AUGUSTA, Ga. — On Saturday night, just after finishing his round, Bubba Watson offered up a curious quote about the pressure of playing for a Masters championship:
"If I shoot 90 tomorrow I still have a green jacket," he said, "so it's not as bad."
Not exactly the go-for-the-throat line you'd expect, but then, Watson hasn't ever done much in the game of golf in the expected fashion. So it's perfectly in keeping with his life and style that a guy who once wanted to drive the General Lee up Magnolia Lane became just the 17th man to win more than one Masters. His performance on Sunday lacked the dramatic playoff heroics of his first win, back in 2012, but the fact that Watson was able to hold onto a lead throughout the tournament – he was the leader at the end of Rounds 2 and 3, too – speaks to his growth as a golfer.
He shrugged off an early bogey on No. 3, wasn't fazed by two Jordan Spieth birdies putting him two shots behind, and wound up firing a 3-under 69, enough for a three-stroke win over the 20-year-old Spieth and Jonas Blixt.
"This one's a lot different," Watson told CBS. "The first one, for me, I almost lucked into it. This one was a lot of hard work, dedication and got back here. After giving away that jacket last year, kind of wanted it back."
This Masters began with what would be a death knell to most other tournaments: no Tiger Woods. Out for a still-indefinite period of time following back surgery, Woods remained the story for much of the first part of the week. How much would ratings decline? (Plenty.) Would Tiger ever win another major? (To be determined.) Would Woods dominate coverage from hundreds of miles away? (Nope.)
And then the actual golf began. After the traditional crew of Nicklaus, Palmer and Player began the 78th Masters with the ceremonial tee shots (Nicklaus outdrove Player by a yard), another name with some golf pedigree claimed the early lead. Bill Haas rode out a surprisingly rough Thursday to post a 4-under. Haas couldn't hold the lead, however, and fell back to the pack by the weekend.
Defending champion Adam Scott didn't fare much better, never really able to get going to any measurable degree. Rory McIlroy was the last player to make the cut, and for his efforts ended up getting beaten by his own marker on Saturday. Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Jason Dufner and many other big names didn't even reach the weekend.
That left Bubba and a cast of spoilers, led by Spieth. To date, Spieth has shown uncommon poise and calm in the midst of ever-escalating pressure. He entered Sunday with a share of the lead along with Watson, and for a few short minutes on Sunday, held a two-shot lead advantage. No cheer this week approached the earth-rattling tremors of a Tiger Woods shot, but Spieth's from-the-sand birdie on 4 came the closest.
But you don't win Augusta in four holes any more than you win the Super Bowl with a touchdown in the first three minutes. Spieth would see his lead waver almost immediately, and a four-stroke swing on holes 8 and 9, where Speith went from two up to two down in a matter of just 40 minutes, sealed his fate.
[Slideshow: Bubba Watson claims the 2014 Masters]
"Although it sits a little hard right now, I'll be back," Spieth told CBS after. "Hats off to Bubba.
"That was fun, but at same time it hurts right now. ... Didn't come out on top, but I can take a lot positives away. Felt very comfortable out there. My game felt like it will hold up and I think I'm ready to win a major, and that's a great feeling."
Watson, meanwhile, was calm — uncannily so, considering he usually approaches the game of golf like a guy using a chainsaw to open an envelope. His sonic-boom drives on holes 2, 9 and 13 allowed him flexiiblity in his approaches, and every single unconventional gamble — going straight at the green from an ugly pinestraw lie on 15, for instance — paid off.
After tapping in to clinch the win, Watson was met by his wife and baby boy Caleb. With his son in his arms, Watson circled the crowd gathered around the 18 green, high-fiving as many as he could.
He didn't shoot 90. Instead, he went low. Now, it's two green jackets in just three years for Watson.