Bubba Watson in action during Round 3 (photo courtesy of capebretonpost.com)
Gerry Lester “Bubba” Watson won his second Masters in three years, closing with a final round 69, in an exciting duel between this eccentric left-hander and the fresh faced 20 year-old Texan Jordan Spieth who was looking to become the youngest ever Masters winner at his very first attempt at the event.
Having gone into the final round the two players were tied on -8, with Watson allowing a three-shot lead to fritter away on Saturday. Spieth started positively on day four, holing out from the bunker on the 4th, and led by 3 shots at that stage of the round. Watson crucially bounced back moments later, and the battle between the quirky left-hander and the young pretender had begun.
The battle of wits continued and Amen Corner proved crucial once again in deciding the fate of the eventual winner during the 78th Masters at Augusta National. Spieth stumbled from 8 under to 5 under from the 8th tee to the 12th green, as he left his tee shot short into Rae’s Creek as Bubba gained the initiative and refused to let go right the way until the finish, while his Pink shafted Ping driver continued to astonish the gallery with Bubba-esque 300+ drives and swash buckling iron play. Bubba’s style of play and creative energy and imagination with his golf clubs reminded the golf world that there is plenty of excitement without the like of Tiger Woods in the field.
At nine minutes past local time, Watson confirmed his aggregate score if 280, eight under, a full three strokes better then both Speith and Sweden’s Jonas Blixt at 29 years of age playing in his maiden Masters. Standing on the 18th tee box with a three shot lead even a jittery Bubba Watson could afford to leave his Driver in the bag and go to his 3 wood just to be safe. The golfing public can expect to see the play of the Swede, Blixt, in many more tournaments to come with the Swede posting 4 consecutive rounds under par 70-71-71-71: the only player to do so during the entire week.
Bubba Watson has been re aquainted with the Green Jacket, as the Augusta crowd once again witnessed Bubba’s tears in victory as he held aloft his adopted son Caleb on the 18th green. Interestingly, Augusta has now witnessed six left-handed winners at the Masters since 2003, starting with Mike Weir in 2003.
Bubba Watson rightfully joins an illustrious list of stellar names to have won the Masters more then once which include: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Seve Ballesteros. Just like the legend, Horton Smith, the winner of the very first Masters, Watson’s three-year run here now reads: win, loss, win. This remarkable achievement is made all the more astonishing by the fact that Watson has never had a golf lesson, let alone had a coach at any point in his life.
For all the final round drama, we should reflect on the second round antics as the deciding point of the tournament. As a ruthless Watson, fired five successive back-nine birdies during his second round, which sparked the 2014 Masters into life, in an event where TV ratings where low, in the absence of Tiger Woods, the sight of Bubba Watson cracking a 365 yard drive at Augusta National, reminding the golfing fans worldwide that there is no need to worry if Tiger never returns to his past levels, players like Watson and Spieth have plenty of talent to entertain us.
Spieth emerges from the tournament in a tie for second place and with immense credit. He was attempting to become the youngest ever winner of the Masters, only three ever players have claimed the first major of the year on their debut. The Texan fell narrowly short of success, but the level of his play and the maturity he displayed under huge pressure and in defeat, which even his elder peers should learn from. Despite dropping shots during his final round, the youngster never gave up, and nearly chipped in from the right side of the green on 17, proving his battling qualities and his future champion qualities as a golfer.
The performance of the 50 year-old, pot-bellied chain smoking Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez is worth a mention, as at this ripe old age recorded his best ever performance at the event with a tie for fourth. The Spaniard played himself into contention posting a scintillating 66 during the third round which made European golfers proud, in preparation for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles later in the year, where Jimenez will adopt the role as vice-captain.
On a course where distance seems to be imperative towards success, it was interesting to see several of the older generation performing well and high up on the leader-board. “Yes, technology helps me,” said Jimenez, but some would say it is his intensive pre-round stretching routine which has helped him remain competitive and supple and winning golf tournaments late into his career. Germany’s Bernhard Langer at 56 years of age finished in a tie for 8th with Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy looks like he has put to bed his demons of the dreaded final round melt-down posting a final round 69, for his best ever finish at the Masters, and a place in the Top 10.
None the less it was Bubba Watson from Bagdad, South Florida, self taught, a free spirit in a world of sport which is for ever associated and obsessed with the perfect swing and the ‘correct’ way to play, Bubba Watson plays his way, “Bubba Golf.” When asked to describe what “Bubba Golf” actually entailed in a recent interview, he explained: “Bubba Golf is all about having fun, using your imagination, trying different shots, and having the confidence to play the difficult shots you know you can play.” It is this kind of philosophy towards the game of golf that should remind us golfers that golf is a game, and a game should be played.
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