The first major of the 2014 golf season has reached its conclusion, and Bubba Watson is now a two-time Masters champion after outlasting Jordan Spieth.
The Watson/Spieth duel
Coming into the day, so much of the talk was about who was going to be able to come from behind and challenge the final group of Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth, and it was understandable given the situation. Spieth is a Masters rookie, who had only seen the course previously on television or in practice rounds, while Watson despite having a green jacket already, is a very inconsistent player who had closed only one of a previous seven 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour. It just didn’t happen that way though, and outside of a few runs by Fred Couples, Matt Kuchar and Jonas Blixt, it was really down to Watson and Spieth.
Spieth got the better of the matchup early on, getting out to a two-shot lead after some stunning iron play and a hole out from the bunker on 4. Towards the end of the front nine though, Spieth was having trouble on the notoriously quick Augusta greens, missing putts from short distances and leaving himself in bad spots that didn’t allow him to score. As this was happening, Watson was able to turn it on and make birdies to take him to the top of the leaderboard by himself.
The turning point was likely the par-3 12th, the spot where so many prior tournaments have been won and lost. Spieth was up first and he left it short in Rae’s Creek, while Watson played to the back of the green before eventually settling just off the edge. The one-shot swing was big, but still gave Spieth some form of hope. Then came Watson’s 366 yard drive on the par-5 13th, allowing him to hit a wedge into the green. It was one of the most ridiculous things that I’ve ever seen watching a golf tournament, and after he made birdie to hold a three-shot lead, he never gave it up.
From there, Watson made par on the remaining five holes to beat Spieth and Blixt by three and claim his second green jacket.
What The Win Means For Watson
Jose Maria Olazabal, Ben Crenshaw, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros, Tom Watson, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Horton Smith, Phil Mickelson, Nick Faldo, Gary Player, Sam Snead, Jimmy Demaret, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
That’s the list of players to win multiple Masters titles, and now you can add Bubba Watson’s name to that group. Watson is one of those players that people wonder about, and they ask why he hasn’t won more times on the PGA Tour, especially with how far he hits the ball, but his course management has been in question, as has his ability to putt. Those concerns were partially wiped away earlier this year when he won the Northern Trust Open, one of the best stops of the year at Riviera, which was his first win since that 2012 triumph here at Augusta.
In the short term, the win pretty much guarantees him a spot on the Ryder Cup team in September, which is a big thing after missing out on last year’s Presidents Cup squad and the $1.6 million earned is obviously nice. In the long term, winning one major championship and having it be this one is a massively big deal, but winning two? I mean, when you look at the list of players up there, you see the absolute best of the last 70 years in golf. Is Bubba Watson one of those guys? I think you’d have a hard time making that argument, but having your legacy be that you’ve won two Masters championships is pretty amazing. I'll say this: there isn't a player in the game today that is more creative and imaginative than Bubba Watson.
What The Loss Means For Spieth
For so long on Sunday, it looked like this would be the coronation of Jordan Spieth and that we would finally see a rookie win the Masters for the first time since Fuzzy Zoeller 35 years ago, but as so often happens at Augusta, experience really does matter. From the approaches that left him in tough areas, to the miscue on 12, Spieth just couldn’t reverse it when things started going wrong, and couldn't get it done against a player who has been here several times before.
Despite what Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have made it seem like over the past couple of decades, winning on the PGA Tour is hard and winning the Masters is on a whole other level. I said on Twitter earlier that Spieth reminds me a lot of a young Sergio Garcia, another player who was destined to win a major championship early in his career and to this day, he’s still looking for one. He's going to be just fine, much like Garcia, but there's no guarantee that he's going to get that major championship win.
He’s probably going to be crushed for his behaviour on the course today, but keep in mind that he’s a 20-year-old kid who’s growing up live on national television every week. His interview with Tom Rinaldi after the round was one of composure and that shouldn’t be forgotten either.