The Masters: Bubba Watson wins second green jacket in three years

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comApril 13, 2014 

  • Video playlist: The Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The pine straw and pine trees and a three-shot lead and water fronting the 15th green at Augusta National provided the perfect opportunity for Bubba Watson to play golf like most of the rest of his colleagues.

Lay it up.

But Watson, who introduced us to Bubba Golf here two years ago, punched a 6-iron through the trees and over the back of the green. He failed to make birdie, but reminder delivered.

This is Bubba's playground. He plays golf his way, and that includes twisting the arms of the par-5s at Augusta National with ridiculous length, bending iron shots to do his bidding and feeling the contours of the massive greens.

"Freak show," said Watson's caddie, Ted Scott. "I can't describe it."

The 35-year-old Watson showed what his game can render this bomber's paradise when he is locked in. He finished with a 8-under-par 280 to win his second green jacket and turned back the bid of rock star Jordan Spieth, who was vying to become the youngest Masters champion at 20.

In his sixth Masters appearance, Watson tied Jimmy Demaret and Arnold Palmer as second-fastest to a second green jacket, behind Horton Smith, who won two of the first three tournaments held.

The question turns to how many Watson can win. He stopped short of calling Augusta National the course best-suited to his game.

"My home course is pretty easy," he cracked.

Spieth began the day tied with the 2012 champion but played the par-5s even par and watched his approach on the par-3 12th roll back into the water, leading to bogey. He shot even-par 72 on Sunday to finish tied for second at 5 under with Jonas Blixt, the Swede.

The demonstrative Spieth, whose chatter and on-course antics the day before helped build the adoration for the Texan, looked ready to toss his putter in the pond on No. 16 after another birdie putt flirted but didn't drop.

"Whether my face showed it or not, I was enjoying myself and taking it all in," said Spieth, who became the youngest 54-hole leader at the Masters.

Watson and Spieth battled on the first nine -- each held a two-shot lead before the turn.

When Spieth holed out for birdie from off the green on the par-3 fourth, Watson matched from 7 feet. After Spieth stuck his approach to the par-3 6th inside 3 feet, Watson holed his lengthier downhill birdie putt.

Watson birdies on No. 8 and 9 and Spieth bogeys on the holes created the separation.

The two-man battle helped offset the absence of Tiger Woods, the four-time champion who missed the year's first major after back surgery. The loaded leaderboard Sunday did not bother joining the scrap.

Matt Kuchar, who finished in the top 10 here for a third consecutive year, never recovered from four putts on the par-3 fourth. The eccentric pairing of Miguel Angel Jiminez and Rickie Fowler combined to shoot even par, with the 50-year-old Jiminez sneaking to a fourth-place finish after a 1-under 71.

Kuchar has finished in the top five each of the past three weeks without a victory. He shelved his seemingly permanent smile after his round Sunday and spoke softly, not content to have only contended.

"It's an exciting place to be," he said. "But it's a tough one. "You don't know how many more you're going to get."

In the end, Watson's biggest challenger was himself.

He has been prone to fits when things aren't going well, perhaps the most public a verbal assault on his caddie Scott after a bad club selection at the Travelers Championship last summer.

Scott downplayed the incident and Sunday said his boss had better mind this year after a tough 2013. He said Watson consulted before the season with pastor Judah Smith of The City Church in Seattle.

Smith told Watson to mind Phillipians 4:11 -- be content, no matter the circumstances.

When Watson was tumbling to a 74 on Saturday, Scott tried to encourage him. Watson waved him off and said he was fine.

Watson might not have converted everyone, but he has support in his circle.

"He's been fantastic keeping control of his mind," said Scott, who carried the 18th pin to the jacket ceremony because he couldn't get the flag free.

Watson and his wife, Angie, had just completed the adoption of their son, Caleb, before the first green jacket in 2012. After finishing off his par Sunday, Watson scooped up Caleb and carried him in his left arm while high-fiving spectators on his way to sign his scorecard.

Tears squeezed out. Same as 2012. Same as when Watson first earned a card on what was then the Nationwide Tour.

"A small-town guy named Bubba now has two green jackets.," said Watson, who grew up in Bagdad, Fla. "It's pretty wild."

Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.

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