Elementary, My Dear Watson
It is a common theory that Golf needs its’ superstars to be in contention to be a viable, visible and commercially successful mainstream sport. While that may be true of everyday PGA Tour events, there is some hallowed ground in Augusta, Georgia, that is much more about the venue, than the player.
The 2014 Masters tournament was without Tiger Woods who could not play because of his recent back surgery. Perennial favorite and 3–time Champion, Phil Mickelson, would also be lost after missing the 36 hole cut. It was only the second time in his 22 starts that Mickelson failed to play on the weekend.
The leader after the first two rounds was 2012 Champion, Bubba Watson, who stood at 7-under par to claim a 3 shot lead. The streaky Watson, who has perhaps more shots in his arsenal than any other player in the game, could have led by a much wider margin if his putting had matched his flawless ball striking.
An eagle-3 on the par-5, 2nd hole, at the outset of Saturday’s third round would give Watson a 5 shot lead. One hour and 15 minutes later there would be a three way tie for the lead at 5 under par as Watson began to falter with bogies on the 6th and 7th holes and a careless par-5 on the 8th. There is a reason that the 3rd round is called “moving day”. A whole lot of players; moved.
The first of who was ageless Spanish star, Miguel Angel Jimenez, whose 6-under par, 66, was the day’s best round and would end up being the best round of the event. It would vault the 50 year old Jimenez to 3-under par for the tournament and a chance to be the oldest Major Champion in history. 25 year old, Rickie Fowler, shot a superb 5-under par 67, to join the Spaniard known as “the Mechanic” at 3-under.
Matt Kuchar, the Top Ten machine (he has recorded 44 Top 10 finishes in his last 4 years on the PGA Tour), came in at 4-under par, 68, a little later in the afternoon to best Jimenez and Fowler by one and be 4-under par going into the final round. Sweden’s, Jonas Blixt, would match Kuchar at 4-under and be only the 3rd player in history (the others were Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and Larry Mize in 1984) to be under par in his first three rounds at Augusta with rounds of 70, 71 and 71.
A little while after Blixt finished, Jordan Spieth, the prodigious 20 year old that we have already documented so much, playing in his first Masters, would become only the 4th player in history to record his first 3 rounds under par. His triumvirate of 71, 70 and 70 would leave him at 5-under par and tied for the lead with Watson whose 3rd round, 74, was filled with so many missed opportunities.
And so as the shadows lengthened in the perfect Georgia sunset, so too did the list of players that could win at the Game’s most august venue.
Spieth would come out firing on all cylinders at the beginning of Sunday’s final round making 3 birdies in his first 7 holes to take a two shot lead over Watson. Consecutive bogies by the young Texan on the 8th and 9th holes, combined with two birdies from Watson, would create a 4 shot swing as the players made their way onto the back 9.
They would prove to be the pivotal two holes of this edition of the Masters.
Watching Watson play golf resembles being in the audience as a grand maestro conducts a symphony of a hundred different instruments maniacally orchestrating all of them into one supremely beautiful sound.
The final 9 would be a concerto by the 35-year old Floridian as he would launch one massive drive after another and then deftly shape wedges to the greens. Watson would hit a gap wedge to the par-5, 13th hole. It was his second shot. After his two-putt for a birdie, he would have a 3 shot lead over Blixt and Spieth and it would be a lead he would not relinquish.
Jimenez played a steady final round of 1-under par, 71, to finish a 4-under par for the week and (alone in 4th place) one shot behind the two players tied for second place, Spieth and Blixt who both had impressive debuts. Blixt would play every round under par at Augusta, which is remarkable, but for someone playing on this stage for the first time, is ‘other-worldly’.
Spieth’s meteoric ascension in the game and the amazing maturity he displays would earmark him as the next great American player and his time will surely come. He plays this game with an understanding and presence that even the most seasoned campaigner would envy.
But this was Watson’s time and his final round of 3-under par, 69, gave him his second Green Jacket and membership to a very rare club of players who have won at Augusta more than once.
It was as Sherlock Holmes would tell his trusted cohort; “Elementary, My Dear Watson”, in its myriad, complexities, and yet so intricately complicated. It was, in all things; Bubba.