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Requiem For A Small Town Guy Named Bubba

April 14, 2014

Hello Friends … Gerry Lester Watson, Jr., or as we all know him, Bubba Watson, has six (6) PGA titles on his résumé, two (2) of which are Masters’ Green Jackets.

Ponder that thought for a moment.

Mixed in among the garden variety tour stop wins such as the 2011 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera in February of this year – I shouldn’t scoff, each of his winners’ paychecks were $1M-plus – as well as a runner-up finish at the 2010 PGA Championship (losing in a playoff to Martin Kaymer), are two Major Championship wins at the famed Augusta National Golf Club. Having never missed a cut in six (6) appearances at Augusta, the languid lefty seems to save his best for the second weekend in April.

In another numerical coincidence, six (6) of the last 12 Masters Champions have been left handed. One of those lefties, the three-time Champion Phil “Lefty” Mickelson, suggested early in the week what several in the golf media had already been lamenting: that Tiger Woods would be missed, Woods having to sit out the First Major of the Season for the first time in 20 years due to recovery from recent back surgery. Turns out Lefty missed himself, failing to make Friday’s cut by 1 stroke. Same fate awaited Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, and several other former champions and would-be heirs to Tiger’s throne. Defending Champion Adam Scott started brightly, finishing Thursday’s 1st round one stroke off the lead but blew up on Saturday and was a virtual non-factor on Sunday until he was in the Butler Cabin presenting the Green Jacket that 2012 Champion Bubba had handed him last year.

All of which contributed to the sense that would be an odd, somewhat lackluster Tradition Unlike Any Other. Saturday is traditionally “Moving Day” at Augusta, but the usual leaderboard shakeup never fully materialized, as Bubba led after Saturday as he did after Friday, and most of those on the leaderboard besides Scott stayed within striking distance going into Sunday, adding to the relative lack of drama. Yet, the Masters never lacks luster when a former Champion wins another Green Jacket. Despite an early stumble on the 3rd Hole with a bogey to fall two (2) strokes back of the streaking 3rd Round co-leader Jordan Spieth (who would birdie four [4] of the first seven [7] holes Sunday) and Matt Kuchar, one had a sense Bubba would get it going when on the 240-yard, Par 3 4th Hole, he took dead aim at the pin, carried the front bunker that was guarding the back right hole location and landed it three (3) foot away for an easy birdie putt, the first of what would be his four (4) birdies on the Front Nine.

This Toooooonament was decided where it rarely has been on Masters Sunday, on the 8th & 9th Holes. Bubba birdied both holes, turning a two-shot deficit into a two-shot lead that he would never fully relinquish, while the other contenders – from the young guns Spieth and Jonas “No, I’m not the UN Weapons Inspector” Blixt (two [2] of four [4] Masters Rookies who finished in the Top 10 along with Kevin “Walrus Jr.” Stadler and Jimmy “Dyn-o-mite!” Walker), to the Georgia Tech homeboy Kuchar, to Bubba’s homeboy Rickie Fowler (whose Sunday outfit was worse than his finish) to the old fogies Freddy “Boom Boom” Couples and the Most Interesting Man In The World, Miguel Angel Jimenez – had trouble finding the greens, making putts and gaining strokes on those two closing Front Nine holes (only Blixt made any ground, birdieing the 8th). Those like myself, who usually check in on Sunday as the last few groups hit the famed “Amen Corner” of Holes 11-13, would have missed the plot altogether.

Finishing as the youngest runner-up in Masters history, the 2013 PGA Rookie of the Year Spieth played solid if not spectacular golf on Sunday’s Back Nine, eight (8) pars in addition to his bogey on the 12th, but it was clear after bogeys on the 8th & 9th that he needed spectacular to regain the lead, and by the time he plunked his tee shot at the most famous Par 3 in golf into the water, what to that point had become a match-play situation on Sunday was all but decided. The modest 20 year-old from Dallas just couldn’t generate the opportunities to apply any more pressure on Bubba, left to chalk up his first time contending for one of Golf’s Majors as a “fast track learning” experience.

Bubba tried to make things interesting coming home, taking what some thought was an unnecessary risk on the 15th & giving rise to the ghost of the Eisenhower Tree with his tee shot on the 17th, both of which he eventually saved for par, but during the last two hours on Sunday there was really little doubt about who would emerge as the 2014 Masters Champion. Down the homestretch, the “small-town guy named Bubba” played the confident, steely and gritty championship-winning golf – a birdie on the 11th and eight (8) pars on the Back Nine – of someone who has been there before.

Which he had.

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From → Golf, Sports

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