Monday, April 9, 2012

No Tiger, No Problem, Sunday delivers at Agusta

It started with Louis Oosthuizen's historic double eagle on the second and ended with the people's champ making the unlikeliest of shots out of the trees and on to the green, setting the table for Bubba Watson's first major championship.

Four rounds. Many leaders. Tons of tears. Typical Masters drama.

The first major of the year did not disappoint as Peter Hanson, Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson were all in contention on the final day of the 76th annual Masters at Augusta National.

But as the aforementioned names faded down the stretch, playing partners Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson emerged together, finding themselves atop the leader board when it mattered most.

Oosthuizen, of South Africa, got off to a roaring start logging the first ever double eagle on the second hole at the Masters, and only the fourth double eagle in the tournament's history.

Mickelson followed by making waves of the opposite kind when he triple-bogeyed the No. 4 hole, a horrendous sequence from which he never fully recovered.

Watson, a local favorite who attended the University of Georgia, got in the groove on No. 13 making what would be his first of four consecutive birdies, culminating with the sixteenth hole where he finally pulled even with his partner Oosthuizen.

Both men overcame ugly tee shots on No. 18 to par the hole and tie for first at the end of regulation at 10-under 278, forcing a sudden death playoff.

While Oosthuizen's only PGA tour victory was a mighty impressive seven-stroke victory at The Open Championship in 2010, Watson had faced a playoff situation on a major stage once before, finishing second at the 2010 PGA Championship after being defeated by one stroke on the third and final playoff hole.

On this day, the outcome would be vastly different for Watson who had three PGA tour victories to his name coming into these Masters.

The first playoff hole was the No. 18 par four where both men made phenomenal approach shots, prompting Oosthuizen to compliment his opponent as they walked up the green together. We all thought Oosthuizen's birdie putt was in, but the ball went slightly right, visibly crushing the golfer who dropped into a crouch after the ball lipped out. Adversely, Watson's shot went left and both men parred, so on to the No. 10 hole they went for round two, not yet knowing that this was where the most memorable shot of the 2012 Masters would be etched in to our memories.

Watson and Oosthuizen both blew the tee shot on the par four No. 10, but Oosthuizen at least had a straight shot despite his ball landing slightly in the gallery. Watson, on the other hand, was in the trees with a much tougher task ahead.

Oosthuizen ended up on the front edge of the green after his second shot, providing him with a literal and figurative uphill battle. Meanwhile, Watson's second shot from the mulch and trees had to be seen to be believed, as what looked like an impossible shot was executed with nonsensical precision. Hooked in who-knows-what direction, the ball curved perfectly, rounding it's way on to the green, paving a surprisingly smoother path to the green jacket than the road traveled by Oosthuizen on No. 10.

After his shot on to the green, Oosthuizen found himself away, thus right back at it, attempting a long putt for par. It was a tough shot, but definitely makable. Oosthuizen's shot was a beauty that once again, just lipped out as you could almost hear the man's heart break underneath his shirt. Oosthuizen bogeyed the hole, thus Watson found himself in a two-putt par situation.

Oosthuizen's shot went right, so naturally, Watson's went wide left, leaving him a foot-long putt for par and the win. Watson gathered himself, read what little grass there was standing between him and the green jacket before making a minuscule putt for his first major championship.

The only sight sweeter than his miraculous shot on the second playoff hole was the picture of emotion painted by Watson as the 33-year-old broke down and sobbed on the shoulders of his caddie, mother and several friends.

Without his wife Angie who stayed home with the couple's newly-adopted infant son, Watson's outpouring of emotion continued during the green jacket ceremony inside Butler Cabin. Watson, who lost his father to cancer in late 2010 said, "I never got this far in my dreams…To go home to my new son, it's gonna be fun."

Watson's win makes it the fifth Masters victory for lefties in the last 10 years, joining fellow southpaws Mike Weir (2003) and Mickelson (2004, 2006, 2010).

Near the end of play, CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted, "If Bubba wins, he'll make 10% of his 12-year career earnings with Masters check. Earned $14.4M in career. Win worth $1.44M."

On so many levels, this was indeed one sweet win for Bubba Watson, the freshly-crowned People's Champ of golf.

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