Bubba Watson steals Louis Oosthuizen’s thunder at the Masters
Consider the case of poor Louis Oosthuizen.
He authored arguably the greatest shot of the post-Sarazen Era in Masters history on Sunday – until it wound up only being the second-best shot of the day.
What do you call Bubba Watson’s ridiculous, eye-wateringly beautiful, momentous, historic, impossible hook shot from the pines on the second playoff hole, No. 10 at Augusta National Golf Club, the one that won him his first Masters? Bubba’s Easter Miracle?
Oosthuizen probably doesn’t have a name for it. He is still probably trying to erase the thought bubble over his head that read – “You have got to be #$@ kidding me” – when he saw Watson’s don’t-try-this-at-home effort sail out of the woods and land about 15 feet from the flagstick. There are kids who watch the Masters, you know, and that language is inappropriate.
Prior to the “Hook Heard ‘Round the World,” Watson was known in golf for several other things: He was a three-time winner who leads the Tour in driving distance. He’s the guy who uses a pink shafted-driver just to be different. He’s a man with an open fascination with Ellen DeGeneres, oddly enough, and pined for an invite to her show, which DeGeneres granted, since she was probably short on guests. Watson is a 33-year-old Floridian who bought the “Dukes of Hazzard” car, the “General Lee,” for his own use. Don’t ever forget that he is one fourth of “Golf Boyz,” the faux quartet that put out the viral golf song video “Oh Oh Oh” last summer that drew 3.2 million YouTube hits. (Bubba would be the hairy-chested one in the overalls imploring you to “Let the bogeys go,” which he did after making bogey on No. 1 on Sunday.)
And he is sensitive guy who weeps in public only on days that end in “y.”
Now he’s known as a Masters champion from Bagdad, Fla., who is free to have the Waffle House cater next spring’s Champions Dinner, and the man who figuratively told Oosthuizen, “Tell me how my crazy-good hooked gap wedge tastes.”
In fact, “crazy” is operative. Bubba called the effort “a crazy shot that I saw in my head,” and given what we know about Bubba, that head probably looks like a Dali painting inside. But Watson notes his career-long mantra is, “If I have a swing, I have a shot,” and when he saw his pulled tee shot on No. 10, the second playoff hole, had a decent lie and at least a possibility of getting airborne, his plans were set.
“It set up for a draw,” he said, but to call that bender a “draw” is to say his homemade swing is “a little lacking in refinement.” When the game plan calls for a golf ball to travel 15 feet off the ground for 40 yards, then hang a “rico” to the unseen green, you know it’s Bubba Time.
Everything in Watson’s career led to that moment. His claim to fame is that he’s self-taught and started at age 6 trying to hit a little plastic golf ball as many different ways as he could. This led to some peculiar swing planes and trajectories, things not seen in the era of the academy-groomed technicians who populate fairways these days. Nope, Bubba would do it his way, saying the only player he would ever try to emulate was Tiger Woods because of Tiger’s epic level of achievement during Bubba’s formative years.
Now, given their relative states after four rounds at the 2012 Masters, the tables are turned. Tiger hasn’t a clue where his golf ball is going. Bubba’s golf ball – which made four consecutive birdies on the back nine, on holes 13-16 – is on a beautifully magical, beautifully mysterious tour.
Tiger even sent out a congratulatory tweet to the player who used to tag along like a puppy during Tiger’s practice rounds in the glory days, just to be near Tiger. Tweeted the former world No. 1 about the dramatic draw: “Fantastic creativity.”
Of course, Tiger had plenty of time to tweet, since he finished about five hours prior, when the leaders were still tying their shoes. But that’s another matter.
In Masters history, we now have Gene Sarazen’s double-eagle in 1935, Jack Nicklaus’ tee shot on No. 16 in 1986, Tiger’s “Nike Roll” chip-in at No. 16 in 2005, Phil Mickelson’s 6-iron off the pine needles in 2010 and Louis Oosthuizen’s double-eagle on No. 2 in 2012. You know that one – the 4-iron from 243 yards that was going to win Looie O his second major, and be remembered forever. It wound up taking silver medal on its own day.
Topping them all is “Bubba’s Wild Ride,” because none of those other shots were struck on the final hole of a green-jacket winzning performance. Moreover, it was struck by a player whose entire career is predicated on seeing what others do not see, trying what others will not try and executing what others cannot execute.
Congrats, Bubba. You did it your way, and that’s saying a lot.
72-75-72-74 – 5-over 293, Tiger Woods, tie-40th, Masters, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.
As if golf needed even more proof of its mystery, this is the same Tiger Woods who shot 62 last month at the Honda Classic, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago by five shots and who tweeted out on the eve of the Masters, “Feeling ready.”
As in, ready for his worst effort at the Masters as a pro? As in, ready for his worst finish at a major as a pro? As in, ready to open all the old questions about his mental state, swing consistency and temperament, as he drop kicked his golf club on the 16th tee Friday?
Remember, this is Tiger at Augusta we’re talking about. On his list of “Most Comfortable Places I’ve Ever Been,” Tiger’s list goes: 1. The womb; 2. Augusta National. For seven consecutive years he’s finished top-six or higher there, and only once – in 2004, during a swing change – had he finished out of the top-20 (tie-22) since his legendary 1997 win.
He called it “an off week at the wrong time,” which also is known in psychological circles as “deep denial.”
Like everyone else, I’m done guessing what Tiger will do on the golf course next. It seemed he took about 75 steps backward at Augusta, only two weeks after we tossed rose petals at his feet and extolled his new, Sean Foley-mastered swing. If you read The Big Miss, you’d have to guess Foley got the big freeze from Tiger on the practice range, since that’s what Hank Haney said came his way after bad rounds at majors. Tiger didn’t miss a chance to passively-aggressively rip Haney again, citing his woes as reverting to old habits “from a few years ago,” as if those years weren’t laden with wins and majors.
Clearly, somebody doesn’t like the look of the New York Times bestseller list, which features Haney’s tome at No. 1 … where Tiger used to be in the Official World Golf Rankings.
71-69-77-76 – 5-over 293, Rory McIlroy, tie-40th, Masters, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.
File this one under: “Say whaa?”
McIlroy drove down Magnolia Lane Saturday morning one shot out of the lead. He drove back up it Sunday evening with questions about his future at a golf course that has now birthed demons in his head two springs in a row.
Is it possible that McIlroy, whose game and talent seems destined to bequeath him multiple hangers in a Masters’ Champions locker room, will be haunted in the cathedral of pines like Greg Norman or Ernie Els? Will he develop an eye twitch anytime somebody near him in a restaurant orders peach cobbler?
Clearly, McIlroy, at age 22, is too young to be seen as a troubled soul amid the dogwood. Problem is, he’s opened up the query and one year from now, he’ll be asked about his trouble conquering the place. Worse, he may ask himself about his trouble conquering the place.
My theory is he got “Masters cooties” by playing with Sergio Garcia on Saturday. If there was ever a guy who projected negative energy at a major, it’d be Sergio, who is now 0-for-53 at big dances, and even capped this one by telling Spanish reporters that he will “never” win a major, saying he lacks the right stuff.
Way to give ‘em the old “Eye of the Tiger,” Nino.
When McIlroy shot 42 on his front nine on Saturday, I wondered how it could be. Then, when he made birdie on No. 12, Sergio offered a sarcastic and laugh-filled hug to Rory on the green. What some saw as a light moment among struggling golfers, I saw as McIlroy getting the “kiss of death” from Garcia, who was spreading his cooties to the young Ulsterman. Run, Rory, run!
67-73-72-68 – 8-under 280, Lee Westwood, tie-3rd, Masters, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.
Somewhere in Europe, Colin Montgomerie felt a small pain, and then a feeling of relief spread over him – not unlike having gas.
Monty, you see, was the ultimate “Nearly Man,” as they say across the pond, that dastardly moniker for an athlete who can nearly achieve greatness but always falls short. With no major championships in his career and a slew of painful losses, Monty was nearly always everybody’s “Nearly Man.”
But with his seventh top-three finish at a major, Westwood has passed Montgomerie on the list of all-time top-three finishes at majors without a win. We have a new “Nearly Man,” and it’s the formerly chubby/currently fit Westwood, whose iron play is so pure it can bring tears to your eyes, and whose chipping and putting is so poor it, too, can bring tears to your eyes.
Nick Faldo minced few words when he called Westwood’s short game “wooden,” which isn’t the adjective Westwood has been striving for around greens.
All of the pain crystallized on No. 15, when Westwood hit a brilliant drive and second shot to give himself eight feet for eagle and a tie for the lead. His putt curled along the right side of the cup and, for extra points of cruelty, even hugged the back of the cup on its way out.
Golf death, where is thy sting?
Westwood has been ferocious at majors of late, logging all seven of his top-three finishes in the last 15 majors. Surely that statistic only increases the agony. At 38, Westwood isn’t out of the conversation for a future major, but he’s getting close.
74-68-66-72 – 8-under 280, Phil Mickelson, tie-third, Masters, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.
It was all set up: Mickelson, in the final pairing on a Sunday, at a place he has made his own in the last decade. His fourth green jacket would tie him with Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods, only trailing Jack Nicklaus’ six, and when Lefty made his march up 18 for the win on Sunday in the April twilight, Augusta, Ga., would officially be renamed “Goosebump City” by the town council.
In a week expected to be dominated by Tiger and Rory, you half-expected Phil to arrive on the tee Sunday, flash that goofy grin and say: “Hey, where’s the guy in the red shirt and the kid with the Peter Brady haircut? Oh!”
Plus, Mickelson deposited massive karma points in his Masters checking account when he rose early to see Nicklaus, Palmer and Gary Player hit their ceremonial tee shots on Thursday. His green jacket may as well have had a flashing neon sign on the back that said: “I do everything right, and I will win again this week.”
He had a magical Saturday, featuring a spine-tingling eagle on No. 13 and a flop shot for the ages on 15, an impossible trajectory off a tight lie to set up birdie and force commentator David Feherty to say, “If that doesn’t make every hair on your body stand up, you need therapy.” A Phil Moment, to be sure.
Except, the fourth hole on Sunday happened.
In an attempt to miss the flag left, Mickelson missed too far left, then got the always-unfortunate “railing bounce” off the grandstand and into the woods. The details are gruesome, but suffice it to say, I believe an ancient golf maxim would have served Lefty well: “If ye are a left-handed golfer, it is nae good to hit consecutive right-handed shots.”
Mickelson’s right-handed efforts to get the ball out of the woods led to a triple-bogey six, and even though he fought gamely to get within two of the lead, it was not enough. The storyline went kaput, although Phil still is the all-time Masters leader in gigantic grins, hugs and kisses for his family behind 18, win or lose.
Come on. We just went over this. Forget Oosthuizen’s blown tee shot on 11 after Watson went into the forest. Forget Watson’s two (!) missed putts – one on the 72nd hole, one on the first playoff hole – that would have won him the green jacket earlier.
Instead, we’re going back out to the fourth tee box. Remind Phil of his obligation to storylines everywhere, and to CBS’ soaring violin music and to Jim Nantz’s surely sentimental verbal tribute all scripted out and ready to go, have Mickelson re-tee on No. 4, remind him that the grandstand is NOT a good target and … give that man a mulligan!
“The young South African … trying to use those slopes … this one could be very nice … this one could be VERY nice … oh, come to Papa! … Yes!!!” – Feherty, describing Oosthuizen’s 4-iron into the jar for double-eagle “2” on the par-5 second hole, CBS.
“Come to Papa” pretty much works under most circumstances, and it worked here.
The CBS crew also worked itself into a frenzy, gob-smacked by the sight of Oosthuizen tossing the very golf ball that made albatross into the crowd. Even Nantz, who usually passes little judgment in the booth, thought Oosthuizen lost his mind, imploring young Louis to go back to the fan and say, “Uh, on second thought … “
Turns out Augusta National procured the ball from the fan for an undisclosed sum (if anything). You knew the Green Jackets would pounce on history and not let some piece of outside, unwashed scum – er, uh, I mean a “patron,” (yes, that’s right, a “patron”) – take that ball home.
What do you suppose Augusta National’s offer to the fan was? Probably something like: “Either you give us that golf ball right now or you’ll never see another golf shot inside these gates again. Now, would you care for a free pimento sandwich?”
I thought this week’s broadcast moment would go to Nantz if he called Watson’s victory the way I wanted him to: “And the General Lee will be laying rubber down Magnolia Lane! Bubba Watson is the 2012 Masters champion!”
But he didn’t, so I’ll go with Feherty’s call of the first televised double-eagle in Masters history.
Bubba Watson, surely, goes to David Letterman, to magazine covers and to the front of America’s sporting consciousness for a day or two.
The rest of the golf world? On to Harbour Town Golf Links in beautiful Hilton Head, S.C. It’s so pretty and lazy there, the perfect post-Masters comedown. Think of it as the Bloody Mary of tournaments following the rager that was the Masters.
As for the field … no Bubba, no Tiger, no Rory, no Phil. Defending champ Brandt Snedeker will be there, and the winner gets a plaid jacket last seen worn at the Bushwood dinner/dance by Rodney Dangerfield’s Al Czervik, so we have that going for us.
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