I didn’t start writing my comments immediately after the Masters ended yesterday. Quite honestly I was very spent from such a fantastic week and such an intense final round. I’m happy to have let it sink in a bit so I can come at this one fresh. It was a thrill to spend Monday and Tuesday on the grounds at Augusta National and for those who haven’t, going there gives you a whole new perspective on the terrain and the place.
I’m not going to do a play by play of the final round. Bubba Watson hit an incredible shot on the 2nd playoff hole to beat Louis Oosthuizen. That shot from the right trees, on pine straw, is one of the most incredible shots in Masters history when all things are considered. A green jacket is on the line, so many bad things could happen from that location, and it is practically humanly impossible for someone to hit that shot. Bubba may not be human. Who else can hit a 155 yard gap wedge and hook it 50 yards to a green he can’t even see, spinning it uphill to about 12 feet from a pin which hardly anyone could get close to?
Bubba’s win is quite unexpected for me. I didn’t think he had that extra bit of focus. I didn’t think he could keep himself under control in that pressure. I was completely wrong. Halfway through yesterday’s round I could see a look in his eye that told me he had “it.” I loved the determination and the focus.
What is interesting to note about Bubba too, is that he’s self taught. He doesn’t have a swing coach. He has never taken a lesson or analyzed his swing on video. This is quite different than 99.9% of the tour players, who all seem to have swing coaches, mental coaches, trainers, dieticians, chefs and whatever else they can put into their entourages. Even more ironic when you think about how much Tiger Woods struggled. He’s got a swing coach. Food for thought.
Bubba’s future is wide open. It will be interesting to see what this win does for him and how many more he can rack up. It will be fun to watch.
When Oosthuizen made that double eagle on the 2nd hole I figured he would probably be the winner. I still thought Phil might win it at that point, but he hadn’t gotten to #4 yet. Oosthuizen’s swing is about as different from Bubba Watson’s as a swing could be. So is his demeanor. He’s cool, calm and technically perfect. He never succumbed to the pressure like I thought Bubba would. I see more major victories in his future without a doubt.
Where do I start with Phil? When he shot the 30 on the back nine Saturday to get himself into the final group and one shot off the lead, I figured he’d be putting on a 4th green jacket. But he had an episode of “Phil the thrill” on the 4th hole Sunday when his tee shot on the long par-3 hit the railing of the grandstands left of the green, and went into what Ian Baker Finch called the “shrubbery.” As soon as I heard the word shrubbery, I was instantly thinking Monty Python’s “Knights who say NI.” Rather than taking an unplayable lie or going back to the tee for his 3rd shot, Phil elected to turn a club over upside down and hit a right handed hack shot to get the ball out of the shrubbery. The ball moved only a couple of feet and was still shrubberized. He then elected to hit right handed again, nearly hitting himself with the ball. At that point Phil lost this Masters, despite his denial in post round interviews. A shot off of trampled grass into the greenside bunker came next, then a blast to a foot where he tapped in for a triple bogey.
From that point on Phil played valiantly, coming close to the lead. He couldn’t get any closer than two shots though. TWO shots. If he doesn’t make triple on #4 and he wins. And that triple was his 2nd of the tournament. This example shows that one mistake at Augusta National could derail a player for the whole tournament.
Rory McIlory was my pick to win the Masters, especially after the impressive US OPEN win. I figured he’d overcome the mental roadblocks and he’d smoke the course this past weekend. If not for hole #1, he might have contended. On that hole alone he as +5 with two doubles. Tough to get going when you start out with a double.
Despite that, McIlory was tied for the lead for a minute or two on Friday. A round of 77 on Saturday killed his chances and he followed that up with a round of 76. +5 for the week. Very surprising, but it goes to show that if a player’s game is the slightest bit off Augusta National will expose it.
After the win at Bay Hill the week before I finally jumped on the “Tiger is back” bandwagon. I figured he’d be a big factor this week at the Masters, if not a winner. I couldn’t have been more off on that one. Tiger couldn’t muster one round under par and his frustration was so heated on Friday that he cussed on 15 loud enough for the live microphones to pick it up clear as a bell. Then after hitting a poor shot on 16 to a greenside bunker he dropped his club on the tee and kicked it in disgust. Quite unsportsmanlike. Tiger later issued an apology for his behavior.
Tiger’s ball striking was not good. His upper body was dipping like the days of old when he struggled. He seemed to lose all the form he’d gained and reverted back to old habits. He didn’t putt or chip too badly, but he had so few birdie opportunities that his putts were for par most of the time.
Tiger’s performance on par-5 holes was the big killer. Out of 16 par-5 holes played, he only had two birdies. A bogey on #8 on Sunday means Tiger was only -1 on the par-5′s for the week.
Tiger may have been back before the Masters started, but he’s not back now.
I followed Lee Westwood for a while during the practice rounds and watched him for quite a while on the practice putting green. After the first round 67 and the lead, I thought maybe this was his year. A few short game and putting issues, his weaknesses, cost him his first major. His ball striking was stellar. He was right there in the mix at the end, but like Phil, just a stroke or two too far back.
I’d love to see Westwood win a major.
I was not surprised to see Peter Hanson lose the lead which he brought into Sunday morning. Not often do you see players who haven’t been in that situation keep it together. The 5-5-5 start, combined with Oosthuizen’s double eagle, put him several shots back before he was even half way done with the front nine.
That being said, he pulled it back together and played -1 the rest of the way, recording a solid T3 finish with three other players.
I like Matt Kuchar. For one thing, he looks like he’s having fun out there. When he made the eagle on #15 Sunday and was tied for the lead, he was smiling from ear to ear. I really thought that was cool. But his tie for the lead didn’t last long. He knocked his tee shot on the par-3 16th to the right greenside bunker. That’s a one way ticket to bogeyland and losing the lead.
You have to hand it to Kuch. He is one of two players in the entire field who shot all four rounds under par. The other player? Winner Bubba Watson.
I can’t think back to any Masters that wasn’t thrilling to watch. ANY. The Masters NEVER disappoints. The course design and conditions are so perfect for great golf theater, risk-reward, heroic shots and spectating. There is no better stage in golf and no better setup for excitement on Sunday.
Some 78 years after Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie designed and built Augusta National, the shot values and beauty of the course are still the best in the world.
Speaking of shot values, how about the historic shots we saw this week?
First, while I was watching the Monday practice round I saw a very rare shot. While playing “skip it” on the 16th, Martin Kaymer made an ace! I was sitting in the grandstands left of 15 green and watched it go in. Being there for that was amazing. I had goose bumps.
There were two aces on the 16th hole Sunday. One by Bo Van Pelt and one by Adam Scott.
Bubba’s 155 yard gap wedge on the 2nd playoff hole certainly qualifies for the historic shots category.
And of course, the most unbelievable shot is Louis Oosthuizen’s miracle albatross, the double eagle on #2. That double eagle on #2 was only the 4th in Masters history.
I love the Masters. It is by far the best golf tournament in the world, contested on the best stage for such a tournament. I can’t wait for next year. Only 364 more days and counting!