Bubba Watson won the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia after a sudden-death playoff against South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen.
Watson and Oosthuizen both produced fireworks during the final round, but it was the University of Georgia graduate who eventually came out on top.
It was the South African who was first to strike on Sunday though. Beginning the day two behind Sweden’s Peter Hanson, he took the lead after just two holes. On the par-5 second, the 2010 Open champion played one of the greatest shots in Masters history, holing his second for an albatross two.
At that stage he was two shots clear of both Hanson and Phil Mickelson, but the American was to fall further back with a disaster at the par-3 4th. The three-time Masters winner fanned his tee shot to the left and it struck the grandstand beside the green, his ball cannoned into the air and further left into the trees. It came to rest in an impossible situation but, typically, Mickelson attempted to play it. He tried to move it playing right-handed but took two attempts. He then pitched into the greenside bunker and did well to get up-and-down for a triple bogey six.
Oosthuizen made a number of clutch putts to hold onto his lead but he didn’t make another birdie until the 13th. When he did that he extended his advantage to two once more.
But Watson was on a charge and birdies at the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th lifted him into a tie at the top with his South African playing partner with just two holes to go.
On the 17th both men did well to save par after wayward drives. Oosthuizen’s ball ricocheted back of a tree leaving a long second, which he put into a greenside bunker. Watson played an excellent approach from the trees to the left of the hole, bending one round the branches to find the surface. It wouldn’t be the last time he hit an incredible curve ball recovery. Both men took two more for par and headed to the 18th tied.
Both then played the 72nd hole in regulation and both had good birdie chances that narrowly missed. At that stage it was clear the contest was between those two and that a playoff would be needed to decide the outcome of the 2012 Masters.
The pair returned to the 18th tee and both made par, so the playoff moved on to the difficult par-4 10th.
Watson drove first and sent his ball well into the trees on the right of the hole. That looked to leave an opening for Oosthuizen but he too played his tee shot to the right.
The South African played his second first and it came up just shy of the green. Then Watson played a miracle shot from the pine straw, deep in the trees. He had a narrow chute back towards the fairway and he fired it down that gap with a huge amount of hook spin on the ball, it turned viciously in the air and flew all the way to the putting surface. He had imparted so much spin on the ball that it actually moved up the hill when it landed on the green.
Oosthuizen played a poor pitch from the front edge and was unable to hole his long par effort. Watson was left with two for the title and he duly took them to become the first University of Georgia graduate to don the green jacket.
“As an athlete and golfer, this is the mecca,” the 33-year-old said. “This is what we strive for, to put on the green jacket … this is an honor, a special privilege to put the green jacket on.”
Oosthuizen, although disappointed, had to give credit to his playoff adversary for his audacious shot on the 10th.
“From where I stood, when the ball came out, it looked like a curve ball to the right,” he said. “He hit an unbelievable shot there. Great stuff to him; he deserves it. The shot he hit definitely won him the tournament.”
With the victory Watson has climbed to fourth on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Lee Westwood couldn’t get his putter going in the final round, despite some immaculate play from tee to green. He finished in a tie for third with Peter Hanson, Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar.
Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia
Apr 5-8, purse $8,000,000 par 72
1 Bubba Watson (USA) 69 71 70 68 278 $1,440,000
2 Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 68 72 69 69 278 $864,000
T3 Lee Westwood (Eng) 67 73 72 68 280 $384,000
T3 Matt Kuchar (USA) 71 70 70 69 280 $384,000
T3 Peter Hanson (Swe) 68 74 65 73 280 $384,000
T3 Phil Mickelson (USA) 74 68 66 72 280 $384,000
7 Ian Poulter (Eng) 72 72 70 69 283 $268,000
T8 Adam Scott (Aus) 75 70 73 66 284 $232,000
T8 Justin Rose (Eng) 72 72 72 68 284 $232,000
T8 Padraig Harrington (Ire) 71 73 68 72 284 $232,000
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage