Planet Golf — 09 April 2012 by Bob Sherwin
Bubba’s game works at Augusta

It was a Masters Tournament that everyone seemingly had a chance to win yet was finally won by a guy who you never thought could.

Bubba Watson, one of the the PGA Tour’s longest drivers but also one who, coming in, didn’t seem to possess the disciplined approach needed for Augusta National, hung around long enough Sunday to tie Louis Oosthuizen after 72 holes. Watson won on the second playoff hole, No. 10, with a par. The critical shot was his remarkable 155-yard approach out of the woods that landed on the green and rolled about 10 feet from the pin.

There were so many other candidates for the Green Jacket but it seemed like just as they rose, they faded:

    • Henrik Stenson got to six under in Thursday’s first round, then took an 8 on the 18th. He never recovered, tying for 40th at 5-over.
    • Lee Westwood was the first-round leader and stayed among the leaders all weekend but couldn’t made the critical putt – particularly an eight-foot eagle attempt on 15 – to stop his winless streak at the majors. He now has a record seven top-3 finishes in majors without winning one.
    • There was the hope that 52-year-old Fred Couples or Tour winless Jason Dufner – the second-round leaders – could hold on through the weekend. But they both went down in flames, Couples finishing tied for 12th and Dufner tied for 24th.
    • Surely, tournament favorite Rory McIIroy was poised to be fitted for a Green Jacket after trailing by just one shot after two rounds. Yet he soared to a 77 Saturday and 76 Sunday and nary a word was mentioned of him. He finished tied for 40th – with Tiger Woods – at 5-over.
    • Sergio Garcia also was in contention after two rounds, 2-under 140 – his best start in 14 Masters – then bogeyed three of the first four holes Saturday for a 75 that sent him tumbling down the leaderboard. “I’m not good enough,” the 32-year-old Spaniard said. “I had my chances and opportunities and I wasted them. I have no more options. I wasted my options.”
    • Third-round leader Peter Hanson played without purpose Sunday, shooting 1-under 73 Sunday as Watson and Oosthuizen passed him without much resistance.
    • Phil Mickelson would have, could have and should have won but gave it away at the 4th with a foolish tactical error as he has had a tendency to do. He took a triple bogey 7 when his tee shot on the par-3 hit the grandstands railing and caromed into the woods. He could have gone back to the tee, hit again to limit the damage but tried twice hitting out of the woods – right-handed with his club turned upside-down – and failed. His failure was trusting his game too much, even when faced with the impossible.
    • Matt Kuchar once was tied for the lead down the stretch but couldn’t recover from a bogey on 16.
    • Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Padraig Harrington rallied with sub-70s final rounds but too little, too late.

It was Oosthuizen who looked like he had this one after his rare double-eagle – an albatross – on the par-5, second hole. His four-iron approach from 253 yards away bounced on the green and rolled to the right like it had a motor all across the green and into the hole. It’s the fourth double-eagle in Masters history, the first on the second.

Hanson and Mickelson, playing in the group behind Oosthuizen, each parred the hole, missing good opportunities for birdies. So Oosthuizen picked up three shots on one hole and Mickelson and Hanson never caught him again.

That rare and incredible shot likely hurt him a bit mentally. It was such a spectacular shot that his concentration leaked a bit and bit on the fourth, slumping with a bogey.

“When something like that happens early in your round, you think that this is it,” Oosthuizen said. “It was tough the next five holes to just get my head around it and just play the course.”

He had to drop a five-footer on the 18th to force the playoff with Watson.

Watson always is among the longest hitters on the Tour and length is certainly needed at Augusta National. But there also are plenty of narrow chutes, doglegs and end-of-fairway trouble spots. Watson is the kind of player who likes to put big swings on just about every shot and comes in from crazy angles. He was 4th in driving distance yet tied for 46th in driving accuracy. That type of game, many believed, wasn’t adaptable to Augusta.

Yet, he won.

“Somehow it fell in my hands today,” Watson said. “It’s amazing. It’s a blur, the last nine holes I don’t remember anything. Somehow I guess I cried all my tears out.”

On the second playoff hole, the 10th, Watson could not see the green from his position deep in the trees. But he had no trees in his way. He just needed to get it out then someone put enough spin on it to direct it toward the green. Exactly what he did.

Oosthuizen, who was laying short of the green with his third shot, said “the ball came out, it looked like a curve ball. Unbelievable shot. That shot he hit definitely won him the tournament.”

Oosthuizen finished with a bogey so Watson had two putts to win it. He lagged to within 8 inches then dropped in the winner. It was his fourth career victory and finished a extraordinary two   weeks for he and his wife Angie. The couple was presented with an adopted a son, Caleb, on March 26.

“I never got this far in my dreams,” he said. “It’s a blessing. To go home to my new son, it’s going to be fun.”

NOTES:

    • Lefthanders have won five of the last 10 Masters (Watson, Mike Weir and Phil Mickelson – three).
    • It was the 15th playoff in Masters history.
    • It was Watson’s fourth Tour win in his last 39 starts after going 0-for-121 to start his career.
    • A Masters playoff has not gone past the second extra hole since going to sudden-death format in 1976.
    • Watson is the fourth different American to win since 2000 (Tiger Woods, Mickelson and Zach Johnson). American’s have won 8 of the last 13 Masters.
    • Watson wins his first major at age 33 years, 5 months, 3 days.
    • He has only has three rounds in the 60s in 16 rounds at the Masters.
    • Oosthuizen had the fourth double eagle at the Masters. The others were: No. 8, Bruce Devlin, 1967, first round (4-wood, 248 yards); No. 13, Jeff Maggert, 1994, fourth round (3-iron, 222 yards); No. 15, Gene Sarazen, 1935, fourth round (4-wood, 235 yards). Sarazen is the only one to go on and win the tournament.
    • Peter Hanson finished tied for third. The only previous top-10 finish by a Swedish player at the Masters is T8 by Robert Karlsson in 2008.
    • This was the worst finish for Tiger Woods – tied for 40th – as a professional.
    • Bo Van Pelt’s final round 64 ties the lowest fourth round score in Masters history (Maurice Bembridge/1974, Hale Irwin/1975, Gary Player/1978, Greg Norman/1988, David Toms/1998).

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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 46th year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 10 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur the 2015 U.S. Open and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for golf magazines. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, the Members Club of Aldarra near Seattle. Despite (or perhaps because) of his 14 handicap, he won the 'Super Senior'' (65 and older) championship in 2017. He has a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle, and spends part of his winters in Marco Island, Fla.

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