Bubba Watson Wins Masters in Playoff for First Major Golf Title

Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson of the United States walks up the 18th fairway during the final round of the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2012 in Augusta, Georgia. Photographer: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Bubba Watson turned to what he calls “Bubba golf” to win the Masters Tournament in a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen, his first victory at one of golf’s four annual major championships.

Watson, who has never taken a golf lesson, hooked an approach shot from out of the trees to 10 feet (3 meters) of the cup on the second extra hole, setting up a two-putt par for the win after Oosthuizen made a bogey.

“My caddie has always called it Bubba golf,” Watson said of his untraditional style of play after receiving the ceremonial winner’s green jacket yesterday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. “That’s why we play the game of golf, to pull off the amazing shot.”

Watson’s victory capped a final round in which Oosthuizen made the fourth double-eagle in the tournament’s 76-year history, Phil Mickelson’s chances of a fourth Masters title were derailed by an early triple-bogey and four-time winner Tiger Woods had his worst performance as a professional at the season’s first major championship.

It was the fourth U.S. PGA Tour victory in the past three years for Watson, a Florida native who attended the University of Georgia and uses a driver with a pink head and shaft in support of cancer research. Watson’s triumph comes less than two weeks after the 33-year-old golfer and his wife, Angie, announced they had adopted a baby boy, who they named Caleb.

“I never got this far in my dreams,” Watson, who received $1.44 million, said about the victory. “It’s a blessing to go home to my new son. It’s going to be fun.”

Masters Playoff

The playoff was the 15th in the 76-year history of the Masters and the ninth since the tournament went to a sudden-death format in 1976.

Watson shot a 4-under-par 68 in yesterday’s final round to finish the tournament at 10-under par. Oosthuizen also finished 10 under after a final-round 69.

Watson had entered the fourth round at 6-under par, three shots behind Peter Hanson of Sweden, two behind Mickelson and one back of Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner from South Africa. Oosthuizen quickly moved into the lead with his double eagle at the second hole, where he holed his approach shot with a 4-iron from 253 yards.

Watson then tied Oosthuizen with four birdies from the 13th to the 16th holes. Mickelson finished two shots out of the playoff, tied with Lee Westwood, Matt Kuchar and Hanson for third place at 8-under par.

With his victory, Watson prevented Oosthuizen from becoming the fourth South African to win the Masters. He also kept Mickelson from joining Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Woods as the only golfers with at least four Masters wins. Nicklaus has a record six titles, while Palmer and Woods each have four.

Playoff Holes

On the first playoff hole, the par-4 18th, both players had birdie attempts. Oosthuizen’s putt from about 10 feet missed on the right side, while Watson’s try from six feet dipped below the cup on the left side.

The duo then headed to the 10th tee, where both hit their drives into the trees on the right side of the fairway. Oosthuizen’s ball came out, leaving him 231 yards to the hole, and his second shot came up short of the green.

Watson then pulled off a shot that symbolizes how he plays the game, curving his approach out of the trees from about 150 yards and rolling it up near the hole. When Oosthuizen missed his par attempt and tapped in for bogey, Watson had two putts to win. He briefly stopped to compose himself before sinking his 6-inch attempt for the victory, saying he was thinking of the one-foot putt I.K. Kim missed with a chance to win the LPGA Tour’s first major of the season earlier this month.

‘Unbelievable Shot’

“He hit an unbelievable shot,” Oosthuizen said in a televised interview. “He deserves it.”

Watson shed tears as he took the ball out of the cup and shared embraces with his caddie and his mother, Molly, as the crowd chanted his name. Watson then walked off the green and hugged fellow golfers Rickie Fowler and Ben Crane, who starred with Watson in the “Golf Boys” music video.

Watson, who entered the Masters at 16th in the Official World Golf Ranking, is the third winner in the past 22 years who didn’t play the fourth round in the final group.

He’s the second American in a row to win a major title, following Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA Championship. Before Bradley’s win, golfers from outside the U.S. had won six consecutive major championships.

In three prior visits to Augusta, Watson’s best result was a tie for 20th in his 2008 debut. He was 42nd in 2009 and tied for 38th last year.

Men-Only Controversy

This year’s tournament played out against the renewed issue of Augusta National’s all-male membership.

Bloomberg News first reported the conflict between Augusta’s men-only membership and International Business Machines Corp.’s new Chief Executive Officer, Virginia Rometty, on March 28, setting off a nationwide debate on whether she should be admitted.

The previous four CEO’s of IBM have been Augusta National members. Billy Payne, Augusta National’s chairman, repeatedly refused to discuss the club’s membership during a news conference on April 4, the day before the tournament started.

Pre-event hype about a possible showdown between Woods and U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy turned out to be misplaced.

Woods, seeking his 15th major title, and McIlroy, who won the U.S. Open in June after blowing a final-round lead at Augusta National a year ago, both finished 5-over par and never factored in the final round.

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