AUGUSTA, Ga. – Most of Augusta National Golf Club went into Sunday’s final round of the Masters cheering for a left-handed superstar.
By the end of the day, the majority of the fans had jumped on the bandwagon of another left-hander, a rising star in his own right.
There have been popular Masters winners before, for sure. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson quickly come to mind.
But Bubba Watson will go down as one of the most popular with his dramatic, emotional victory in a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen.
Watson entered the day three shots out of the lead, while Mickelson, who would have been most fans’ choice for the green jacket winner when the day started, was two shots ahead of him. But Watson, a former Georgia standout, got the crowds fully on his side with his thrilling performance in the final round.
The history books will say Watson finished at 10 under during regulation and beat Oosthuizen on the second hole of a playoff, but that just doesn’t do this day justice.
Watson, who has for years been sort of a peoples’ champion because of his self-taught game and swaggering, daring way he gets around a golf course, officially became a champion with beautiful play Sunday.
He shot a 4-under-par 68 in the final round, and he did most of his damage on the back nine. That’s where legends are made on this course, and his win will go down with the true legendary victories.
Just when he appeared to be slipping out of the hunt, Watson birdied four straight holes starting at the 13th and went to the final hole tied for the lead. He missed a putt to win there and then missed a second chance for victory on the first playoff hole.
A third opportunity didn’t slip by, as Watson pulled off one of the most miraculous shots in tournament history on the 10th on the second playoff hole. Deep into the woods off the tee, he calmly hooked his shot onto the green and then two-putted for a par and the win as Oosthuizen made a bogey.
The guts and imagination to hit that shot out of the woods and the talent to pull it off are why the fans love Watson so much.
And that’s what made Watson’s win so popular and memorable.