Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Golf

Bubba Watson wins Masters in sudden death playoff with Louis Oosthuizen

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Bubba Watson started the day by watching the rarest shot in golf. He ended another thrill-a-minute Sunday at Augusta National with a signature shot of his own to win the Masters.

It was a page out of what he calls "Bubba golf." And the mantra of Bubba golf: "If I've got a swing, I've got a shot."

So deep in the trees right off the 10th fairway that he couldn't see the green, Watson hooked a gap wedge off the pine needles from 155 yards to about 10 feet from the hole.

"Hooked it about 40 yards, hit about 15 feet off the ground until it got under the tree and then started rising," Watson said. "Pretty easy."

That led to a par on the par-4 hole, good enough to beat Louis Oosthuizen on the second playoff hole for his first major championship.

"I never got this far in my dreams," said Watson, 33, who lost the 2010 PGA Championship in a three-hole playoff to Martin Kaymer. In his dreams, he was putting for the win. "I just never made the putt."

Oosthuizen (WUHST'-hy-zen) set the tone for a wild day with a double eagle — the fourth in Masters history — on the par-5 second hole when his 4-iron from 253 yards landed on the front of the green and rolled some 90 feet into the hole for a 2.

Oosthuizen, who started the day two shots behind leader Peter Hanson, grabbed the lead with that albatross, but it wasn't enough to hold off Watson, who began the day three back. The Bagdad native birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine for 4-under 68 and a tie with Oosthuizen (69) at 10-under 278 to force a playoff, the 15th in Masters history and the ninth decided by sudden death.

On the first extra hole, No. 18, both had good looks at birdie and missed. On the next hole, Watson hooked his first shot into the trees, and it appeared he would have no shot at reaching the green. Oosthuizen followed, clanged off a Georgia pine and was left with 231 yards to the green. His approach came up short.

That's when Watson, who rarely hits a shot on a straight line, came up with the most magical shot of his life.

"I was there earlier today, during regulation," he said. "So I was used to it. I knew what I was facing there. I had a good lie, had a gap where I had to hook it 40 yards or something. I'm pretty good at hooking it."

Oosthuizen was in the fairway. All he could see was a corridor of fans leading into the woods.

"I had no idea where (Watson) was," said Oosthuizen, 29, the 2010 British Open champion. "Where I stood from, when the ball came out, it looked like a curveball. Unbelievable shot. That shot he hit definitely won him the tournament."

The hard part for Gerry "Bubba" Watson Jr. was holding back tears when it was over.

He was blubbering hard on the 10th green, shoulders heaving and face contorted, for many reasons. Two weeks ago he and his wife, Angie, adopted a 1-month-old boy, Caleb. They were at their Orlando home. The first person to hug him on the green after his caddie was his mother, Mollie; his father died from throat cancer right after the Ryder Cup in 2010.

Friends and colleagues Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane and Aaron Baddeley were among those who followed in the hug line. Watson, his lip trembling and fighting back tears, took time to wave his visor in salute to the crowd.

"I don't play the sport for fame. I don't try to win tournaments for fame," he said. "It's just me. I'm just Bubba. I goof around. I joke around. I just want to be me and play golf."

Watson and Oosthuizen finished two ahead of four players who made their own dramas.

Hanson had two quick bogeys and didn't get a birdie until 15. He closed with 73 for 8-under 280. "It was a pretty tough day," he said.

Phil Mickelson, who began one behind Hanson, recovered from a triple bogey on the par-3 fourth hole but had only two-putt birdies on the two par 5s on the back and shot 72.

Lee Westwood had an 8-foot eagle putt to tie for the lead on the 15th and missed it. His 68 gave him his seventh top-3 major finish since the 2008 U.S. Open. That is the most top-3s by anyone without a win since 1934.

Matt Kuchar tied for the lead with a short eagle putt on the 15th, then bogeyed the 16th and finished with 69.

Tiger Woods, who never got near the top of the leaderboard and finished 5 over, was an interested observer to the end. He used to play practice rounds with Watson at the majors. Woods congratulated him on Twitter: "Fantastic creativity. Now how creative will the champions dinner be next year?"

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