There isn’t any better theatre than the Masters on Sunday and 2012 was just par for the course. Even though only four players had the lead or share of the lead on Sunday, the drama was incredible again. Peter Hanson began the day nine-under-par but couldn’t hold on. Phil Mickelson, who began the day just one shot back and everyone’s favorite to win, saw his dreams of a fourth green jacket disappear after a triple-bogey six on the par-three fourth hole. Louis Oosthuizen stated his intent on two where he made only the fourth double-eagle in Masters history from over 250 yards away to take the lead. Matt Kuchar tied the lead on 15 with an eagle from six feet but backed that up with bogey on 16. Bubba Watson tied the lead with an eight-footer on 16 for birdie. He would remain tied until he made a six-inch putt on the second playoff hole to secure his first green jacket and his first major. The tears flowed and the hugs followed as Watson celebrated with friends on the 10th green.
I’ll get to Bubba Watson’s emotional victory at the Masters in just a minute. First, if you weren’t already aware, former lead columnist for Rotoworld’s golf content, John McNamara, has returned in a supporting role to author a recurring feature this season. It’s entitled “Long-Term 101” and it offers exactly what it promises – long-term fantasy outlooks for 101 golfers. His first edition published this past Friday. You can navigate to it by clicking here: Long-Term 101, Volume One
It’s cool having Johnny Mac back in the mix, but we’re not done. On Friday, April 13, we are rolling out another new recurring feature. All I’ll say now is that it will offer complementary content and coverage for one of NBC Sports’ signature broadcasts.
Here's what I saw play out in the final holes of regulation and the playoff:
I was exhausted just WATCHING this.
And it all came down to 18, just as we hoped the script would play out. The actors in the final scene were not Phil Mickelson nor Lee Westwood but rather Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizenl.
The one thing I love about the Masters is that you have to take the tournament by the neck and win it. Rarely do players find themselves backing into the winner’s circle; they must make birdies to win and today wasn’t any different.
Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen both found the fairway with their respective drives on 18. The Masters is known as a “second-shot” course and these second shots would determine the 2012 champion.
Oosthuizen’s iron found the back shelf. Watson’s was pin-high.
Oosthuizen left his first putt five-feet past the hole. Bubba had a putt to win the Masters.
Watson misses but taps in to post 68, 10-under-par 278. So does Oosthuizen after he makes a four-footer.
Exhale, if you were breathing to begin with, that is.
The playoff began on 18 and then onto 10, if necessary.
It’s the first playoff since Angel Cabrera defeated Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell in 2009 to win his only green jacket. It’s the 15th playoff in Masters history.
Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Peter Hanson all tied for third place, two shots behind the winner, by the way.
Watson and Oosthuizen both hit the fairway and both were inside 20 feet on 18 green.
It’s fitting that it came down to a putting contest at Augusta.
Oosthuizen putted first and just missed.
Watson had his second putt of the day to win the Masters. His putt just slides by. Pars for both.
And it was on to playoff hole number two, the 10th. There's no time for bathroom breaks now, for me that is...
I’m not sure there were 10 people cheering for Oosthuizen around 18 green as Watson is clearly the crowd favorite.
On 10 tee, both players decided to miss right. Oosthuizen received the best break, finding the fairway as Bubba was 40 yards right of that.
It would come down to second shots again and Oosthuizen dumped his second short of the green at 10. Watson had 155 yards and played an unbelievable shot , a 40-yard rope-hook that found the middle of the green.
Oosthuizen’s pitch found the back of the green and was still away laying three. After he grazed the edge, the best he could do was bogey.
Bubba Watson now had two more putts to win his first green jacket. His lag to six inches was plenty and another left-hander wins the Masters.
I'm worn out. Another fantastic Sunday at Augusta.
Now, on with the show.
Watson's wife and brand-new adopted baby were at home watchign on television. When Watson was asked earlier in the week what he would do if he won the Masters, he choked up and left the group of reporters who asked the question. Jim Nantz asked him if he ever dreamed about winning the Masters and Watson said he didn't get that far. Well, Bubba Watson, you don't even have to try to dream anymore. A new baby, a major champion, what a couple of weeks!
He was one of only two golfers (Matt Kuchar) to break par in all four rounds en route to his victory.
Does this mean there is a new “Golf Boys” video to be made?
Déjà vu All Over Again?
Peter Hanson became the 11th player in 16 chances to blow 54-hole lead in PGA Tour play in 2012. Ironically enough, Louis Oosthuizen was the 54-hole leader last week at SHO and did not win.
Bubba Watson becomes the fifth left-handed winner in the last 10 years joining Phil Mickelson (2004, 2006, 2010) and Mike Weir (2003 in a playoff on 10 as well).
Watson entered the day 37th in putting. On a course where you have to make putts, he made the ones that counted, including four-consecutive birdies on 13-16 and on 10 in the playoff.
Watson’s incredible 2012 continued with this victory. In stroke-play events this season he’s finished WIN, T4, second, T13, T5 and T13. His worst finish was T18 in the winners-only season-opener at Hyundai.
For the 76th-consecutive time an Australian did not win the Masters.
19 of the last 22 winners have come from the last group on Sunday. Watson was in the penultimate group.
Americans have won 8 of the last 13 majors.
With this victory, Bubba Watson earns $1,440,000 and 600 FedExCup points. Watson now has four-career wins on Tour. Watson is now second in the FedExCup standings behind Hunter Mahan.
Young Guns versus Old Guns
In 16 tournaments this season the “Young versus Old” argument now stands at 9-5-2 as Bubba Watson scores another point for the youth.
For the “young”, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24) and Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29), Rory McIlroy (22) and Justin Rose (31) lead the way for the Young guys.
Mark Wilson (37) is joined by George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods (36) and now Bubba Watson (33) in the “middle”.
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are flying the flag for the “old” folks on Tour.
After three weeks of international domination, Mahan, Woods and now Watson make it three straight for the Stars and Stripes.
Louis Oosthuizen: He began the day two-shots behind Peter Hanson in his first time on a Sunday at Augusta in four-career starts. Oosthuizen had never broken par in his previous three visits to Augusta. The 2010 Open Champion began 68-72-69 and was quietly lurking around the leader board. There was nothing quiet when he announced his arrival on Sunday by making the first double-eagle ever on two which vaulted him into a two-shot lead. His demeanor and putter were fantastic all day evidenced by gutty par saves at holes one, three, six, 11, 14 and 17. Oosthuizen was looking to join a very elite club of players who have won at St Andrew’s (2010) and Augusta but it wasn’t to be as his putter finally let him down on the final playoff hole. Last week he finished third alone at SHO after final round 75 after six straight rounds in the 60’s so I should have given him a better look this week but it was hard to ignore three straight CUTS here.
Phil Mickelson: Mickelson was trying to cement his place in Masters history by winning his fourth Green Jacket on Sunday. Mickelson loves Augusta because he enjoys the risk-reward and the shot making around the course and greens. Need a recipe for success at Augusta? Destroy the par fives, play the second-hardest hole two-shots under-par and stay away from the big numbers. Mickelson almost did all of that. He made triple-bogey seven on number 10 on Thursday and another on Sunday at number four. Mickelson was present Thursday morning at 7:35 A.M. as legends Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer hit the ceremonial first shots to open the 2012 Masters. Mickelson, donning his Green Jacket, wasn’t required by anyone to be at this ceremony but he showed up anyhow. Pretty cool stuff from Mickelson there. Love him or hate him, he’s fantastic for golf. In his 20th start, Mickelson with his T3, now has hit the top 10 an amazing 14 times. It’s also his eighth finish T3 or better at Augusta.
Matt Kuchar: Kuchar’s history at Augusta was shaped by his appearances as an amateur in the late ‘90’s when he finished T21 in 1998 and T50 in 1999. His last two appearances have yielded T27 last year and T24 in 2010. Kuchar found himself right in the thick of things on Sunday when his eagle on 15 tied the lead. His co-lead was to be short-lived as he three-putted 16 green to drop two shots behind Oosthuizen and Watson who were making birdies on 15 in the group behind them. Kuchar will look back on two power lip-outs on Saturday and Sunday that could have made a difference come late Sunday afternoon. Kuchar ranks 107th in strokes gained-putting but made plenty of other key putts this week to finish T3. Kuchar now has hit the top 10 for the third-consecutive stroke-play event on Tour.
Lee Westwood: Westwood began the day third to last in total putting but that’s not his bread and butter. GIR is what’s kept Westwood in the top 10 in eight of the last 17 majors. He’s an automatic choice for fantasy players when the majors roll around and this week just enhanced that reputation. After finishing fourth at WGC-Match Play, fourth at Honda, T28 WGC-CC and T21 last week Westwood shows that 2012 is not a step-back year for him.
Peter Hanson: The only Swede to ever win a major is Annika Sorenstam and that remains the case after this weekend. Hanson entered the day with a one-shot lead over Phil Mickelson but struggled to find the necessary speed on the greens throughout Sunday. Hanson bogeyed two of the first three holes and never found the lead again. Hanson had an up-and-down week in only his second attempt at Augusta firing 68-74-65-73. The only Swede to finish top 10 at Masters was Karlsson in 2008 before Hanson’s T3 this week. After playing some excellent golf at WGC-Match Play (T5) and WGC-CC (T4), he was sputtering coming into Augusta with T55 at Transitions and CUT last week at SHO. Well done if you had him on your roster this week! File this: Hanson has finished T7, T16, T18 in the last three U.S. Opens but you already knew this if you read the column regularly!
Ian Poulter: After having Pneumonia a few weeks ago I wondered when Poulter would be back to full strength. He showed an excellent sign of recovering as he finished T3 at API and now has backed that up with seventh-alone this week. Poulter couldn’t take advantage of the back-nine this week as he played them one-over par. Still, that’s eight cuts in eight starts lifetime for Poulter at Augusta and his second top 10. He’s still trying to be the first Englishman since Sir Nick Faldo to capture a green jacket. After a slow start to 2012, Poulter will be back on my radar after these consecutive finishes.
Padraig Harrington: Harrington rode excellent iron play this week but didn’t make anything on the greens. After finishing T7 at AT&T to open his 2012 season, Harrington led up to Augusta by finishing T44, 71st, T20 and T71. His last top 10 at Augusta was T5 in 2008. He was cut in 2011, 2010 and was T35 in 2009. Finishing T8 this week will help get Harrington back on track.
Adam Scott: Sadly, the Aussie curse continues through 2012 as Adam Scott who finished T2 last year couldn’t get anything going to off-set his opening round 75 until it was too late on Sunday. Scott will take momentum into his next start on Tour as he played the final 12 holes in seven-under carding a 66, the second-best round of the day, and moving into the top 10 for the second year in a row. In three stroke-play events this year Scott has finished T17 at NTO, T13 at WGC-CC and T8 this week. Steady stuff as the spring starts to heat up.
Justin Rose: We saw plenty of Rose on Saturday afternoon as he motored up the leader board with four birdies to move to four-under and at the time, just one shot off the lead. Rose imploded on his last three holes recording bogey on 15, double on 16 and a bogey to finish on 18 to erase all of his hard work. Here’s why I like Rose and think he’ll win again this season: He comes out on Sunday and rings up four birdies and an eagle against two bogeys to jump right back into the top 10 (T8).
Jim Furyk: I believe his game is more suited to par golf than birdie fests but the veteran took the slow and steady approach this week to finish 11th alone. He didn’t overpower the par-fives but he only shot one round over par (73 on Friday). After being CUT at Honda, Furyk has finished P2 at Transitions, T11 at API and now 11th at Augusta. It looks like he’s gearing up for Olympic Club.
Kevin Na: After being CUT in his first two appearances at Augusta used five birdies and one bogey for 68 on Sunday to get his invite for 2013 with T12. We know Na can putt but now he’s showing he can do it in the big events such as last year’s PGA (T10) and this year at Augusta. It’s time to keep our eyes open if he’s playing in majors.
Graeme McDowell: Posted a final round 68 to jump into a tie for 12th after also getting off to a slow start with 75 on Thursday. The 2010 U.S. Open champion made only his third cut in a major in his last seven attempts this week. His game showed signs of life last week in Houston before playing the weekend 73-77 to finish 63rd. This was just one week after finishing second to Woods at API. Aside from his 63rd last week, GMAC has hit the top 13 in four stroke play events this season. He looks to be regaining his pre-U.S. Open form.
Sergio Garcia: The most interesting part of his weekend was him admitting to the media that he no longer can believes he can win a major. I don’t care what stats you use. I don’t care what inside information you get. When a guy says he can’t win, well, that’s good enough for me. He was asked again this afternoon if he was serious. He asked the press if they thought he was a liar. Ok, Sergio, I believe you but this was your best finish at Augusta since 2004 and you get to come back next year! Don’t go away, you’re way too entertaining!
Hunter Mahan: The hottest golfer coming into this week that wasn’t named “Woods” found himself just five shots off the lead going into Sunday but never could get anything going. Mahan’s all-or-nothing finishes at the Masters continue as he shot 74 to join the group at T12. In his last five starts at Augusta he has finished T12, CUT, T8, T10, CUT. In eight events in 2012, Mahan has two wins and seven top 25’s. His worst finish was T42 at API the week before he won again at SHO. There, I’ve made your mind up for you.
Fred Couples: Last, but certainly not least, Fred Couples tried to relive 1992 again this week at Augusta after firing 67 to co-lead after two rounds. Sadly for Couples moving day meant moving in the wrong direction as he fell back with 75. A steady round of par golf on Sunday means Couples hits the top 15 for the third-consecutive year.
“Hey, whatever happened to…”
Tiger Woods: Tiger’s philosophy at Augusta doesn’t differ that much from Mickelson’s. He tries to make hay on the par-fives and allows his usually excellent short game and putter to keep ahead of the field. This week, Woods didn’t make a birdie on the par-fives in rounds two or three. It was only the fourth time in his career at Augusta that he failed to do so. Woods failed to break par in all four rounds for the first time ever at Augusta. His T40 finish is the worst in his professional career at Augusta since T22 in 2004. After dominating and running away from the field last week at API, the next question Woods was facing was could he do it in a major. The question was answered Augusta with a resounding “no”. Everyone has an answer for Woods’ problems: He needs more competitive rounds. He needs less coaching. He needs to try and not play “perfect” golf. Whether you are a “Tiger guy” or “Tiger hater” his story continues to be compelling because we just don’t know what’s going to happen week to week. It’s absolutely fascinating regardless. What’s next for Woods? Does he play Quail Hollow? Does he play at TPC-Sawgrass? Do we start the “hasn’t won a major since 2008” clock? We’ll be following either way. And we’ll be trying to figure out when to put him back in our fantasy lineups!
Rory McIlroy: The world’s No. 2 golfer was sitting in prime position heading into round three on Saturday after opening with 71-69 and was just one shot out of the lead. One of the questions this week was how McIlroy would handle his Sunday collapse from 2011 on Sunday. This year, his collapse came on Saturday as he fired six-over-par 42 on the front to shoot him out of the tournament. McIlroy will also not have found memories of the first hole as he made double-bogey six both Thursday and Saturday and bogey on Sunday. That’s five-over on one hole. McIlroy’s T40 is his first of 2012 on Tour outside of the top three. I think he’ll be just fine moving forward in 2012.
Luke Donald: The world’s No. 1 golfer finished strong with 68 on Sunday after doing absolutely nothing the first three days (75-73-75) to finish T32. Donald was gearing his early 2012 to make a run at his first green jacket as he only played four events in the States leading up to Augusta. He started off slowly with T56 at NTO and he was upset at WGC-Match Play in the first round. He took two weeks off and rallied with T6 at WGC-CC and then won Transitions in a playoff. Finishing T32 this week was better than pre-tournament favorites Woods and McIlroy but that will be no consolation to Donald who only hit 57% GIR and struggled with his short game.
Martin Kaymer: The world no. 6 finally made the cut in his fifth start at Augusta. I guess the information from countryman, and two-time champion, Bernhard Langer did not fall entirely on deaf ears. Kaymer failed to break par in his four rounds but still managed T44. Kaymer fades the ball and that doesn’t help at Augusta unless your last name is “Nicklaus”. It’s a step in the right direction but if you’re ranked that highly in the world making the cut is hardly an accomplishment.
Steve Stricker: I am completely baffled why his record at Augusta isn’t better. Known as one of the best putters and wedge players around, Stricker only has two rounds of 16 in the 60’s in his last four trips to Augusta. Just to show you how important second shots at Augusta can be, Stricker hit 47 of 56 fairways yet only made 10 birdies and finished T47.
Charl Schwartzel: The defending champion made his biggest contribution on the weekend by fitting Bubba Watson with his green jacket. Schwartzel ground his way to T50 by not breaking par in four rounds. Heck, the only guys who have defended their titles here are named Nicklaus, Faldo and Woods. Schwartzel was hot earlier in 2012 finishing T5 at Honda and T4 at WGC-CC. Since then he followed that with CUT, CUT and now T50 at Augusta.