*This column was published in The Inkwell and on its website.
A loving lefty defeated a talented righty at this year’s Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. Close your eyes and you would initially envision Phil Mickelson beating Tiger Woods, but in reality neither were seen on Sunday in Augusta.
Woods could not play in the Masters due to an unhealthy back, and Phil found himself in golf hell after multiple double and triple bogeys, causing him to miss the cut. The results of Augusta are what seemed like a decade ago of Tiger and Phil. With both out, it seemed inevitable that the biggest tournament of the year was set for a boring disappointment, but what we learned was golf can be just fine without two of its biggest stars.
Bubba Watson is now a two-time Masters champion, joining an elite company of multiple-time winners in Augusta, after defeating the 20-year-old Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt by three strokes. Watson shot three rounds in the 60s, and shot three-under par for a 69 on the last round.
The Masters didn’t have the same lure of Tiger looking to race after Jack Nicklaus’ record, but it did have plenty of story lines and a fan favorite winning the whole thing. Fans love Watson. How can’t you? He takes his left-handed swing and hits the shit out of the ball with his pink driver, celebrates winning the Masters at Waffle House and, like Mickelson, he is also a family man.
In classic Bubba fashion, he walked down the 18th hole with the green jacket not too far, and he took it all in. Watson looked at the crowd of unknown faces, at the unblemished green grass, and the Augusta sky, but made sure to not instantly look at his most familiar faces that would show his well-documented soft side.
Behind the green stood his wife Angie, two-year-old son Caleb, his mother and other family and friends. Watson marched on and the 35-year-old finished off his four-day masterpiece. After, he embraced his family and a Kodak-moment picture was made of Watson holding little Caleb.
Another good ol’ lefty won a green jacket, and though Watson does have his faults (he was seen yelling at his caddie last year and he’s made controversial remarks on homosexuality), he is a fan favorite. He is no Mickelson, as Phil has won three green jackets and has many more accomplishments in his career, but this lefty can still make golf exciting while the other one is absent.
Jim Nantz asked Watson if he ever dreamed about winning the Masters, and Bubba’s answer was pure gold.
“I never got this far in my dreams,” the most famous Bubba around replied.
Watson became just the seventeenth person to win the Masters more than once. The other 16 are in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and now six of the last 11 winners in Augusta have been left-handed.
Under Watson on the final scoreboard was Spieth, a 20-year-old righty who nearly stole the show and may have had more camera-time than Watson. Spieth was nearly the youngest player to win the Masters ever, and would have beat the absent star Tiger Woods’ record, when he won at 21 years old. He was also trying to become the first player to win the Masters in their first attempt since Fuzzy Zoeller did it in 1979.
Augusta is a course where experience is used to its full advantage and usually plays out in a green jacket. It’s a true home-field advantage and Spieth was looking to defy the odds. When Spieth was unbelievably tied with Watson atop the leader-board after three rounds, people were anticipating to see if the rookie would crumble like a toddler eating his first cookie, or if he would write his own spot in the history books.
Spieth ultimately did neither. Did he win and write his own name in the history books? No. But in no sense of the way did he crack due to the undeniable amount of pressure. Spieth went into the eighth hole at the golf palace of America with a two-shot lead and finished losing by three strokes. He lost and he proved everything at the same time. The rookie shot an even par for the final round, which is much more impressive than it sounds. Spieth has just showed his face at Augusta and there will be plenty more times where he shows it competing for a green jacket.
Golf is not better without Tiger and Phil. At the same time, the thought has always been that golf would be doomed without the two. Last weekend showed that the two are missed when absent, but there will be others – both right-handed and left – that can still make golf leave you on the edge of your seat.