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.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 12 this week as these folks are automatically invited back to Augusta next year. It’s their rule, not mine!
Jonas Blixt: In three majors in his career, he’s now finished T26 at the 2013 Open, fourth at the 2013 PGA and T2 this week. That’s a cracking start to a majors career! Blixt has won twice on TOUR in the last two years but his T2 this week was his first top 10 of the 2013-14 season in 12 events. His best finish was T16 at the WGC-CC at Doral. I’ve learned that he plays really difficult courses well and could be arsed any other time he tees it up! For his first time around Augusta, he was magnificent and his short game stood up to the test. He’s known as a putter but he finished with 69 on Sunday at The Open; he didn’t fire over par at Oak Hill and he had all four rounds under par this week. He’s legit in big-time events, gamers! There’s too much proof!
Jordan Spieth: He missed putting all four rounds under par in his first visit as well by one shot. He led the Masters by two shots after seven holes on Sunday as he racked up four birdies. He trailed by two shots at the turn on Sunday after back-to-back bogeys. He’s 20 and as I have thought for a while, really, really good. Imagine when he gets a few rounds under his belt! He’s again set the bar unbelievably high and is continuing to break barriers. I’m in.
Miguel Angel Jimenez: Not bad for a Champions Tour-eligible player! He hits it dead straight and that gives him a chance on almost any course. His 66 in round three was the lowest this week. As a gamer, I can’t reach for him in most spots but if I do, it’s going to be on the hardest courses these guys play.
Rickie Fowler: With the pants he wore on Sunday there was NO CHANCE that the Golf Gods would be on his side but whatever he’s doing with Butch Harmon is working. Gamers, if Harmon is working with somebody, pay attention. Jimmy Walker is the proof. Gary Woodland and Fowler have made huge strides to reinforce that what he does works. Fowler has now made four cuts on the bounce at the Masters but his T5 is far and away his best finish. He backed up his solo sixth last week at Houston with this performance so it’s time to saddle up. He has three top six finishes in his last six events. #giddyup
Matt Kuchar: Wash. Rinse. Repeat. T5. For the third week in a row, Kuchar was in with a shout as Sunday began and for the third week in a row, he was on the outside looking in. For weekly gamers and seasonal gamers, this is exactly what the expectations should be. He’s now amassed 45 top 10s in the last four years. It would be nice to have more wins but he just keeps cashing high finish after high finish. Take a bow if Kuchar and Watson were the choices in Group A in Yahoo! this week. I am not taking a bow…
Lee Westwood: He was the featured man in my preview article because of his solid finish at Houston and his sparkling record at Augusta recently. He lived up to the billing as he hits the top 10 for the fourth time (T7) in five years. The other finish? T11. Yeah, his short game is always the question but I can argue that ball-strikers (Mickelson, Watson, Scott) make just a much noise around here as the great putters. Westwood now has finished T8 or better in 11 of his last 24 majors. Think about that for a minute. Not bad for a guy who’s never won one!
Bernhard Langer: This would have been talked about even more if The Mechanic hadn’t racked up fourth all by his interesting self. Langer is near the top almost every week on the Champions Tour and his excellent form helped him to a repeat visit for next year. As a two-time winner, he doesn’t need it but at 56, that’s a pretty cool accomplishment. On any other course, I’ll pass.
Jimmy Walker: DY-NO-MITE continues to prove that this season is not a fluke as the first-timer at Augusta bounced back from a Saturday 76 with a Sunday 70 that moved him to T8. I argued that Walker could be the exception here this week because of his length and putting acumen. He actually was better with his irons than his putter and holed 16 birdies on the week. Each major is going to be a learning experience for gamers but I’d put my money on the PGA for his next big finish.
Rory McIlroy: After making a four-footer on No. 18 on Friday to make the cut, McIlroy took advantage of his opportunity to backdoor T8 to the delight of gamers everywhere. He was forced to play with a marker on Saturday as the field had an odd number of players making the cut. The marker was 51-year old Jeffrey Knox, a member and course-record holder at AGNC. He beat McIlroy on Saturday. On Sunday, McIlroy fired one of the five rounds in 60s with 69. That’s a fantastic result after 72-77 to open. There was no toothache this week!
John Senden: Continuing his fine run of play, the Aussie began Saturday in second place three shots behind Watson before 75-73 on the weekend knocked him out of contention. His T8 was his best finish in five Masters starts. Moving forward, I’ll be interested to see if the 42-year old can keep this up. Those of you following Rob Bolton were rewarded this week as he was on him in the GolfChannel.com game. Nicely done!
Kevin Stadler: It’s quite amazing that four of the top 13 players this week were first-timers at Augusta. Well, Stadler has been there a few times WATCHING his dad, the 1982 champ, play but he had a great showing this week. Another player rocking the long putter, Stadler hits plenty of fairways and greens when he’s on it and this week that long putter was holing putts. This was only Stadler’s second top 25 in six starts since he won in Phoenix on Groundhog Day.
Thomas Bjorn: It took 11 starts but the Danish ball-striker finally found a way into the top 10 with his T8 finish this week. Before writing his name down in permanent marker remember that he had three rounds OVER par this week in addition to his second round 68. Yet, the European Tour star has finished T18 or better in eight of his last 10 starts worldwide. This was his best finish in a major since T4 in 2011 (The Open) and his only finish better than T37 in that span.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Rory McIlroy: T8, see above.
Adam Scott: The 2013 champ never fired but finished a respectable T14 in his title defense. His long par putt on No. 18 saved him from dropping to T20 so gamers can find a bright side in that, especially the OADs who can use every penny.
Phil Mickelson: It’s the first time he’s MC since 1997, a streak of 16 years. A pair of sevens on Friday saw him miss by one shot but his game has hardly been in the shape of a major winner recently. Gamers, like me, who put him into lineups this week were convinced that earlier results this season were just in preparation for the major events on his calendar this year. Mickelson obviously still has the chops to play, contend and win but it would be nice to put a few of those events together before Pinehurst. I’m now concerned.
Jason Day: Rust or no rust; that is the question. He played the par fives in nine-under but had too many bogeys to get into the mix. He hit the cut on the number so I’m thrilled to be cashing T20 this week instead of MC in a major with a purse of $9 million. I’ve whiffed on all three major paydays this season. Sigh.
Matt Kuchar: T5, see above.
Sergio Garcia: One of the warmest players on the planet in the last four months, Garcia, like Mickelson and a handful of other premium players slammed the trunk on Friday. Bogeying his last two holes on Friday saw him break his streak of five straight weekends at Augusta. He bogeyed Nos. 17 and 18 both days and he only played the par fives in two-under. It wasn’t his week and he should be just fine moving forward.
Dustin Johnson: Coming off 80-something at Houston and a back injury, DJ didn’t inspire confidence this week as 77-74 saw him MC as well. It’s his first MC in five attempts at AGNC. If his back isn’t bothering him I don’t see why he can’t continue to build on his season. Remember, gamers, it is ONE tournament, a big one at that, but not an entire harbinger for things to come later this spring or summer.
Bubba Watson: WIN, see above.
Justin Rose: Entering the day at just one-under and T10, his 74 on Sunday was a major letdown. It shows where Rose sits with gamers these days as a T14 in a major is now considered a bit of a disappointment. His 76-74 bookends were the downfall this week.
Brandt Snedeker: After showing signs of life with his T8 at Bay Hill, Snedeker trip and fell with 80 in round three to eventually finish T37. He did break par on Thursday and Saturday but when he’s four-putting, as he did on Saturday, not all systems are go.
Graeme McDowell: He’s trending in the wrong way as he’s now MC in four of six career starts at Augusta. The disturbing part was the putter was issue which is usually not the case.
Charl Schwartzel: His first MC in five trips as the 2011 champ has never finished better than T25 in any other start. The course set up perfectly for him this week on the greens. Too bad he couldn’t hit any (47.2%).
Jason Dufner: He opened with 80. Does it really matter, Eddie?
Zach Johnson: I struggled with this decision before the tournament started because ZJ’s track record outside of his win here in 2007 is suspect. I went with current form as the deciding factor. I should have stuck to my guns as he finished MC 78-72. For future reference ZJ has ZERO finishes inside the top 20 outside of his win in 10 starts. #nothorseforcourse
Jordan Spieth: T2, see above.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Masters and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (https://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (https://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.