How does this course always throw up an extraordinary Tournament?
Every year, it seems, there are more thrills and spills at the Masters than in any other Championship, and the 2012 edition was no exception.
In the end, after an unbelievable day of changing fortunes, the 33-year-old American Bubba Watson won the 76th Masters.
Coming as it did on Easter Sunday, and a couple of weeks after he adopted his first son, Caleb, the devout Christian could not really have dreamt up a better ending.
“When I had that tap-in putt to win,” he said, “I actually thought of the lady who missed that one-foot-putt at the Nabisco last week. I wanted to make sure I didn’t do the same as her. I hit that crazy second shot in the playoff, a hook around the tv tower; I just saw it in my head. I don’t play this game for fame. Less than two years ago I didn’t have any victory. Now I have four. My dream is to have ten.”
Given that he is only 33, he might well end up with more than that by the time he is finished.
Every swing coach in the world must have been regretting Bubba’s victory, because he swings the club not only left-handed, but in a way you can’t teach. “I just play Bubba golf,” he says. “I try and play the game that I love like Seve did, hitting unbelievable shots. Phil [Mickelson] does the same. I always attack.”
Bubba eventually won the Masters at the second hole (10th) of a sudden-death playoff, after the South African, Louis Oosthuizen (the 2010 Open Champion) failed to make a par. And yet, Bubba’s drive down the right was lucky not to be unplayable; but he punched a remarkable second out of the pine straw, and although he missed his birdie putt, he tapped in for the victory.
Before that, on the first playoff hole, Bubba had a six-footer for victory, which he narrowly missed on the low side. It was somewhat fitting that the two players in the playoff, also played together in regulation, and their rounds took centre stage the moment Oosthuizen made an albatross at the par-5 2nd.
“I wanted to run over there and give him a high-5,” said Bubba. “The roars from the crowd were just incredible. That’s the sort of shot we all want to see; and I had a front row seat.”
With a handful of holes to play, eight or nine players were still in with a definite shout of winning the Green Jacket. Lee Westwood had yet another top-3 finish in a major championship.
At 38 he will feel the clock ticking, and no this was another wasted chance. He will also know that he missed a couple of dozen putts inside 10 feet; and that if only a few of those had fallen, the story might have been very different.
Phil Mickelson, the comfortable favourite at the beginning of the day, saw his chances explode at the par-3 4th hole, when a sliced tee shot hit the railings of a stand and finished in deep jungle. He seemed to panic slightly after this, and a couple of bad decisions at that hole ended in a triple bogey, his second of the week. And yet, cheered on by his devoted fans, he still had chances on the back nine.
Sweden’s Peter Hanson, the overnight leader, could never really hole a decent putt, until the final hole, by which time it was too late.
The race for top amateur was an exciting one as well. Three of them made the cut, the Americans Kelly Kraft and Patrick Cantley, and the Japanese Hideki Matsuyama (who qualified for the second year in a row thanks to winning the Asian Amateur). Matsuyama had a 10-stroke lead over the other two for a while, but in the end, Cantley came out on top.
1st -10: Bubba Watson (Won on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff)
2nd -10: Louis Oosthuizen
3rd -8: Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar, Peter Hanson, Phil Mickelson
7th -5: Ian Poulter
8th -4: Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington
11th -3: Jim Furyk
12th -2: Kevin Na, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia, Fred Couples, Hunter Mahan
17th -1: Bo Van Pelt, Ben Crane
19th Level: Geoff Ogilvy, Charles Howell III, Brandt Snedeker, Fredrik Jacobson, Francesco Molinari