It started with Louis Oosthuizen’s historic double-eagle on the second and ended with the people’s champ making the unlikeliest of shots out of the trees and on to the green, setting the table for Bubba Watson’s first major championship.
Four rounds. Many leaders. Tons of tears. Typical Masters drama.
The first major of the year did not disappoint as Peter Hanson, Matt Kuchar, Lee Westwood and Phil Mickelson were all in contention on the final day of the 76th annual Masters at Augusta National.
But as the aforementioned names faded down the stretch, playing partners Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson emerged together, finding themselves atop the leader board when it mattered most.
Oosthuizen, of South Africa, got off to a roaring start logging the first ever double-eagle on the second hole at the Masters, and only the fourth double eagle in the tournament’s history.
Mickelson followed by making waves of the opposite kind when he triple-bogeyed the No. 4 hole, a horrendous sequence from which he never fully recovered.
Watson, a local favorite who attended the University of Georgia, got in the groove on No. 13 making what would be his first of four consecutive birdies, culminating with the sixteenth hole where he finally pulled even with his partner Oosthuizen.
Both men overcame ugly tee shots on No. 18 to par the hole and tie for first at the end of regulation at 10-under 278, forcing a sudden death playoff.
While Oosthuizen’s only PGA tour victory was a mighty impressive seven-stroke victory at The Open Championship in 2010, Watson had faced a playoff situation on a major stage once before, finishing second at the 2010 PGA Championship after being defeated by one stroke on the third and final playoff hole.
On this day, the outcome would be vastly different for Watson who had three PGA tour victories to his name coming into these Masters.
The first playoff hole was the No. 18 par four where both men made phenomenal approach shots, prompting Oosthuizen to compliment his opponent as they walked up the green together. We all thought Oosthuizen’s birdie putt was in, but the ball went slightly right, visibly crushing the golfer who dropped into a crouch after the ball lipped out. Adversely, Watson’s shot went left and both men parred, so on to the No. 10 hole they went for round two, not yet knowing that this was where the most memorable shot of the 2012 Masters would be etched in to our memories.
Watson and Oosthuizen both blew the tee shot on the par four No. 10, but Oosthuizen at least had a straight shot despite his ball landing slightly in the gallery. Watson, on the other hand, was in the trees with a much tougher task ahead.
Oosthuizen ended up on the front edge of the green after his second shot, providing him with a literal and figurative uphill battle. Meanwhile, Watson’s second shot from the mulch and trees had to be seen to be believed, as what looked like an impossible shot was executed with nonsensical precision. Hooked in who-knows-what direction, the ball curved perfectly, rounding it’s way on to the green, paving a surprisingly smoother path to the green jacket than the road traveled by Oosthuizen on No. 10.
After his shot on to the green, Oosthuizen found himself away, thus right back at it, attempting a long putt for par. It was a tough shot, but definitely makeable. Oosthuizen’s shot was a beauty that once again, just lipped out as you could almost hear the man’s heart break underneath his shirt. Oosthuizen bogeyed the hole, thus Watson found himself in a two-putt par situation.
Oosthuizen’s shot went right, so naturally, Watson’s went wide left, leaving him a foot-long putt for par and the win. Watson gathered himself, read what little grass there was standing between him and the green jacket before making a minuscule putt for his first major championship.
The only sight sweeter than his miraculous shot on the second playoff hole was the picture of emotion painted by Watson as the 33-year-old broke down and sobbed on the shoulders of his caddy, mother and several friends.
Without his wife Angie who stayed home with the couple’s newly-adopted infant son, Watson’s outpouring of emotion continued during the green jacket ceremony inside Butler Cabin. Watson, who lost his father to cancer in late 2010 said, “I never got this far in my dreams…To go home to my new son, it’s gonna be fun.”
Watson’s win makes it the fifth Masters victory for lefties in the last 10 years, joining fellow southpaws Mike Weir (2003) and Mickelson (2004, 2006, 2010).
Near the end of play, CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted, “If Bubba wins, he’ll make 10% of his 12-year career earnings with Masters check. Earned $14.4M in career. Win worth $1.44M.”
On so many levels, this was indeed one sweet win for Bubba Watson, the freshly-crowned People’s Champ of golf.
Please, please win tomorrow. Pretty please?
After the incident which caused you physical pain and in the process, revealed your less-than-admirable “extracurricular activities,” I was completely grossed out, unsympathetic and never expected to root for you again.
But after nearly two and a half years, I have changed my tune as you hold a 1-shot lead going into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational and here I am, begging you to win. If there’s any stop on the Tour that can get you back on track, this is the place. You love Bay Hill! After all, you’ve won there six times. It seems like this would be a fitting place to finally log a PGA Tour victory for the first time in 30 months.
You were back on your game Saturday, dare I say, old-school-Tiger style, leading by 4 shots after 13. Then, you were tested. You bogey’d the 14th and followed up with a disastrous shot on the 15th which sent your ball trespassing poolside on some home owner’s property. Yes, 15 was ugly, landing you your first double bogey in 247 holes on the Tour this season, but that’s okay! You hung in there, stayed calm and still managed to shoot 1-under 71, good for a 1-stroke lead.
Remember how incredibly clutch you used to be when taking a lead into the final round? You were as close to unbeatable as it gets, winning 48 of 52 PGA Tour events in which you started Sunday on top. This week at Bay Hill, you are excelling on the toughest parts of the course, birdying 10 of the 12 par-5’s you’ve played through the first three rounds, outperforming the field by an average of 7 shots in that category.
Look, I know you’ve come really close to winning recently, yet came up short in the end. But this isn’t the Australian Open or Abu Dhabi. It’s Bay Hill, a place where you will get your mojo back.
Sure, Phil Mickelson is a fan favorite and the rise of young Rory McIlroy has been fun to watch (and is somewhat reminiscent of you), but the sport just isn’t the same without you, Tiger Woods, in contention on the back 9. Golf just isn’t that fun without your eye-of-the-tiger-death-stare scaring the pants off the competition down the stretch, or waging a massive comeback as that makes us all feel stupid for even thinking of counting you out.
Listen, you don’t have to win ‘em all, but “71” doesn’t sit well with me. As ludicrous as it sounds, you are better than 71 Tour victories. Your talent should have easily taken you beyond 14 Majors, but I’ll try not to get ahead of myself.
72 has seemed like an impossible task, but I implore you to please get there tomorrow. Put on your finest red Nike swag and warm up that arm for your signature fist-pump because I think you, Tiger Woods, are ready to be a winner once again.
What does a guy have to do to get top billing? Rory McIlroy just won more than $1 million with a victory at the Honda Classic which catapulted him to the top of the standings where at 22 years old, he is now the No. 1 golfer in the world. McIlroy has three PGA Tour wins - including the 2011 U.S. Open - on his resume, and he’s dating the world’s 4th-ranked tennis player, Caroline Wozniacki. Despite living a fairytale-like life at the moment, the young man from Northern Ireland is being overshadowed by another golfer.
Although McIlroy is No. 1, “Tiger” is on the tip of everyone’s tongue after Woods’ shot a spectacular 62 in the final round of the Honda Classic, leaving him two shots behind McIlroy for a second place finish (Tom Gillis tied Woods as the runner up). Starting the day nine shots behind McIlroy, Woods dazzled his way up the leader board, at one point trailing McIlroy by only one stroke. 62 is Wood’s best-ever final round score in a PGA Tour event.
Not too shabby.
Nearly everything went well for Woods who logged two eagles and three birdies in Sunday’s final round while McIlroy struggled mightily at times, looking like he might not earn a first place finish. Instead of letting the game get away from him, McIlroy made the best of potentially nasty situations on the 15th and 17th with two impressive up-and-downs out of bunkers good for par on both holes.
Perhaps the biggest “goosebump” moment for McIlroy came on the 13th hole where he was preparing to putt an 8-footer for birdie when he heard the crowd going nuts from the 18th. Woods had just eagled the hole, putting him within one measly shot of the Irishman. McIlroy made his birdie putt, reclaiming a two-stroke lead.
But don’t think he wasn’t shaking in his boots a bit. After the tournament, McIlroy told reporters, “It was tough today, especially when Tiger made a charge and posted 10 under.”
Ya, no kidding! That comment is a far cry from those he made during the Honda Classic last year when the young, then up-and-coming McIlroy had this to say about a down and out Woods:
"When Tiger had that aura, I wasn’t playing against him - I was watching on TV.
"I remember getting nervous when I first met him. I was 15. There was a presence about him. There still is to some extent but when you’re on the course you simply block it out.
"But Tiger is not playing as well as he was even a couple of years ago, never mind going back to the late 1990s and early 2000s, when he was at his best.
"I’m not sure we are going to see him dominate again the way he did.
"It’s not that he’s playing badly. He’s simply playing badly by Tiger’s standards. He’s playing like an ordinary golfer."
Listen, young Rory was right, but saying this stuff on the record, as a 21-year-old scrub taking the tour by storm, probably wasn’t such a bright idea.
Either way, Woods managed to set McIlroy straight with his play today, despite losing the tournament. While a competitor such as Woods is never satisfied with a moral victory like this one, his fantastic final round surely gave the man who once held the world’s No. 1 ranking for a record 623 weeks that much more confidence, which will eventually propel him to his first PGA Tour win since 2009.
After the tournament, Tiger tweeted the following:
@TigerWoods: Congrats to @mcilroyrory on getting to No. 1. Thanks to PB fans for all the love this week.
At 21 years and 10 months old, McIlroy became the second-youngest player in golf history to be ranked No. 1, right behind you-know-who. 15 years ago, Woods was 21 years and 6 months old when he shot to the top of the rankings in 1997.
Apparently, love was in the air in Palm Beach Gardens Sunday as McIlroy dished out plenty of compliments to Woods as well. “I always had putts on the putting green when I was 10 to beat Tiger Woods or to beat Phil Mickelson. But hopefully it would be great to turn that into reality at some point,” McIlroy told reporters. “They are the best two golfers of this generation, and obviously Tiger’s the best by a long way. It’s quite an honor just to be mentioned in the same sentence as those two guys.”
That’s right son. Respect your elders.
After details of Woods’ personal life unfolded publicly, I was pretty disgusted and thought I could never root for him again, but as we’ve seen over and over again in this country, time and winning heals most wounds. Woods has become the unlikeliest of underdogs and I, along with most in the sport of golf, am praying that he will soon provide us with the drama, skill and splendor that was once routine with nearly ever tournament in which he played.
What could be better for golf than a Woods/McIlroy pairing on a Sunday?
Okay, maybe Woods/Mickelson. But you get the point.
(Photo: Woods and McIlroy during a practice round for the Abu Dhabi Championship in January, 2012. Photograph: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
At 81 years old, Clint Eastwood is still bringing the heat! The jack of all Hollywood trades paid a visit to the CBS broadcast booth where Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo were calling the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when something unexpected happened!
Aside from his acting and directing gigs, Eastwood serves as the chairman of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, a part of the Monterey Peninsula Country Club which is one of the courses used in the Pebble Beach golf tournament. Having been a part of the tournament for years as the face of the foundation, Eastwood joined Nantz and Faldo in the booth while the guys were leading in to Phil Mickelson’s putt for par on the 16th hole when BANG! A light in the broadcasting booth shattered on live television causing the trio to flinch before chuckling about the incident.
One might think perhaps this was a bad omen for Mickelson, but the leader sunk his short putt for par without a hitch. The guys handled the situation like pros and the light was quickly replaced during a commercial break. No harm, no foul.
Check out the video above as the corner light made a grand exit in true, Hollywood fashion.