April 14, 2014
The 2014 Masters at Augusta: Bubba Watson wins in a Spectacular Fashion to don a 2nd Green Jacket
Nobody can claim Gerry Lester “Bubba” Watson won his second Masters in three years the easy way. Not with a straight face, at least.
Watson let a three-shot lead fritter away on Saturday. As Jordan Spieth brilliantly holed out from the bunker at the front of the 4th green during round four, Watson trailed the 20-year-old by the same margin. Watson matched Spieth’s birdie two, moments later; the battle between eccentric major winner and fresh-faced pretender had commenced.
This slugging match continued until the crucial period of this, the 78th Masters. Spieth (left) stumbled from eight to five under from the 8th tee to the 12th green. As Spieth left his tee shot at the 12th short and in Rae’s Creek, Watson had claimed a level of initiative that he didn’t look of a mind to throw away.
Watson sat at seven under by the end of the same stretch, with his score and advantage improved further with a birdie on a 13th hole which a combination of power and technology allows the left-hander to butcher.
At nine minutes to seven local time, Watson confirmed his aggregate total of 280, eight under par and three better than both Spieth and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt (right). A three-stroke lead on the 72nd tee was comfortable enough, even for this jittery and emotional character. Watson still took three-wood, just to be safe.
He has been re-acquainted with the Green Jacket. Augusta National has been witness once again to Watson’s victory tears. Starting with Mike Weir, there have now been six left-handed winners of the Masters since 2003.
So Watson joins an illustrious list. The stellar names who have won this famous tournament more than once include Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Seve Ballesteros. Just like Horton Smith, the very first Masters victor, Watson’s three-year run here reads: win, loss, win. And all this, for a man who has never had a single golf lesson, let alone a coach.
For all the intensity and drama of day four, and there was plenty, a glance back to Friday is necessary in the context of Watson’s success. Then, he embarked on a run of five back-nine birdies in a row which kick-started not only the champion in waiting but the event itself. At the time, Watson’s spell looked ominous for the remainder of the field; it ultimately proved precisely that.
Even in defeat, Spieth emerges with immense credit. He was seeking to become the youngest ever winner of the Masters. Only three players in history had claimed the first major of the year on their debut.
Instead, the Texan fell narrowly short but displayed a spirit and maturity in defeat which many of his professional elders should take note of. He simply refused to give up, as a superb chip from the right of the 17th green which almost dropped into the cup illustrated.
Spieth won the hearts of the golfing public in Georgia and identified himself as this sport’s brightest young star. More importantly, he proved both to himself and others that he can go toe-to-toe with the best without feeling in any way inadequate. “It still stings, as any close call in a major would do,” Spieth admitted.
Given Spieth’s showing, there would be an argument for experience being overrated, but for the exploits of Miguel Ángel Jiménez (right). The 50-year-old pot-bellied, chain smoking Spaniard recorded his best ever Masters finish of fourth. Never mind thoughts of a vice-captaincy role at the Ryder Cup in September, Jiménez has every chance of playing in it.
“Yes, technology helps me,” Jiménez said. “Of course. But if you don’t know how to hit the ball then technology doesn’t do anything.”
Blixt, too, is worthy of immense praise. The 29-year-old Swede carded four sub-par rounds on his maiden Augusta appearance. He’ll be a force, here and elsewhere, in the near future.
As ever on the Sunday of a major championship, there were early charges. Rory McIlroy (left) made one, with the Northern Irishman clawing back to level par from a starting point of plus three by the time he reached the 13th tee. However, McIlroy’s second shot to that hole, a generous par five, fell agonisingly into the water hazard and that was that. McIlroy can file this tournament firmly in the category of what might have been. Still, there was a first ever place inside the top 10 as a consolation.
“I played the par fives in even par this week, which you just can’t do out here,” McIlroy admitted. “I’m even par for the tournament and even par for the par fives. You are looking to play the par fives somewhere around 10 to 12 under par. Obviously if I had done that it would have been a different story.”
Matt Kuchar (right) held more legitimate aspirations of glory. Kuchar chipped in for a dramatic birdie from the back of the 3rd green and tied for the lead but then four-putted the next hole and was never a threat thereafter.
Lee Westwood, who finished seventh, used the putter three times from 10ft on the 4th to trigger a double bogey. He was only ever going to make up the numbers after that. “I had a chance and didn’t put any pressure on,” admitted the Englishman. It is an all-too familiar major story, as Westwood knows all too well.
Watson’s narrative, specifically in relation to Augusta National, is one of stunning success. If you are going to be a horse for a particular course, where better to choose?