By Jeff Shain
10:03 PM EDT, April 8, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. – It takes a special shot to beat a double eagle. And somewhere in Bubba Watson’s bag of tricks, he found just the right one for an escape worthy of a green jacket.
Deep in the trees right of Augusta National’s 10th fairway, the left-hander’s window back to the fairway showed only a bunker short of the green. Up above, branches left only a small opening as well.
Watson found it – practically snap-hooking a wedge onto the putting surface in Sunday’s fading light to set up a Masters playoff victory, beating Louis Oosthuizen on the second extra hole.
“I’m pretty good at hooking it,” said Watson, perhaps the game’s most imaginative at shaping shots. “And it ended up close to the hole.”
About 15 feet away, in fact. Two putts from there was enough to put the green jacket around the Florida native’s shoulders.
It was better than Phil Mickelson’s recovery from the pine straw at No.13 two years ago that set up his third Masters crown. And it trumped the rarest of the rare – Oosthuizen’s double eagle at No.2, just the fourth recorded in Masters history.
“He hit an unbelievable shot there,” said Oosthuizen, whose second shot at No.10 came up short of the green, leaving him a tough par save that he couldn’t convert. “I don’t feel like I played badly. Hats off to him; he deserves it.”
The South African was seeking to add a Masters title to the British Open he captured two years ago at St. Andrews. He had a little history on his side, too – Gene Sarazen used his “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” double eagle in 1935 to force a playoff with Craig Wood, which he won.
From 253 yards away, Oosthuizen watched his crisp 4-iron approach roll nearly the entire length of the green and into the cup – a lightning bolt that moved him from two shots off the pace to two ahead.
Augusta National’s other two double eagles were authored by Bruce Devlin in 1967 (No.8) andJeff Maggert in 1994 (No.13).
Watson, meantime, never held the lead by himself this week until the final putt dropped.
“I just kept my head down, knowing there were birdies on the back nine,” Watson said. “We went to the playoff and I don’t know what happened on the rest. I wound up crying there at the end.”
That’s nothing new. Bubba blubbered after each of his other three PGA Tour victories, too. This time, the shoulders started heaving before he could finish fishing his ball out of the cup.
Two weeks ago, Watson became a father – adopting a 1-month-old son in Florida that he and wife Angie christened Caleb.
“To go home to my new son,” Watson said, “it’s going to be fun.”
Watson and Oosthuizen both completed four rounds at 10-under-par 278. Oosthuizen’s double eagle propelled him to a 3-under 69; Watson’s fireworks came on the back nine, recovering from a bogey at No.12 with four consecutive birdies to post a 68.
They finished two shots ahead of Mickelson (72), third-round leader Peter Hanson (73), Matt Kuchar (69) and world No.3 Lee Westwood (68).
Mickelson was undone by a triple bogey at No.4, when his tee shot caromed off a grandstand and into some bushes – requiring the lefty to take two swings right-handed to extricate himself from the foliage.
“I hit that [tee] shot where I had to hit it,” said Mickelson, explaining that the best place to make par is left of that pin position. “The worst I would have made was 4, but unfortunately it hit the metal railing.”
No Masters champion has ever triumphed with a triple bogey on his card. Mickelson had two on the week – the other coming Thursday when he lost his ball in bushes left of the 10th fairway.
Tiger Woods completed his stay with a 2-over 74, unable to record a round under par all week and headed for his worst Masters finish as a professional. It came just two Sundays after the four-time Masters champion cruised to a five-shot romp at Bay Hill.
“I had the wrong ball-striking week at the wrong time,” said Woods, adding that he slipped into old swing patterns and couldn’t break out nearly in time. He wound up tied for 40th.
Right alongside Woods was U.S. Openchampion Rory McIlroy, who turned in a 77-76 weekend after reaching the weekend just one shot off the lead.
email@example.com. Read Jeff Shain’s blog, The Downswing, at OrlandoSentinel.com/golfblog.
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