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Bubba Watson Wins Masters in Playoff

Streeter Lecka, Getty Images

Bubba Watson has famously never taken a golf lesson – something that even the least educated golf fan may have been able to tell.  His swing isn’t polished.  He doesn’t display the grace that so many of his contemporaries do.  He’s unique.  And on Sunday, it took a very unique shot for Bubba Watson to claim his first major. @JoeBianchino

Heading into the final round at Augusta, not many were calling for Bubba Watson to win the Masters.  And even well into Sunday’s broadcast, little attention was being paid to the 33 year old lefty.  Too much was going on.  We were busy watching the train wreck that was Phil Mickelson’s self destruction on the par three fourth. We were too busy watching Watson’s playing partner, Louis Oosthuizen, hole out from the fairway on the par 5 second for double eagle.  And after all, Watson wasn’t even under par for the day after twelve holes, he was still off the lead.

But when the fan favorite stepped onto the par 5 thirteenth, the entire tournament was about to change.  A booming drive, unleashed from the end of his hot pink driving wood, would begin a string of four straight birdies for Watson, bringing him even with Oosthuizen.  The twosome – the tournament’s penultimate pairing – would head into seventeen tied for the lead.  Each would survive drives that found the woods, paring seventeen, and then eighteen, and finishing their rounds alone at ten under.  The two, who’d been the best golfers on the course that day, would head to a playoff.

Textbook pars for both on eighteen sent the pair back to the par 4 tenth, the same hole where Angel Cabrera claimed his green jacket in a playoff just three years ago.  Unlike Cabrera, however, Watson would not find the fairway. In fact, Watson wouldn’t find much of anything except woods and darkness.  Nick Faldo, commentating for CBS, estimated that Watson’s drive, which was headed right from the start, caught the slope and rolled sixty yards deep into the trees.  Unable to capitalize however, Oosthuizen, like on seventeen, would also find the trees.  His approach would come up short, though it didn’t seem to matter.  Not many expected Watson to find daylight, let alone the green…

And then the magic happened.  Standing deep in the woods – and sporting the clenched jaw scary guy look he’d been intimidating viewers with for much of the back nine – Watson had a go.  He took it off the pine straw, snuck it through the smallest of openings, hooked it around a tree, and landed it safely on the green.  An amazing shot.  As a man who’s spent the bulk of his golfing life sixty yards in the woods – though I am no golf pro – I feel comfortable saying: That shot was, truly, one of the greatest shots you will ever see.  A floored throng of onlookers could do nothing but cheer.

Andrew Redington, Getty Images

And how could you not?  That one shot said a lot about why the tournament is so great.  It’s been played 76 times.  The same course, the same pin locations, year in and year out.  And while so much is often so familiar, every year we see something that renders us absolutely speechless.  Two years ago it was Mickelson from the pine straw on 13.  This year?  It was Watson on 10.  Never have we seen that shot.  And never will we see it again.  Surely now we were looking at the Masters Champion. Two putts and it was official.  The green jacket was his.

So once again it was a Sunday at Augusta ripe with back nine drama.  Players made spectacular approach shots, awe-inspiring putts, and unlikely charges into contention.  But in the 2012 edition of the Masters it wasn’t the likes of Nicklaus and Woods that brought forth the roars.  This year, it was a man named Bubba. A fan favorite.  A 3 time tour winner.  A man who hadn’t won a major championship. A man who couldn’t hold back tears when he finally did.  Bubba Watson, your 2012 Masters Champion.

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