American Bubba Watson fired a final round 69 to post eight-under-par 280 to win the 78th Masters by three shots on Sunday at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Masters first-timers Jonas Blixt (Sweden) and Jordan Spieth (USA) completed the podium as they posted 283 to tie for second.
With tears of joy flowing down his face again, Bubba Watson joined The King, Arnold Palmer and Jimmy Demaret as the only players to win two Masters titles in their first six appearances on the fabled former Fruitland Nurseries grounds. Horton Smith won two of the first three Masters. After punching and counterpunching with young Jordan Spieth over the first seven holes, Watson washed out a two-shot lead on No. 8 and took his own two-shot lead on No.9.
There was no looking back.
The old adage is “the Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday”. That old adage never developed as Watson sliced, diced and, remarkably, putted like it was his home course. He gave an opening with a bogey on 10 but there wasn’t anyone with his pedigree in the top five at the time to give him a scare. He dusted himself off with pars at Nos. 11 and 12 but it was the birdie at No. 13 that saw his lead grow to three shots. After parring his way home, the lefty broke down as his final putt signified that he would be included with the immortals as a multiple green jacket winner.
There were three keys for me this week.
One, Watson rarely was in any bad situations and those few time he did find trouble it was his PUTTER that bailed him out. The turning point in the tournament was his pars on the final two holes on Saturday that steadied the ship and kept him in the final group on Sunday. Let’s be fair, when putting stats are quoted or great putters are mentioned, Bubba Watson’s name is not mentioned. He proved this Sunday that he had the gumption to grind out pars and stay out of trouble on the greens.
Another key was who Watson had chasing him on Sunday. He knew looking in his rear-view mirror that there were no heavy hitters or former major champions breathing down his neck. This should have relaxed him. I won’t believe otherwise. Jonas Blixt, Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar are great players but they don’t carry the cache of Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy or Phil Mickelson.
Finally, it doesn’t happen very often but there wasn’t ANYONE charging ANYWHERE sadly on Sunday afternoon. The course set up was fairly but did not enhance MULTIPLE scoring chances. There were more tap in bogeys than roars on the back nine Sunday afternoon. Watson could have cared less. If the plan was to “tighten it up” to bring the field together down the stretch, I would venture to say that theory blew up because the players in the top 10 did nothing on the back nine on Sunday allowing Watson to stroll home. The Masters is my favorite golf tournament because it usually forces players to go and win it. This Sunday, Watson parred it to death in a relatively boring finish. When the most exciting shot on the back nine was Watson’s “risky” six-iron on No. 15 that led to a par that’s not exactly the ending viewers and gamers (without Watson) were looking for.
This takes ABSOLUTELY NOTHING away from Bubba Watson. He’s now in a place where only 16 other players in the history of the game call home with his second green jacket. We always hear about great players who have yet to win a major. Watson now has two. He also completed a 54-hole lead for only the second time in eight tries on TOUR. Not bad that he’s 2-8 and one of those includes a green jacket! Another huge step in the right direction for the lefty!
Gamers who believed, as I did, that Watson would have a huge bounce-back year have been repaid handsomely and then some. As he mentioned during the week, winning the Masters two years ago, adopting a child, moving to Orlando and everything else had worn on him. I remember him stating that he was just happy to hit balls on the range this week and fly under the radar. After Sunday’s performance, he’s right back into that spotlight and deservedly so.
Watson will now be the only player in 2014 that has a chance at the grand slam but I doubt he has that on his mind. That’s why gamers should like him. He’s not concerned with any of that; he prefers to hit, find it and hit it again. If his putter stays steady there’s no reason why he can’t continue. Gamers that have already cashed in on him can rejoice; the rest of us will have to find a spot (read: ANY TOURNAMENT HE’S PLAYING) to enter him into the fray. His last four stroke play results are T2, WIN, T2 and WIN. I’ll give him a Claritn Mulligan for the API…
With his victory, Watson collects $1,620,000, 600 FedExCup Points and a place at the table with other immortals at Augusta.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the 18 of 22 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley and Matt Every have collected the hardware this year flying the US flag. Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have accounted for the other four victories. Where is the rest of the world then?
Last Sunday Matt Jones joined Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler and Chesson Hadley as the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had six in 22 events so far in 2014. The streak of three in a row, not surprisingly, was broken this week at Augusta.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 11 of 21 leaders have gone on to win on Sunday as Bubba Watson converted only his second 54-hole lead in eight career tries. Nice week to add to that total, Bubba!
For the first time in four years the Masters champ has NOT come from off the pace as Watson played in the final group.
After this week, 20 of the last 24 winners have teed it up last on Sunday.
Lefthanders have now won six of the last 12 Masters. Right-handers have won the other six. #math
Adam Scott tried to join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods as repeat champions. The bookmakers joint favorite finished T14 in his attempted defense. #ultraexclusiveclub
The average winning score since Bentgrass was introduced in the early 80s has been 279. Watson posted 280. #trends
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. The last three weeks have found first-time winners and they have all been in their 30s. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, won over the last three weeks before Watson chalked up win No. 2 at Augusta and win No. 2 of the season.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board.
The Old Guys fired this week with a solo fourth from 50-year-old Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez but he was never a threat to win on Sunday. John Senden is the only Old Guy in the winner’s circle this year.