The 76th Masters Tournament was about as linear as the thoughts in Bubba Watson’s head.
In one of the most volatile tournaments from start to finish, only two threads remained constant – Watson and Louis Oosthuizen. The cast of characters around them on the leaderboard changed not only daily but hourly.
While the Tiger & Rory Show flailed, the European quest again failed and Phil Mickelson went off and on the rails, the two best players all week ended up dueling in overtime and punctuating their performances with two of the most memorable shots in Masters history.
Because his was the game-winner, Bubba’s brash high-hooked gap wedge off the pine straw, around a magnolia to within no-yip range on the 10th hole will gain a place of prominence along with Mickelson’s gutsy shot from behind a tree on 13 in 2010. They were jaw-dropping defining moments that only seem to happen at Augusta.
Bubba was a popular winner in Bulldog territory, and his daring and creative style and quirky personality are sure to resonate for years. But, as always, there was much to recognize in another unforgettable Masters.
BIRDIE: Phil Mickelson. Prudence probably dictated that Lefty should have re-teed instead of attempting a right-handed toe chop out of the bamboo on No. 4 Sunday, leading to his crippling second triple bogey of the week. But prudence wouldn’t have delivered that incredible flop on 15 Saturday or the dart from the pine straw in 2010. Keep being Phil. We’ll keep watching.
BOGEY: Tiger Woods. His yo-yo form was tough enough to watch, but the petulant drop-kick of his iron on No. 16 Friday was worse (though his Achilles looked strong). Paul Azinger said on radio, “I thought he acted like the south end of a northbound mule.” He said it, not me.
ALBATROSS: Louis Oosthuizen. The 2010 Open champ distinguished himself as the most consistent player of the week, won the rarest of crystal and nearly gave South Africa three wins in five years. As SA junior teammate Charl Schwartzel said, “When he’s playing like this he’s unstoppable.” Almost, but good enough to validate his major chops.
QUAD: Henrik Stenson. Swede was rolling on Thursday until earning his second record-high score on a hole with an 8 on 18 (scored 8 on No. 4 last year). Despite starting Sunday still tied for sixth, he came home in 81.
BOGEY: Jose Maria Olazabal. The two-time champ and European Ryder Cup captain got caught racing 97 mph in a 65 zone in Effingham County on the way from Augusta to Hilton Head Island, S.C.
BIRDIE: Fred Couples. He didn’t hang on, but at age 52 being the oldest 36-hole leader is impressive enough. Any doubt he’ll feature again at 53?
BOGEY: Lee Westwood. Only three of the 63 guys who made the cut putted worse than Westwood (1.78 per green in regulation), yet he still tied for third just two shots out. With the window on getting his much-deserved major win shrinking, he can’t afford that stat.
BIRDIE: Bo Van Pelt. After threatening late in 2011, he fired a tournament-best 64 on Sunday that included an ace on 16.
BOGEY: Charles Howell. Despite his most consistent showing, Howell’s guaranteed ticket back to his hometown major was lost in a bogey-bogey-bogey finish Saturday. He missed the top-16 exemption by two shots.
BOGEY: Peter Hanson. The 54-hole leader fell off the pace quickly Sunday, but his final round will be most remembered for a cold shank on the par-3 12th that didn’t even get close to Rae’s Creek nearer to the Nelson Bridge. I’ll never get that hosel sound (or the crowd’s gasp) out of my head.
BIRDIE: Golf Boys. It was classy seeing Rickie Fowler and Ben Crane hang around to congratulate band brother Bubba after the playoff. Don’t know where Hunter Mahan was, but Aaron Baddeley subbed in nicely.
BOGEY: Rory McIlroy. As much as you love his resilient attitude and his artful game, the scar tissue build-up continues with more bad experiences at Augusta like a 77-76 weekend that started one off the lead. It’s back to the drawing board for 2013.
BIRDIE: Matt Kuchar. Trying to keep Georgia at bay and join the green jacket club with Yellow Jacket Larry Mize in the place Bobby Jones built, “Kooooch” echoed in the pines after his lead-tying eagle on 15. Bogey at 16 ended the fight but not his smile.
BOGEY: Sergio Garcia. Please, please, please get a sports psychologist. Of course you have what it takes to win a major. You’ve been fractionally close too often. Age 32 is not the time for surrender.
BIRDIE: Wayne Mitchell. The Pennsylvania chemical company VP had a golden ticket fall into his lap when Oosthuizen tossed him his double-eagle ball. Hope his donation to the club got him lifetime Berckmans Place hospitality badges and a round with a couple friends on the course – at least.
BOGEY: Clayton Price Baker. The Ohio man was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for trying to steal sand out of a bunker. He’d reportedly whiffed on his scoop and run. Hope he wasn’t too besotted to remember his last trip to the Masters.
BIRDIE: Golf fans. Watson’s creative style was a riveting display of Seve-like escape tendencies (without the short-game, however) and Phil-like power and bravado. The game is enhanced and more fun because of it.
BOGEY: Augusta National. Chairman Billy Payne’s repeated dismissal to a host of articulate questions regarding the mixed message of the club’s membership practices and its grow-the-game initiatives didn’t come across well. There’s an easy fix.
BIRDIE: Competition committee. Dealing with soft conditions that the course maintenance crew did well to minimize, Fred Ridley and Co. once again set the week up to deliver the best drama of any major. Albatrosses, eagles and aces don’t happen without that know-how.