playoff with his final-round partner, Louis Oosthuizen.
Watson closed with a four-under-par 68 at Augusta National Club, one stroke better than Oosthuizen, as both finished at 10-under 278. Watson made up the four-stroke deficit with four consecutive birdies, starting at No. 13, none of which he could recall afterward. Twice the 33-year-old Watson set himself up birdie putts to win and missed — on the 18th in regulation and on the 18th on the first hole of sudden death.
On the second playoff hole, Watson two-putted from 15 feet for par to secure his first major championship.
After barely missing his birdie attempt, Watson stepped away from the tap-in he had left for the victory.
After corralling his concentration, Watson made the putt, and in the process made a perfect swing by Oosthuizen, one that resulted in a double-eagle 2, magically disappear.
The historic shot came on the second hole, a 575-yard par 5. From 253 yards, Oosthuizen holed his second shot with a four-iron for the first 2 on the hole in the history of the tournament.
The ball bounced in front of the green and tracked toward the cup. With the crowd noise increasing in fury with every roll, the ball disappeared in the hole. “That was my first double-eagle ever,” Oosthuizen said, “so it was tough the next five holes to just get my head around it and just play the course.”
After driving into the woods on No. 10 in the playoff, he hit a majestic hook onto the green to set up the two-putt. Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, hit his second shot short of the green, then pitched to the back fringe and nearly made the par putt. “It looked like a curveball going to the right,” Oosthuizen said of Watson’s second shot, which he described as “unbelievable.” He added, “That shot he hit definitely won him the tournament.”
Watson said he dreamed of having a putt to win the Masters. “I just never made the putt,” he said, adding, “As an athlete, as a golfer, this is the mecca. This is what we strive for — to put on the green jacket.” Asked to describe his style of play, Watson came up with the term “Bubba Golf” and said his mantra was, “If I have a swing, I have a shot.”
In that respect, he is a kindred spirit of Phil Mickelson, who began day one stroke off the lead. A triple bogey at the par-3 fourth cost him a chance at his fourth green jacket. He closed with a 72 and tied for third with Peter Hanson (73) and Matt Kuchar, who shot a 69 and was one of four players who held at least a share of the final-round lead.
Tiger Woods, who had won his final tune-up for this event, posted a two-over 74 and finished tied for 40th at five over, his highest score as a professional at the Masters. Two strokes behind him, in a three-way tie for 47th, was Patrick Cantlay, who overcame a quadruple-bogey 9 on No. 13 to post a 72 and secure low-amateur honors. The first super-size Sunday roar to rattle the course came after 1 p.m., courtesy of Bo Van Pelt, who began the round seven over.
Using a 6-iron, he made a hole-in-one on the 170-yard, par-3 on his way to a 64, the lowest score of the week and one stroke off the course record. Ten pairings later, Adam Scott arrived at the 16th and holed his 7-iron shot en route to a 66.
Their shots were the prelude to the din that followed Oosthuizen’s 2 on No. 2. Two days earlier, he had taken five more shots to get the ball in the hole, his double-bogey 7 tying him with two others for the worst score of the week. He had hoped to receive the green jacket from his friend and countryman Charl Schwartzel, the defending champion, but instead that goose-bump moment went to Watson.
NY Times News Service