The rarest of golf shots – a double eagle – early in the round helped South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen earn a spot in a playoff Sunday with former University of Georgia golfer Bubba Watson.
More than five hours after Oosthuizen’s shot, Watson hit a spectacular shot of his own, but under much greater pressure, to win the 76th Masters Tournament on Easter Sunday.
Watson, a creative wizard who has never had a lesson and calls his unorthodox style of play “Bubba Golf,” scrambled for a par on the second hole of sudden death for the win.
After the victory, Watson said he was inspired by the swashbuckling style of the late Seve Ballesteros and Phil Mickelson, who together have won the Masters five times.
“I attack,” Watson said. “I always attack. I want to hit the incredible shot. Who doesn’t?”
The left-hander did just that on the second playoff hole – the par-4 10th on the course. He hooked a second shot of 164 yards 40 yards around a grove of trees and a TV tower onto the green to set up a par and a victory over Oosthuizen, who made bogey.
“It was a crazy shot,” said Watson, whose philosophy is, “If I’ve got a swing, I’ve got a shot.”
Said Oosthuizen: “From where I stood, when the ball came out, it looked like a curve ball to the right. He hit an unbelievable shot there. Great stuff to him; he deserves it. The shot he hit definitely won him the tournament.”
With that, the Masters had its first UGA graduate with a green jacket. It came on the 25th anniversary of the victory by Larry Mize, a former Georgia Tech golfer.
“As an athlete and golfer, this is the mecca,” the 33-year-old Watson said. “This is what we strive for, to put on the green jacket ... this is an honor, a special privilege to put the green jacket on.”
The victory moved Watson to fourth in the World Golf Ranking. He won $1,440,000, bringing his earnings this season to $3,124,138.
Watson started the day three shots off the lead but held his game together, unlike the final round last year when he shot 6-over-par 78 after being seven behind at the start and finished tied for 38th place.
This year, he rode a four-birdie streak from Nos. 13 through 16 to shoot 68. Oosthuizen, who won the 2010 British Open by seven shots, closed with 69. He and Watson finished at 10-under 278.
In the first playoff since 2009 when Angel Cabrera beat Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell, Oosthuizen and Watson parred the first hole, No. 18. They went to No. 10, where Watson put on one of his famous shotmaking shows after his drive went way right.
Oosthuizen was short of the par-4 green in two, chipped long and missed his par putt. Watson then two-putted for par for the win. After he tapped in the 1-footer, Watson, who grew up in Bagdad, Fla., and now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., broke down in tears, just as did after his other three PGA Tour victories.
This one was more emotional than the others – it was a major championship and came just weeks after Watson and his wife, Angie, adopted their first child, something they had talked about for four years.
The win eased the sting of Watson’s playoff loss to Martin Kaymer in another major championship, the 2010 PGA Championship.
Mickelson fell back early with a triple bogey on the par-3 fourth hole – his second triple of the tournament – and never got closer than two shots after Oosthuizen’s double eagle.
Mickelson shot 72 and tied for third along with England’s Lee Westwood (68 on Sunday), 54-hole leader Peter Hanson (73) and Matt Kuchar (69), who was tied for the lead after an eagle on No. 15 but bogeyed No. 16.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, the two pre-tournament favorites, ended up tied, but not anywhere near Watson and Oosthuizen. They tied for 40th place, with only McIlroy shooting a round in the 60s among their eight rounds.
Oosthuizen was the early story Sunday after he became the first golfer in Masters history to make a double eagle on the second hole, which moved him into the lead.
After that, he didn’t make his first birdie of the day until the par-5 13th. That put him at 2-under for the round and gave him a two-shot lead over Westwood, Kuchar and Watson at the time.
As the trio of Westwood, Kuchar and Watson were making runs at him, Oosthuizen scrambled to stay ahead by making an 8-footer on No. 14 to stay at 9-under, or one ahead of Watson, his playing partner, who made birdie.
Minutes later, Kuchar, playing in front of Oosthuizen and Watson, made eagle on the 15th to pull into a short-lived tie with Oosthuizen at 9-under.
Oosthuizen went back ahead with a birdie on No. 15, making a 7-footer. Watson had a tap-in for a birdie of his own to stay one behind Oosthuizen, who was now 10-under. Kuchar then bogeyed No. 16 to fall back to 8-under.
Watson’s birdie on No. 16 squared him with Oosthuizen.
They headed to the 17th hole tied for the lead at 10-under. They both hit wayward drives, Watson to the left into the gallery. Oosthuizen got a break when his ball hit a tree and bounced into the fairway, but his second shot found the greenside bunker. Watson then curved a shot around the trees and onto the green.
Oosthuizen blasted out to 4 feet and made the clutch putt to stay at 10-under. Watson’s long birdie putt was headed past the hole but caught the lip to slow it down. Watson then made a 2-footer for par to send the pair to the 18th tee still tied for the lead.
Oosthuizen nearly won the green jacket on the first hole of sudden death, but his 12-foot birdie putt skimmed by the hole.
“I thought it was in ... I thought it was over then,” Oosthuizen said.
That gave Watson, who missed his birdie putt below the hole, another chance, on No. 10, the second playoff hole. The poor tee shot there left Watson with just the kind of creative shot he lives for.
“I got down there and saw it was a perfect draw,” Watson said. “We just kept talking about you never know what’s going to happen out here. Anything can happen.”